Happy Friday! I am beyond thrilled to welcome Celeste from Psychosocial Disney Culture to THPB for the first time! Woo hoo! This our first #simplemoments story set on the West Coast and it made me so think so much about the strangers we share our vacations with, and the possibility of them being someone we remember forever. Happy reading!
Our anniversary Disneyland trip had just begun and I was already in sensory overload. Having decided to explore “new” Disney California Adventure on our first day, we had just stumbled in awe through Buena Vista Street and hurried through Cars Land to begin the mild standby wait for Radiator Springs Racers. Although I was still processing Cars Land, everything I had heard about this ride had me excited to experience it. The queue did not disappoint and my husband and I carried on casual conversation while observing the new environment and its themed details.
When we reached the loading area we hopped into our bright red car and I sensed a small figure climb in next to me. I turned to see a boy, about six years old, with a Mickey Mouse baseball cap strapping in next to me. He beamed at me and turned to say something to his parents in the row behind us. I gave a quick smile back but instantly felt an uneasy feeling in my gut that I knew wasn’t ride nervousness.
I was clueless when it came to kids. I wanted to be as great with them as I saw so many people do so effortlessly. But my lack of experience with children made me freeze when I had to interact with them, and I always felt their parents’ eyes judging, wondering what was wrong with me. This only prompted more anxiety, leaving me feeling as powerless as a runaway train on Big Thunder Mountain. How could I thrive in family therapy (which I was currently studying in grad school) and work for a children’s agency when the littlest of clients seemed so daunting?
The movement of the car pulled me back to reality and I heard the kid speaking to me. “I know how to make sure we win!” he boasted proudly. I couldn’t resist – I asked him how. He explained that we all have to give a thumbs-up right before we start racing. I laughed and said “Okay!” and then we were moving through the dark ride.
But I really wasn’t paying much attention to the scenes and audio-animatronics. I kept glancing at this child, who had obviously ridden before but was still utterly delighted with the attraction. He would point things out to me (a stranger that he had no idea was terrible with kids) and I just went along with it, refusing to dampen his joy in any way. He told me when to give a thumbs-up and my husband and I obliged, before we were racing a blue car on the outside track. There was music in the background but I could only hear the little boy cheering and having the time of his life. His energy and youthful innocence was contagious and I laughed in pure happiness too.
We arrived back at the unloading area and I held up my hand to offer a high-five. The boy returned it without a thought and hopped out, sprinting to the next attraction. His parents were slower to get out and laughed a friendly “thank you” at us before hobbling after their son. I was smiling from ear to ear realizing I was just thanked for interacting with a child, not judged or criticized. It dawned on me that this might be the most meaningful moment of my trip, because all of a sudden that children’s agency didn’t seem so scary. If I could help kids and their families, and maybe experience a thrill ride or two along the way, what could possibly be better?