There are several reasons I suppose. For one thing, it is fun. For another, it is truly the Happiest Place on Earth. When I am there I feel like a kid again, and I enjoy having my greatest worry be how long the line is to ride Space Mountain and where I am going to get my next meal.
Since having kids, however, the greatest reason for going to Disneyland almost annually is seeing how it changes from year to year. Each time we go it is a different experience. I remember when Jared, now 13, saw Lightning McQueen for the first time and, reverently laying his hand on its hood, exclaimed, "See? I told you he was real." I remember the way Jack's little face lit up while watching the parade and how he waved shyly to Mickey Mouse. As the boys changed, so too did their enjoyment.
This year Jack got to experience Disneyland in a way he never had before - as an only child. With Jared off with his band friends, it was just Mom, Dad, and Jack. He was giddy with excitement. No big brother dictating which ride to go on next. No cajoling to ride a ride that was just too scary. The park was his to enjoy.
And enjoy he did. Pirates of the Caribbean was his new favorite ride. Where once he was terrified of the dark and the drops, now he relished in them. He held his arms in the air as the boat went down and gleefully exclaimed, "I love this ride!" when we reached the bottom. No sooner had the ride ended than he we was begging to go again.
With a little convincing from his mom and dad, he did agree to go on other rides. Another one of his favorites is the Finding Nemo ride. This, however, is not one of my favorites. Being packed into a small space submerged in water is not my idea of a good time. I did it, though, and I am a little ashamed to admit this, but I used it as leverage to convince Jack to go on a ride that he did not want to go on: Matterhorn Bobsleds.
Jack was convinced that the Matterhorn was scary. He dug in his heels and rejected every plea to go on it just once. He finally relented when I pointed out that the Nemo ride scared me but I went on it because I loved him. (Wrong, I know, but I was desperate!) There were still a few protestations as we waited in line, but no major meltdowns. We were good to go. I suspect that there was a tiny part of him that wanted to go on the ride, but he was not willing to admit it. As the roller coaster zoomed around, Jack screamed out, "I hate this" and "This sucks!" When the ride ended, I excitedly asked, "Wasn't that fun?" His answer? "No. I am never going on that ride again."
It was the same story with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which is one of my all-time favorite rides. Again, he reluctantly agreed to go on it. Again, when we disembarked he declared he was never going on that ride again. I didn't get it. How could he not enjoy these rides? They were so much fun!
On our last day in the park, Jared rejoined us. He was determined to take us all on Space Mountain because he wanted us to see the Star Wars additions that had been made to the ride. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Space Mountain, but it does scare me a bit. I think it's more the thought of the ride than the actual ride itself. The hour long wait was also a bit terrifying. I worried, too, that this ride would be the one to finally put Jack over the edge. If he was scared of Thunder Mountain and the Matterhorn, how would he react to Space Mountain? I had visions of him absolutely terrified, screaming that he wanted to get off. Therapy would be needed in order to recover from the horror of the experience.
Surprisingly, Jack agreed without any fuss. He chose me to sit by because I "make him feel calm." Feeling the need to reassure him, I told him, "If you get scared, just hold on tight and scream." As we grabbed onto the bar, I linked my pinky finger over his so that he could feel me beside him as we plunged into the dark. Racing through the darkness, all I could think was how scared Jack must be. "Woo hoo," I shouted over and over again in an attempt to convince him we were having fun.
When the ride came to a stop, I looked over, expecting to see sheer terror on his face.
"What did you think?" I asked.
"That was cool!" he exclaimed.
"You didn't think it was scary?" I asked in disbelief.
What? Who was this kid? This couldn't possibly be the same kid who swore he would never ride the Matterhorn again. Space Mountain is way scarier.
At least it is to me. Once again I was reminded that my children are their own people with their own perceptions and their own opinions.
And evidently for Jack, anything related to Star Wars is too cool to be scary.