The Girl and I have been to the Magic Kingdom three times. We’re quite good at navigating the world together. We confidently board trains, drive seventeen hours at a stretch, and stare down the world that likes to shove us in the corners.
But this trip?
This trip was a bit different. As I took pictures of the Girl meeting Mickey Mouse, hugging Mary Poppins, or standing with dreamy eyes in front of Cinderella’s Castle, I sent the pictures to my mother so she could share in our journey. And one of my mom’s comments was rather poignant.
This was the last year before my daughter became a teenager. This really is the last year of her childhood. In May, she will turn twelve.
Next year, thirteen.
I am not one of those mother’s who mourns the passing of a child’s age, who dreams about when the children were young. I kept only one, maybe two articles of clothing from each of my children’s babyhood years. Naturally, I have the outfits they were supposed to wear for the journey home from the hospital (both children messed in the outfit which negated the pretty clothing and required the basic onesie). I have my daughter’s christening outfit, a rubber ducky dress. I thought it was funny that she was wearing a dress covered in rubber duckies when she was being christened/dedicated which involved putting holy water on her head.
I am nothing but a bit silly.
But this Disney adventure was rather poignant. My daughter’s autograph targets weren’t princesses. Her magic band was Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. She had no desire to buy everything Disney Princess. She wanted the Cheshire Cat. She wanted aliens.
This year, this Disney trip was completely different from everything in the past. And, I have to admit, I thought a lot about forcing the princesses down her throat because that was what we had always done. But to do so would be to refuse to allow her to be herself, to be grown up which meant that I wasn’t living up to the standard I had set for myself, that my children could grow up and be themselves.
My goal for this year was ear rings with our birthstones. My daughter’s name is based on a Gaelic name, but with an Americanized spelling. She will never find her name on a coffee cup, a keychain, anything. But I can give her jewelry that has her birthstone, or at least glittering crystal thingamabobs that are bright green because she was born in May. And though we don’t want to wear matching clothing or matching anything, I knew that Mickey Mouse ear rings that held our birthstones (I’m a March baby) would be acceptable.
We spent hours combing through Disney Springs, eating food that was horrible for our diets and waistlines but tickled our fancies and brought us great joy. She tried on tiaras and was called princess and dreamt about buying the tiaras until she learned that the average cost was fifty to a hundred dollars. And then she mourned that the tiaras had to stay in the store while we continued searching for cheap but matching ear rings.
In the last year, my daughter’s fascination with princesses has somewhat lapsed and she’s obsessed with Chewbacca. Yes, the hairy wookie from Star Wars. I downloaded a Disney app on my iPod that told us where different characters were standing to give autographs. We found out that Chewbacca was signing autographs. Don’t ask me what it would look like. He was in a different park and my daughter mourned that she couldn’t hug her hairy hero.
Sorry for the alliteration.
Not sorry for the humor, though. I had a crush on Han Solo. The Girl loves his counterpart. I think this is perfect given who we are.
The Girl’s love for princesses still showed itself. At the end of the day, after all her money had been spent and she declared herself happy with her purchases, the Girl noticed the Disney Princess Rapunzel doll. And fell in love. And stared at the doll so mournfully that I dug out twenty four dollars and let my daughter have this moment.
And I felt no regret for caving to my daughter’s whims.
I only have this year before…before who knows what. I know that in the next two years, she and I will pack away most of her dolls, her toys, her childhood treasures into boxes that will either go into the attic or into black plastic bags that will be sent to Goodwill.
I know that in the next two years, her fake make-up collection will be replaced with real cosmetics and she’ll be begging for a cell phone much like her brother.
I know that she will continue to loosen the bonds that unite us and I will have to draw upon these memories to remind myself that the stranger standing in the room with me is still my daughter, the Girl, my beloved daughter who was born with her heart slowing and the cord not only wrapped around her neck but with a knot tied in it.
Don’t ask me how that happened….only she could divulge that mystery and she isn’t talking.
So, yeah. I bought my daughter a doll. I bought her ear rings and a matching ring. She bought herself a Cheshire Cat plush and a necklace. I bought us a hair wrap to share.
I bought us treats. And lots of delicious food. And moments that I will cherish and will someday share with her children. Or her nieces and nephews. Or with her alone. We will explore these moments when we sat in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and watched the rain pour down and lightning strike the other side of the street.
We’ll remember waiting in line to meet Mickey Mouse. Or our excitement as we boarded Space Mountain.
And I will quietly remember the moment of sadness when my daughter said that she wanted to come back to Disney World. But not to the Magic Kingdom. Not for our next special Disney World trip. She’s ready to grow up a little. Move away from the princesses. Try on a more exciting adventure.
And I’ll be right next to her. Laughing as we are squished on roller coaster rides, shrieking with joy when we see more characters that we recognize.
Maybe a Wookie? Maybe Mickey Mouse in safari gear?
Maybe just the image of a little girl’s shadow darting down the road, sprinting towards a castle…reaching out her hands to her dreams and catching them in both hands…
before turning to me, opening her hands, and letting those moments flutter out like brilliant butterflies…