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“Success can be measured by how much time your children want to spend with you when they grow up ” – CEO of unknown company

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

I saw the quote above on a Starbucks cup while on vacation at Universal Studios the morning of the end of our vacation to Los Angeles.  I showed it to my wife and we smiled. What parent doesn’t want their children to stay close when they get older. 

While I really needed a break from the office for a week, my wife and I really wanted to reward our children with a vacation of their choice.  After the trip my wife and I took to Vegas for Valentine’s, it was time to give our children their reward.  Our children’s wonderful help during my wife’s surgeries was more than we could have asked for and they deserved this vacation more than their parents.  At the same time, watching them smile and to relieve any stress in their lives is enough to make any parent happy.  As a parent, my fear is that our children were seeing stress from the news of a bad economy and my wife’s illness and it was having an adverse affect on them emotionally and perhaps in a way that we couldn’t see.  Fortunately their academics were excelling and their teachers were supportive and told us they are both doing well.

 Living in the San Francisco Bay Area a 6 hour drive to Los Angeles is a very economical trip given the state of the US Economy.  It also reminded me of our family visits to Disneyland.  A 6 to 7 hour drive in a car can be quite a bonding time with a 9 and a 6 year old.  Our highlight that made us chuckle was when our 9 year old shouted “240 miles to Los Angeles”.  Our daughter asked how long it would take for us.  My son responded that, ” if mom drives at 60 miles an hour it will take 4 hours and if dad drives 80 we’ll be there in 3 hours”.  Our daughter then asked my mom when she was going to pull over to get some gas and let me drive.  I just smiled, our children know us too well.  At least our son knew his multiplication and we were going to go 6 hours without hearing the dreaded phrase “Are we there yet?” 

The drive to and from Los Angeles along 1-5 is littered with memories for me from family vacations driving in my grandfather’s Cadillac with stops at the famous Andersen’s Pea Soup, the smelliest place on Earth, Harris Ranch, where you see steer for acres and as far as the eye can see, and the small farms towns which grow oranges, artichokes, apples and other food that feed our country.  Our children stared out the window (when they weren’t figuring out how to solve Rubik’s Cube) and soaked in the geography.  Letting your children experience new things and watching their minds churn with questions is such a rewarding time for a parent. 

I always laugh at the Disneyland subtitle, “The Happiest Place on Earth”.  I honestly see more crying and pushing among children than anywhere else.  Fortunately we had a long talk in the car reminding our children as to why we were going on this trip and they responded like troopers even when the Los Angeles weather didn’t cooperate and stay above 70 degrees.  We added one day at Universal Studios to our trip to show the children between reality and make believe.  The Studio Tour was exactly what our children needed to see and they learned a lot.  Heck, as parents we learned a lot as well.  When we arrived home, all our children could think of doing was to write a play and stage it for us.  Okay, so they aren’t the next Leonardo diCaprio or Kate Winslet, but it showed us they got something out of the vacation other than a bunch of amusement rides.

My only concern during the week was whether my wife’s body could handle the stress of being jerked around by some of the roller coaster rides, but she assured me on several occasions that she was okay.  She was more scared than anything but our son wanted his mom to ride some of the faster rides and as parents we never want to show our children our fears that they might pick up unnecessarily.  I was even surprised that she had never been in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland! 

Disney has also been hit by some recession as well as the discounted admissions (2 for 1’s) were all over the place.  In Downtown Disney we counted seven vacant storefronts.  At Universal Studios City Walk there were similar signs of the economic slowdown.  The theme park seemed empty and was only open for 7 hours.  We reminded our children how fortunate they are as we saw even fewer children at Universal Studios.  It definitely sunk in and on the way home I had the best message.  I heard from the back seat, “Dad?”

“Yes”,  I replied to my daughter.

 “”Thank you for this trip.  We had a really fun time.”  My wife and I just looked at each other once again.  We are so lucky. Lucky that we could provide our children with a family vacation and lucky that we have children who appreciate the opportunity that they have. 

Earlier when I was looking at a Disney shirt that said, “Grumpy”, my son told me I should buy the one that said, “Happy”.  I told my son that sometimes I actually felt grumpy and he looked at me and said that wasn’t true and that I was usually happy.  Well at least it was his perception and that was more important to me.  I was hoping that all of the grief in our household had somehow put a damper on the mood, but our children seemed to be sheltered from it all.

Maybe we have left our hearts in the Happiest place on Earth until the next time we visit, but it is nice to know that our children find that our home isn’t that bad.  Maybe it is the Second Happiest Place on Earth for our children.

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