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I've got a secret

Friday, April 11, 2008

As much as I enjoy my time at Disney Parks, sometimes I think I enjoy the anticipation even more. I’ll sit with my geeky little spreadsheets and figure out the schedule (an AM and PM park for each day), make the ADRs (sometimes with a few extras, which I’ll cancel as the dates approach), and study my various news and information sources for refurbishments, soft openings, or special events. But nothing at all comes close to the fun of deciding when to tell my kid that yes, once again, Mom has booked a trip to Disney!

I’ve written before of the “pancake moment” at Hotel Ginza Tobu, when I asked him over breakfast whether he’d like to go to Tokyo Disneyland right away.  I also fondly remember one afternoon in the spring of 2004, when I startled a cranky young man by casually pointing out that our hotel near Disneyland that summer would be right next to one of his favorite pancake shops (“Mom, we have a HOTEL??1!?”). And, of course, in the winter of 2003 I told him about our trip just three weeks in advance, because I’d just booked it that morning.

There’s also been at least one time when the trip reveal wasn’t a big party. One summer morning in 2005, I was weeping at the top of the staircase, distraught to be leaving for Los Angeles on yet another far-too-long business trip, and deeply guilty about the fact that I’d be sneaking in a day at Disneyland while I was there. I’m a terrible liar, and wouldn’t even consider not telling him about it. But I could give him a hug goodbye, and tell him that while I was going to have a day in Disneyland that week, he and I together would have a week at Walt Disney World that December.

Now, the fact that I’m a terrible liar would seem to suggest that it’s hard to keep the secret once I’ve got a trip booked. But I am aided and abetted by a child who likes to be surprised. Every now and then I’ll almost let it slip, and he’ll say, in a conspiratorial tone, “Mom, what are you up to?” And I’ll tell him that of course I’m always imagining our next trip, planning it in my mind even if I don’t know when it is yet. And he doesn’t push any farther.

I’ve heard some terrific stories from other parents who’ve surprised their kids with trips to Disney, and most have gone much farther than me in both their secret-keeping-longevity and their complicated, exciting reveals. I had lunch one day at a Disney fan meet with a couple dads who’d convinced the kids they were going to a hockey game . . . then pulled up at the airport, grabbed the bags out of the trunk, and said, “Since we’re here, let’s go to Disney World!” I’ve watched YouTube videos of kids squealing with shocked glee when they see the Disney World main gates, and of screaming children who’ve just discovered where they’re going for vacation (I never get tired of watching this one). And perhaps best yet, there’s an entire club called “Keepers of the Secret” on one of the Disney message boards I frequent, where parents shore each other up in their secret-keeping, help each other develop strategies for the perfect reveal, and share stories of how the big moment went.

So, am I keeping a secret right now? You betcha.  In early February, I booked a trip to Walt Disney World for Star Wars Weekend 3, and my son doesn’t know about it yet.  I’ve written about it on my blog, mentioned it here on Jentasmic!, posted a vacation ticker on DisFriends . . . but my son doesn’t read any of those sites (yet). Much like Disney’s Vacation Club, this trip is either the best- or worst-kept secret, depending on how you look at it.

How will I reveal this secret to him? I’ve sent in a question about my trip to one of my favorite Disney podcasts, and assuming that they do in fact answer the question sometime before the trip, he’ll find out when he hears the podcast. Or hey, if they’re running behind and don’t get to it until it’s time for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party 2009, maybe instead I’ll just suggest he read this column.