Happy Wanderer: Why Mothers and Sons need Disneyland

HILLS NEWSPAPERS: September 17, 2010

My son had never been to Disneyland. Did that make me a bad mother?

No, it just made me a busy mother, with an active, well adjusted kid. So why did it seem like I was keeping my child from a magical rite of passage? Why did I feel, for lack of a better term, like a “Mickey Mouse mom”?

The chance to redeem myself came when my son’s schedule suddenly opened last month. “I need to go somewhere,” he said without warning. “I never get to go on vacation.” True enough — he was 17 and his athletic schedule had prevented him from taking a real family vacation for years. This I could not deny.

So, we packed up the car on a late summer Sunday and hit the I-5 express — just my 17-year-old son and me. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d spent more than a moment alone, without my husband or daughter or friends. We needed to reconnect, and we both knew it.

Long stretches of highway have a way of loosening the tongue — out of boredom, perhaps, but it works. By Tracy we were having an actual discussion. By the time we hit Gorman we were sharing an In-N-Out shake, Double-Double and Monster Fries. This was big — it meant I didn’t have “cooties.”

Pulling into Anaheim, the timing couldn’t have been better. Turns out Sunday night was a great time to hit Disneyland. We were arriving as throngs of other families were leaving. Over the next two days, we were a blur on the landscape, running between California

Adventure and Disneyland, riding the rides and working the Fast Passes.

And I, in my wisdom, had booked a hotel within walking distance (The Red Lion — Anaheim) and we fell into luxurious pillow-top beds at the end of each evening, waking up to a breakfast buffet that fueled us through the day. I don’t want to brag, but that Red Lion — and its proximity to Disneyland — put me in the running for mother of the year. All past transgressions were history.

By day three, we both needed a break from the heat. Due west was the beach and a cozy waterfront resort called The Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club. With a rack of free beach cruisers and bike trails for miles, this was the ideal home base for exploring Redondo Beach.

By this time, I was seeing a change in my son. He was softening, sweetening — surrendering to the idea of mom as a friend. He ruffled my hair on the Glass Bottom Boat as we took in the silver “school of fishies.” We shared halibut sandwiches at Captain Kidd’s Fish Market and pancakes at Polly’s on the Pier. We played Yahtzee by the fire in the lobby of our hotel. And one night we picked the fanciest restaurant we could find and got dressed up for dinner.

All those years of reminding my son of his manners — well, they paid off. He was the perfect companion at an exquisite window table at the upscale Baleen Los Angeles overlooking the marina. The little boy who used to blow bubbles in his 7-Up had grown up to be a young man.

We shared plates of heavenly scallops, and short ribs and warm duck carnitas, and he never took too many, and always used his napkin. I was bursting with pride.

You see, unless you’re a mom, this won’t mean much. But bonding like this meant a lot. We always wonder what impact we’ll have on our kids, how much of our “wisdom” they’ll absorb. Now I know that the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are true. “Men are what their mothers made them.”


One thought on “Happy Wanderer: Why Mothers and Sons need Disneyland

  1. I ran across your blog post as I googled “mother son disney vacation” and I’m so happy I found this. I’m getting ready to take my 8 year old son on a trip to Disney, just the two of us (big sis gets a road trip to AZ. with Dad and I was still feeling guilty!) But this post reminded me how important it is to have personal time with each of your children when you can, as life is so busy and short! Great post and sounds like you had a wonderful time!

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