Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Vacation values can be found beyond Disney

I distinctly recall the moment I became a middle class demimonde, a person on the fringes of respectable society.

I casually mentioned to a friend that I had never visited Walt Disney World or taken my children there.

Honestly, as a 41-year-old man at the time, I did not find it unusual that I had never ventured to utopia; nor did I find anything odd about my life and childhood development.

Although I was born in Florida, I grew up in Georgia, but that provided little excuse for failing to make the pilgrimage to the ultimate mecca of pure unadulterated fun. As an adult at social gatherings, my friends would tell others of my "condition" as a Disney theme park virgin, and the looks of pity and amazement were palatable.

It was as if I was somehow a negligent parent because I had never taken my kids to the Magic Kingdom.

My parents, retired educators, spent a lifetime promoting the arts, and in fact, they took my brother and me to theme parks.

We just didn't make it to Disney.

As Georgians we visited Rock City at Lookout Mountain, Calloway Gardens on Robin Lake and even Six Flags just outside Atlanta. Although Rock City was cool, my fondest memories were going to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

In fact, I still can pick out an Alexander Calder mobile on sight because of what my father taught me.

And I know to clap after a symphonic movement only when the conductor turns to the audience because of what my mother taught me.

I was no child prodigy. I enjoyed the simple things like staying at a Holiday Inn in downtown Atlanta. I would have pancakes for breakfast and beg Dad to let me swim in the pool in the courtyard. That was heaven. I never knew that I was missing anything.

I visited Universal Studios in 2007 with my wife as a getaway without the kids and I saw hot, tired parents from around the world pushing screaming kids or pulling them along on leashes like pets.

And I recalled saying, "Thank goodness that's not me."

My wife had an ulterior motive, however, as she was actually breaking me in to the idea of taking the kids to the theme parks. At age 46 in 2011, we visited Sea World and Disney World and had a "magical time."

But the key thing that parents should understand is that it is not the destination that matters as much as the time you spend together as a family.

Keith Berry is a married father of two who lives in Westchase.

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