Thir... OK, let's just say many years ago, my parents gifted me a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort for my high school graduation. Along with my two best friends, I set off on an adventure we would all cherish for a lifetime. Little did we know at the time, it was as much a learning and growth experience as it was the time of our young lives.
I'm not sure everyone can pinpoint the moment they felt like an adult, but I can. Checking in to the Caribbean Beach Resort, I felt so independent and even a little proud. Not that I didn't think I could do it, but proud that my parents believed in and trusted me to manage a trip without any hand-holding. Remember, back then, there was no quick text to Mom or Dad. We were legit on our own for five days-nobody wanted that long-distance call charge on the room bill! 😂
Fast forward three decades and my own Disney-loving daughter was in her senior year of high school. She and her friends were talking about destinations like Aruba or Cancun, making my freshly colored hair quickly go back to gray. These kids were really robbed of a lot of the fun that comes with the Junior and Senior High School years because of the pandemic, so I was torn about squashing her travel dreams. But international travel was never going to be something I could get on board with. Pandemic or no pandemic, it's a different world and whether she was ready to handle it or not, I was definitely not ready to see if she could.
One fateful night, she sat me down to seriously discuss a graduation trip. After listening to her lengthy pitch to visit another country with three friends and how she had saved the money to spend on it, I made a compromise pitch of my own: Go visit the 11 countries in EPCOT and I'll pay for it.
I explained that a Walt Disney World vacation is the perfect blend of safety and independence. The Disney "bubble" is safe, secure, friendly, and comes with the kind of peace of mind that parents were looking for. After a few frantic texts to the others, we had a DEAL!
CONFESSION: I was secretly hoping the other girls couldn't go so that we could just make it one last childhood Disney trip with the family. I was white-knuckling through the months, almost dreading the finality of graduation day. But alas, and also to my eventual delight, her friends were in and the planning began!
Now that she's returned, I can tell you that not only was it a fabulous time with her friends before they all went off to different colleges, but it was a true hands-on learning experience in independence and responsibility. One that proved extremely valuable in emotionally preparing us ALL for her to leave the nest.
Listening to how she handled it all: getting through airport procedures, getting to the resort, checking in, using the internal transportation, budgeting, mobile ordering, and getting the most out of the days, made me proud but also more confident. When the day came that I had to drive away from her dorm leaving her behind, I knew she would be just fine.
Today's High School Seniors have had a really rough time these last few years with covid-19. As a parent who saw the struggles, disappointments, and emotional toll it took, giving my daughter one last awesome hurrah with her friends, was truly a gift for me as much as it was for her. Having a Disney vacation to look forward to brightened many dim days for both of us in 2021.
She's off to college now and thriving! That short trial separation disguised as a Disney vacation worked wonders for my husband and me too. We miss her, but she's already proved, hard as it is to accept, that she doesn't need us for EVERYTHING. Disney is magical in oh so many ways!
Did you go to Disney World after your High School Graduation or did you send your graduate? Tell us all about it in the comments!
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