From The Mind Of The Editor ...
Written by Gregg Condon
Today we have something very different for you ... VERY different. I'm going to talk about my family. Something I've avoided doing too much in the history of Park Journey.
It's somewhat theme park related, but more family related and something that came out of our visit to Wizarding World Hollywood last weekend.
Flashback almost 21 years ago. I started dating my wife at the age of 19 and within 1 1/2 years we would be married and have our first child. And 19 months later we would add our son. It hasn't always been easy (no marriage is) but it's safe to say being a husband and father is the most rewarding thing I've ever done.
And now that I have an almost 20 year old child finishing their sophomore year in college (and planning on moving out) and a just turned 18 year old son who is graduating High School in June I'm realizing that a specific era of my life is over.
And realizing that in the middle of Wizarding World Hollywood on Saturday was an interesting place for that to happen.
Theme Parks played a HUGE role in our lives through the youth of our children. A HUGE role.
We were Disneyland Annual Passholders from 1998 to 2012 which meant at least monthly (but mostly bi-weekly) visits to to the parks. From our kids not being able to ride anything when DCA opened to seeing the transformation of that park. Pictures in front of the Rabbit Door on almost every visit (you try getting teenagers to humor their parents by taking a picture together).
Both of their first coasters was of course The Matterhorn at Disneyland (before it had a height requirement). Our first born first looping coaster (CA Screamin') and our sons first looping coaster (Revolution).
Trips to Florida, Texas, the Bay Area, Sea World, Legoland, Chicago, Vegas, Colorado. One year (2007) we had Annual Passes to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Legoland, Sea World, Six Flags and Cedar Fair.
Everybody always asked how we justified the expense. We aren't rich. Not by a long shot. But in our belief we would rather go to a park and spend 8-10 hours of family time vs 2 hours in a dark theater. And once the passes were paid for we could go and eat in a theme park for the same price as a movie and snacks.
But over the past few years with both kids in high school and then college, those family days became more rare. Life got in the way. Whether it was FFA stuff for our Child #1, track for our son or a variety of other things. The last year we had Disneyland AP's our kids used them exactly once. It turned into more of a chore, more to go to "get our $$ worth" vs "hey, let's go to Disneyland". And that, more than anything is the reason we let those passes go.
Sure, we've done family stuff. But getting us all together to spend a day at a theme park was something that had become more rare the past 4 or 5 years. Even our first two visits to Wizarding World were incomplete because our eldest couldn't go.
That was until our visit last Saturday ...
We would all finally experience Wizarding World together. Something we'd all been looking forward to since the day it was announced. Our last trip to FL was in 2007 so we hadn't even seen it there.
This was special.
And we had an amazing time. Riding the rides, using the interactive wands, enjoying way too much Butterbeer. It was just like old times.
But as we sat having our amazing breakfast at The Three Broomsticks we started to realize that this might be the end of an era ...
The fact is, our kids are growing up. Very soon we may not all be living under the same roof. And that's a very strange thing for us.
We are very close. We used to do everything together. Just the 4 of us for the most part. For 7 years I worked nights so somebody would always be home with the kids when they were younger (this also saved a LOT of $$ on after-school care). But this also meant weekends were even more special. And since we spent most of them out at theme parks together we always had that to share.
Sure, there will be more times in the future when we are all doing things together. That's never going to end. But just the 4 of us? There's probably not much of that left.
So after that breakfast, my wife and I, kind of unsaid really took it all in. We didn't want it to end. But it had to because our eldest had to work (still weird). We enjoyed the hell out of it, taking those mental pictures (along with all of the cell phone ones). I stopped posting pics to our social media. I wanted to be "in the moment". Wanted to cherish every second. And I did.
So by this point you are probably asking yourself (if you are still reading this) ... "what's the point of this". And that's a great question.
The point is, to enjoy ALL the things. Not just the little things, not the big things, not the good things, not the bad things. ENJOY THEM ALL!!
Stop worrying about a corporate decision made at your favorite park that's not going to impact your enjoyment of said place. A little chipped paint? Who cares? Enjoy the hell out of the thing you enjoy. Because if you aren't enjoying it, why are you even there?
Whether your thing is going to theme parks (as I'm sure it is if you are reading this site) or skiing, camping, hiking, sitting at home and watching movies, sports, playing games, whatever it is ... whoever it's with. Enjoy it. Because things change, kids grow up, new jobs, new cities, friends movie away, parents get older.
Someday all we'll have are those memories ... and way too many cell phone pictures.
This came up in my memories today, and like so many things, going through this article hit me in a way that it hadn't 7 years before. 7 years changes a LOT of things.
First and foremost, a lot of those things that I talked about happening very quickly in 2016 didn't actually happen. We ended up getting an extra 6 years of our kids living at home. You see, we made them a deal, if they wanted to stay local and go to college, they could live at home rent free. And it worked!!!
Of course, there was that other thing that started about 3 years ago that gave us 2 of those 6 years, but we won't talk about that.
However, with that extra 6 years came a life-changing shift in 2022. Within 3 months, both of our kids would get married and move out. One about an hour away, one all the way to Ontario, Canada.
To say the change has been hard to get used to would be an understatement. We're still very close with both of them. We talk to child #1 via text or phone almost daily, and see them at least once a month. Weekly calls with our son and his wife. We're actually going to Canada next week to spend a week. We haven't seen our son since October.
Easily the longest amount of time we've ever gone without seeing him. And the previous longest was the month and a half from when he moved to Canada until his wedding.
But next week, we get back into "enjoy all the things" mode. We're spending a few days in Niagara Falls with our son and his wife. Then a few days at an AirBnB near where they live. So we get to check out some new fun stuff, and also get to just "chill".
As for the other one, they went with my wife to Disneyland on Valentines Day, I've done cat-sitting for them and their spouse while they were on their honeymoon at the Grand Californian. We go and have brunch once in awhile. Whenever I do a Universal update I'll take them Voodoo Doughnuts. We've been able to find something new that works.
We're still enjoying all the things ...