More magical than Disney, but no amount of money can buy

Did you ever notice that families with little money are more tight nit and happier than wealthy families? I’m sure there are other explanations for this reality, but I’ve stumbled across one epiphany that makes sense to me. Here’s how I reached my conclusion.

My boys and I are a very close, happy family, and we recently arrived home from a week-long trip to Disney and Universal. We had a great time on Space Mountain, Rock’n Roller Coaster and Disco H2O. We also loved the shows. I was even “THAT GUY” on the Monster’s Inc. show – an interactive, animated program that spotlights audience members and makes them characters in the plot. My boys loved that I somehow got to be the costar of the show for which I was presented with this badge. All day long, Disney employees, or cast members as they prefer to be called, said “Hey, you’re THAT GUY, Congratulations!

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

As I said, Orlando was awesome, but the trip – the trip was most excellent. This particular trip reminded me of childhood expeditions, in which memories of the “journey there” conjure up more anticipation and excitement than the destination itself. For me, childhood road trips were a time for laughter, planning, and excitement – almost magical.

My family takes several multi-hour fun trips per year, and it became evident to me this year that while we usually have loads of fun, some magic was missing.  As a college professor in a single parent family, I would not describe my financial status as wealthy, but with budgeting and planning we do fine. And as I looked at my boys gearing up for our 9 hour trip, I thought: when it comes to childhood possessions, one area that kids today often differ from kids of just a generation ago is in technology. As we boarded the car for our trip, this is what I observed: two boys with IPods on, cell phones by their sides, one watching a movie on his portable DVD, and the other playing his Nintendo DS. I had just tuned Sirius radio to hair nation.

For about five minutes I sat frozen with keys in hand – I realized we were being isolated by technology – there was no opportunity to savor the excitement. I realized that our trip would be like Christmas without the Christmas season – no time for anticipation, so I made the unpopular announcement to put away all the gadgets for the first half of the trip.

The first few moments weren’t particularly productive, but that soon changed.

My boys and I talked about what we wanted to do during our vacation. We sang songs and played games. We played the initial game (ie J.D. Male actor; hint: plays a pirate) , the alphabet game (ie, find words on signs that begin with “A”, then “B:  ect), the other alphabet game (I say Apple, one son says Apple, Bear; the next son says: Apple, Bear, Crow, etc), and also 20 questions. We made up our own games: who could find the most red trucks and who could find the license plates from a specified state. We told jokes, we told stories, we  laughed, and we loved it. Before the magic of Disney, we shared the magic of the family road trip. We shared the magic of love and family that no amount of money can buy.

Disney was entertaining:


But the magic did not end there.

As we boarded the car for the trip home, I noticed my boys had their IPods and games by their sides. I smiled and thought maybe the magic of childhood can’t compete with today’s technology. As I started the engine and began to drive, a small but enthusiastic voice from behind me said, “Can we play 20 questions first?”  And so we did . . .

Our vacation is now over; and as always, while we enjoyed the trip, we are happy to be home.  This trip; however, we brought a special souvenir home with us, and we agreed to take it out often – something more magical than Disney. We agreed to limit the electronics and make more time for what really counts – the magic that no money can buy.


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About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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8 Responses to More magical than Disney, but no amount of money can buy

  1. Gary says:

    I read your post and was reminded about a recent conversation among friends. We were talking about family vacations and traveling. Yes times have changed, but it is good to read “the family vacation” can beat ipods and DVDs. Great photos, I’m sure they found a place on your refrigerator -right next to your son’s report cards?

  2. You are sooooo right!

  3. Paul says:

    That was a pleasure to read an I am in full agreement on your no tech rule. I am sure you get the same eyeroll I get from my kids but it’s good for them. Thanks for a great post!

  4. Rob, that was a really heart-warming story – I’m pleased you shared that with us. I believe everyone should try to aim for at least one tech-free day (as much as possible in our tech-filled world).

  5. pamela baker says:

    You are right, some things are worth sooo much more than money.You are blessed.

  6. Daisy says:

    Sounds like you had a great time! Hearing that request from the small voice in the back seat must have been such an uplifting feeling. That means you did the right thing and you’re doing a good job. Way to go, Dad! 🙂

  7. I so enjoyed reading your post, watching the videos and seeing the photo of you and your boys. Perhaps, you writing echoes a lot of my same thoughts when it comes to my boys. And although my children are getting older, my husband and I share great moments with them, together as a family without a lot of the “stuff” that in the end just gets in the way. Some of my friends tell me that my sons will soon choose to be with their friends and ignore us, not because they don’t love us, but because it is just a way of life. I know they will need their space and seek independence, but they will always, always share their lives with us as we have done for them. They are the center of our world, and as my husband grows older, I see how much closer the boys are to him. My oldest who will be fourteen chokes up when his father reprimands him, and he chokes up when my husband complements him. My son’s eyes glow when he looks at his father…

    This moment right now…priceless.

  8. Thank you all for these thoughtful comments. They are reassuring. I’m glad that you’ve all avoided being sucked in to the “Material” world. Too many find out too late that the free things in life are the most valuable.

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