Dad Life

Disney Magic: It's a Small World After All

On April 10, 2014, Disney Parks across the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of a classic park attraction, “it’s a small world."

This is one of my favorite attractions at Walt Disney World for so many reasons.

Sure, some may argue that the theme song (composed by the Sherman Brothers) is repetitive, but its message of global peace, love and brother- and sisterhood is something we can all relate to. (It was written at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, after all.)

But for me it’s about so much more than that.

In September 2011 my extended family took a trip to Walt Disney World to celebrate my 40th birthday.

On our last day, my mom, AaronD and I headed to the Magic Kingdom. We wanted to take advantage of “Extra Magic Hours” since the park was open until 1 am and my mom promised she would close the park with us. What a treat!

This meant a lot to me because I hadn't been on Disney rides with her since I was in elementary school...but this time it was with the love of my life, making it even more special.

At 12:55, the park was virtually empty. Our last ride was "it's a small world." Now, we'd taken that boat ride earlier in the week with the entire group, but this time something was different...there was a whole different mood in the air. I can't explain it.

We were loaded onto a boat all to ourselves.

We had the attraction virtually all to ourselves (since other boats were empty).

We each had a row in the boat all to ourselves.

As we floated through that night I thought about many things:


  • Walt’s hand was in its creation. The history.
  • Mary Blair’s whimsical design aesthetic.
  • My mom and how blessed I was that I could share this time with her once again. Mother and son. Family.
  • AaronD and our journey to parenthood. What would our future family look like?
  • I looked around during our 15-minute voyage at the smiling animated characters around each corner and suddenly got sentimental and a little emotional. (I mean, who among us can handle the last day of vacation? This was different.)

    Mom N Me 1 (800x800)

    On this attraction anniversary, the memory of that evening flooded back.

    That night I wished that something special would happen for AaronD and me. Now reflecting back on the magic from that watery boat ride something special has happened to us...we are now parents.

    Was it Disney magic? Who can tell?

    I can't wait to take “the happiest cruise that ever sailed 'round the world” with my own children (when they are finally adopted). To share the beauty of that attraction with them.

    But this ride is not just for children.

    It’s for families of all types: Like ours. Perhaps that’s why I like it most.

    There’s room in this great big world for all of us.

    It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.

    It's a world of hopes and a world of fears.

    There's so much that we share,

    That it's time we're aware

    It's a small world after all.

    Sing along if you wish, but just a warning, once you get this tune in your head, it's hard to get it out.

    Cover photo credit: Dennis Brown

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    With everything going on in our country, I think saying that it has been a crazy year is an understatement. It has been emotionally difficult and draining at times for many. This year brought so many new changes that it is hard to wrap our minds around some of them. The daunting feeling of uncertainty looms over our heads as we march forward into this unfamiliar territory led by someone we do not particularly trust.

    With that said, one thing will not change- the holidays. For my family, this time of year brings cheer, joy, hope, and optimism for the new year to come.

    I have always had one golden rule when it comes to decorating our home for the holidays: the current holiday must pass before decorating for another.

    Recently, our two year old, Alli Mae, had started to develop an appreciation for all that Christmas brings. The way she lights up and gets excited when she sees Christmas decorations made me think for the first time in my life, what if I changed things up this year? Decorating earlier will also help attenuate the political frustration that this year brought. That coupled with the amazement that our little girl has for Christmas makes a strong case for decorating for Christmas early. Sure, there are diehard Thanksgiving fans that grumble at the thought of Christmas coming early and I am sure they will give this a healthy eye roll and, if so, that's ok. We are not replacing Thanksgiving... we are enhancing it.

    We will most definitely continue to teach our children the meaning of Thanksgiving and to enjoy the symbolic feast that comes along with it. The white pumpkins I usually put out for Thanksgiving really made a statement when I mixed them with the Christmas attire. I was quite surprised and impressed by the final outcome!

    These days, one of my primary goals in life is to create an environment for my family that is happy, healthy, and nurturing. I want them to get excited about Christmas, both the true meaning and the atmosphere that it brings. When my children walk into the house, I want them to be transported into a bright, cheerful place that they will always remember. Perhaps it will even inspire the way they celebrate the holidays with their families (and our future grandchildren) in the future. The world can be a harsh, cold and scary place, especially lately it seems. I would be lying if I said I didn't do this for myself, too. I am. For the first time in my life, I am worried for the future of our country. I am terrified of the direction we as Americans are taking and worry it is setting a precedent for what the future will be like for my family. Mass shootings seem to happen monthly now, yet there continues to be a lack of response by Congress to create solutions. Bigotry and racism, masked by patriotism, also plague our society. I know I am speaking of sore subjects, but all of these reasons give me the motivation for welcoming the Christmas season earlier.

    I do have faith that in time, competent leaders will emerge and will steer us in a direction that will help fade our fear into the bold and lionhearted society that we are. We as LGBTQ families need to comfort one another. Lets extend our hands to each other. Let this holiday season not be about the "correct" time in which we decorate for Christmas, moreover lets make it about coming together as a community that lifts each other up. Lets protect each other. Lets embrace each other for all the we are, all that we bring and all that we stand for. Let us not be silenced- and pushed into a corner but let us lead by example- while showing our children who their parents are by being respectful and tolerant and warmhearted as we welcome this Christmas season.

    Erik and Douglas' two daughters, Ella and Alli Mae, who recently turned 2

    May you and your family have the most beautiful and happiest of holidays, regardless of when you choose to welcome Christmas. I pray that 2018 will bring each of you happiness, patience, resilience and with time, we will get there, together!

    I would love for you to follow our family's journey on Instagram, Nolapapa.com and like us on Facebook.

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