mickeyAs parents determined to raise global citizens, my husband and I were reticent to channel financial resources toward a Disney-vacation rather than taking our children abroad for enrichment. But, there is something that stirs inside both of us when it comes to celebrating the ephemeral days of childhood that made us reconsider.

Here in the US, a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida or Disneyland in Anaheim, California is a childhood hallmark. In fact, I have met parents, who began planning their Disney vacation the moment they found out they were pregnant with their first child.

And even though a Disney family-vacation can cost upwards of several thousand dollars (with hotels, park tickets and flights), it doesn’t necessarily mean that parents will wait until their children are old enough to fully enjoy the experience nor, in some cases, are even old enough to remember it; tots, barely able to toddle, are a common site at Disney theme parks.

Researchers say children as young as three can recognize the mouse-eared logo of The Walt Disney Company. I venture to say even children younger than two can recognize it.

Whether you like it or not, Disney is ubiquitous; nearly impossible to avoid in the times we live in.

Gone are the days when children had to wait for Disney to come out with a new theatrical release; beginning in the 1980s, with the arrival of the Betamax and VHS video cassette recorders, films migrated from the movie theater into the family home. Nowadays, a child can watch something from the Walt Disney Corporation 24-hours a day on one of three Disney cable channels, view any one of Disney’s 53 full-length animated films on Internet TV or DVD, or play character-based computer games on the Disney website. As long as a child has access to a screen, Disney is lurking nearby.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not slandering Disney for being opportunistic, just difficult to avoid.

I grew up with Disney. I was a devoted fan of the Mickey Mouse Club [M-I-C, See ya real soon! K-E-Y, Why? Because we like you! M-O-U-S-E] and all of it’s teen-idol Mouskateers. My family and I were regular viewers of The Wonderful World of Disney family TV specials and the first film I ever saw in a movie theater was…of course…a Disney movie [The Rescuers, 1977].

As a teenager, I began collecting Disney movies on VHS. By the time I was in my 20s—about the same time that DVDs came into vogue—I had amassed a considerable Disney video collection. I imagined someday I would share this collection with my children.

But, by the time I became a parent in my early 30s, I vowed to shelter my children from screen-time until the age of two—naturally, I did a better job of this with my first-born than my second. I vowed to do so because I was determined to protect my children from consumerism, character branding and gender stereotyping for as long as reasonable.

Ironically, I faulted the Walt Disney Corporation as the primary evil among media enterprises. With princesses for our little girls to model their virtues and values upon and villainous rogues to titillate our little boys’ senses, I felt Disney flew in the face of all I hoped to instill in my children.

Thankfully, Disney images and stereotypes are changing; most considerably in the past two decades. I would venture to say the change came about through Pixar (which Disney acquired in 2006), beginning with their 1995 release of The Toy Story. Disney’s celebration of strong, female characters, positive images and a decrease in gender-stereotyping continues to broaden. They are winning me back as a fan and have completely captivated my young charges.

Despite all our efforts to steer our children toward quality, educational programming and the type of children’s shows found on PBS, Disney Junior has become the favored television station since we got cable last year. Sophia the First (who, progressively, is a step child) and Jake and the Neverland Pirates, have quickly replaced Curious George and The Cat in the Hat as favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon shows.

Last summer, my husband and I took our children (then 7 and 4) on a three -week trip to Europe, which entailed three countries and five international flights. Today, for roughly the same cost and what feels like even more planning, we are heading to Disney World for just four days and one, round-trip, domestic flight.

Will it be a treasured childhood memory? We think so. Will it expand our children’s global perspective? Perhaps not but at least our trip includes a visit to EPCOT, where—in whirl-wind-American-fashion—at least we can visit 11 countries in a day.

See ya real soon!

What are the unavoidable childhood hallmarks in your part of the world? How do you feel about exposing your kids to them?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two, Kyla P’an. Kyla likely will be found donning mouse ears somewhere around the Boston-area when she returns.

The image used in this post is credited to photographer Sam Howzit. It holds a Flickr Creative Common attribution license.

Kyla P'an (Portugal)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but spent most of her time growing up in New England. She took her first big, solo-trip at age 14, when she traveled to visit a friend on a small Greek island. Since then, travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow route back from Japan to the US when she was done. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Network, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, recovering triathlete and occasional blogger. Until recently, she and her husband resided outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raising two spunky kids, two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. They now live outside of Lisbon, Portugal with two spunky teens and three frisky cats. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and parenting on her personal blogs, Growing Muses And Muses Where We Go

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