|The boy at Vibe--Teen's Club on the Disney Dream|
Freedom for the boy has been an area of balance and compromise since we took our first Disney cruise--he was 4--and we have been adjusting ever since. I can remember him telling us, loudly, one morning on the ship as we were readying for a port adventure that he "just needed a few minutes in his club." A few minutes in his club, the kids club on board, wasn't on the agenda at that moment and he was having difficulty adjusting. Compromise on his part in that moment and yet compromise for us on future cruises giving him more time in his club and more freedom. Now, when we sail, he has the run of the ship after a family dinner--usually joining us for the after dinner show, but not necessarily sitting with us--and then returning to the stateroom at 1:00 or 2:00 am, depending on when the club closes. For the last two cruises, he has asked to join "after parties" and there has been no compromise on that issue--no. The flip side of his expanded freedom on the ship is that the husband and I do more adult-centric activities. Sometimes we do those together and sometimes separately, providing for more balance of "me" time while on vacation.
Freedom at Walt Disney World, given its expanse, has come slower. The boy has gradually been granted more freedom to experience attractions, explore, navigate transportation, and enjoy resorts independently. With cell phone in hand or pocket, he has responsibly communicated with us and reported at designated spots at appropriate times. When he says, "I'll meet you at the resort," the husband and I know we can take our time traversing a theme park or other parts of the resort and meet him in our resort room upon our return.
Sleep--when and how much--can also be up for compromise. The boy is at an age where he prefers to sleep a little longer in the morning. We've adjusted a bit, having fewer early mornings or later mornings. I prefer to go to sleep earlier, and not wait for the boy's return to our stateroom in the wee hours of the morning as an example, so the husband stays up reading, while I drift into slumber being rocked to sleep by the sea. I may wake up earlier, too, and enjoy the quietness, even though we are still sharing space.
Eating. Feeding the boy on a Disney Cruise Line ship is the easiest way to find compromise. As he puts it, "free food 24/7." He can eat pretty much whenever and mostly, whatever he wants. We do insist on an evening family meal.
When at the Walt Disney World Resort, specific dining reservations give us time frames for when we eat, although there are choices as to what to eat. The boy has freedom to chose from the menu or specials and typically selects quite well. I made a suggestion at a restaurant, he agreed, and then ended up sending it back because he didn't like the dish. If we are dining at a buffet restaurant, he has full reign to make his selections.
I'm anticipating that money will be the next area requiring balance and compromise. The boy doesn't like spending his own money and has difficulty spending money in general. He enjoys purchasing, just not the decision making and prioritizing that come with staying within a budget or limited amount of funds.
For our family, finding the right balance makes for a peaceful and happy family vacation. We find that balance through continued compromise and negotiations. Just because we've done something one way doesn't mean that there isn't another way to do something or that the boy is ready to navigate more independently.
In the meantime, the husband and I have discovered or re-discovered how much we enjoy activities for just the two of us. I remember the boy telling us on one of our cruises that we needed to go to the adult sections of the ship, such as the pool, and explore. He was giving us the message that he was ready to be by himself and wanted us to extra fun, too.