Thursday, May 28, 2009
Queen Teen Goes to Disneyland
What an enchanting adventure that was! Queen Teen's first trip to Disneyland! It turned out far better than I had imagined. I expected her to be fearful and need to take frequent breaks, but instead Queen Teen pushed herself onward, eager to stay and explore.
We had help from my dear friend Tama and her daughter, Boo-Bug. There is no way I could have managed this trip without her. She's a real Disney fan (even has an annual pass), so she knew where to go in the park and how to get the best deals. She drove us all the way to LA, arranged the lodging, got the passes to the park and to Ariel's Grotto, and held on to Queen Teen when I needed a bathroom break. Tama, you are my hero!
On the first day, Queen Teen wore her baby-blue princess dress and got her hair done up like Cinderella at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique. We explored Fairy Tale Land and then at 11:30 went to Ariel's Grotto for lunch. I knew Queen Teen was nervous because she gripped the brakes of her wheelchair and hardly looked up from her lap. But when I asked her if she was alright she loudly said, "Yes." She was determined to be in Disneyland, so she kept her agoraphobia in check and insisted she was fine.
In Ariel's Grotto we met Ariel, Snow White, Aurora, and Belle. Then Queen Teen met her hero, Cinderella. She was so excited she couldn't stand up. I helped her up and Cinderella wrapped her arm around Queen Teen's waist to support her. Cinderella knew immediately how to interact with Queen Teen, speaking clearly and leaning in closer for Queen Teen to see her face. Queen Teen just kept grinning.
We were at Disneyland two and a half days, staying at the California Grand Hotel because it was closest to the park and easiest for Queen Teen if she needed a break. Happily, we didn't need to worry. Queen Teen took a deep breath and plunged in, excited to be there, happy to explore, and genuinely having a great time. She even went on a few rides.
I was surprised she wanted to go on a ride. I was waiting for the panic attacks, the shouts of fear as she begged to get off. But she wanted to do go on a ride at Disneyland, so she allowed the staff to help her and then sat beside me, gripping my arm like a vice. She rarely looked up at the scenery, instead staring down at her lap, concentrating on the sensation of movement and the need to keep her fear at bay. We chose mellow, relaxing rides, the ones without any drops, spins, or fast movement. First she rode It's a Small World, sitting up high in her wheelchair on the boat, looking like a homecoming queen as she stared at the animatronic puppets, unsure of what they were. She also rode through Story Book Land but wouldn't look up at the miniatures so I had to describe them as we went by. On Jungle Adventure, she laughed when the robot elephant splashed the boat and a few drops landed on her head. The Train seemed boring to her, but driving a car in Autopia was much more challenging. When she drove, she steered wildly but wouldn't look up to see where she was going. "Driving hurts my hands," she declared when it was over.
Mostly we wandered the park, stopping to examine the flowers and statues. And we met characters; now she knows who Micky Mouse and Minnie Mouse are, as well as Alladin, Chip and Dale, and Brother Bear.
I pushed her wherever she wanted to go and got tearful several times. I was so happy to be there with her, so thrilled that we were able to make another dream come true. There is nothing more wonderful in the world than my daughter smiling.
I was so impressed with the staff of the park and how well they worked with Queen Teen. They knew exactly how to help her feel comfortable, from speaking loudly to assisting her on the rides. The terrain of the park is primarily level and easy to navigate in a wheelchair, despite the crowds, and most of the rides are accessible. Disneyland is perfect for people with disabilities, more so than any other amusement park I've ever seen. For a teen-girl dressed like a princess in a wheelchair, it was heaven.
On the last morning we took one more stroll around the park before leaving. After lunch I said, "It's time to go now."
She smiled and said, "That's okay." Then she looked thoughtful. "Mom."
"Can we come back next year?"
"We'll see what we can do."
Darling girl, if there is anyway I can make it happen, I will bring you back to Disneyland next year.