As soon as we determined that we were taking the kids to Walt Disney World, I started planning how we would share the big surprise. Eva, especially, was bound to be thrilled so I searched Pinterest and watched YouTube videos and dreamed up all the fun ways we could spring it on her. Should we make a cake or create a special video or maybe pick up a Disney-themed piñata to explode with Mickey confetti and glitter and MagicBands for everyone?
So many possibilities.
Ultimately, I decided that the best idea would be to combine the big reveal with her birthday present, since she would be turning four while we were in Florida. I went to DisneyStore.com and picked out a new nightgown for her to wear on the plane, a matching Rapunzel doll to be her plane buddy, a brand new Disney autograph book, and a few other little things to get her excited.
Then, I decided to do a Peter Pan themed scavenger hunt and I hit the craft store for a cardboard treasure trunk and gold foil tissue and glitter paper and stickers and maybe a few other little things for the surprise. That day, I got out my instant camera and walked around the house taking photo clues which I then carefully glued to glitter paper and decorated with stickers. Each clue pointed Eva to a different part of the house where another clue would be (and so on) until she eventually pulled the shower curtain back to reveal the treasure box which when opened would explode with gold and Disney magic.
That evening, we gave Eva a small gift bag which contained her first clue. I filmed the whole thing, watching her excitement grow as she raced from clue to clue unwrapping the mystery. Was she going to scream with excitement? Was she going to cry? Would she spend the next week not being able to sleep because who can sleep when you’re headed to Walt Disney World?
Finally, she found the treasure box and lugged it into the bedroom. She opened it, rifled through the paper, and quickly pulled out the nightgown, doll, book, and the small card I had created to tell her she was headed to Walt Disney World. She then checked and rechecked the gold foil, ignoring her loot while she searched for more clues, so I explained to her what the card said, video camera trained on her face, and waited for the news to sink in.
“Oh…ok.” She looked down at the box.
“Do you understand? We’re going to Walt Disney World!”
“Right now?” She rubbed her neck and furrowed her brow, the face of someone who was clearly a little too tired for such an adventure.
“No, we’ll leave in a week. But you’re going to DISNEY WORLD. With MICKEY MOUSE.”
“Ok. So are there no more clues?”
It turns out that the highlight of the present was, for Eva, the finding of the present and not the present itself. She ultimately wanted me to put all the clues back so she could “find” them again but she wasn’t interested in trying on the nightgown or playing with her new doll. She did obediently wear the nightgown onto the plane and carry the doll for a bit during the terminal, but ultimately Rapunzel spent most of our WDW trip at the bottom of Eva’s carry on bag and although she filled her autograph book up, I put it in the closet when we got home and in the last four months she’s never asked for it.
My expectation bar was waaaaay too high for this one and my attempt to create a magical moment cost me at least $150 in supplies and ultimately didn’t really thrill anyone. In fairness, she might get a little more excited now that she’s older and she’s been there (although she thinks the swimming pool at our non-Disney hotel was the absolute highlight of our three weeks in Florida so she might not even be my kid). At the end of the day, I think I got Pinterest-punked and led astray by videos of children weeping with joy. We could have just said “Hey, lady, you’re headed to Walt Disney World” and that would have been perfectly sufficient…particularly for Calvin, who made short work of those polaroids and glitter paper. C’est la vie.