December 23, 2011 will be noted as an auspicious day in my family's history. On that day, Luke reached 40" tall.
Height was a big thing in my family growing up. The Byrne clan from which I harken are not, on the whole, large folk. Most my aunts never cleared five feet. When they would call and talk to me when I was still a little girl, the standard adult-to-child question was not the standard, "What grade are you in now?" but rather "How tall are you?"
My husband's family, likewise, is not endowed with great height, and while Shawn and I both eventually made it to something average in the personal elevation category, we both took our sweet time getting there.
Our offspring is also height-challenged at this stage in his development. Once Luke could stand well enough, we picked a wall and a pen and marked off his height. Then we took a measuring tape and marked off 40" from the floor. Taking our barely toddling son into my lap, I told him, "That's it, buddy. Right there. That's how tall you have to be to ride Space Mountain."
I'm a big fan of Disneyland. I might have mentioned. I lived a stone's throw from the park as a kid. Well, a stone's throw if you're The Hulk, but still, close enough to see the fireworks over the tops of the jacaranda trees on my street. I'm 400 miles up the road from there now, but since I've been big enough to transport myself, I've done my best to make a yearly pilgrimage to the magic kingdom for a trip around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain and one of the best corn dogs in the world. Until we had Luke.
I'm a big believer in not talking small babes to Disneyland. It's noisy, there's people all over the place, it's a sensory overload in the extreme. I think you should be just right age when you walk down Main Street USA that first time. You should have some sense of how major this is. You should know how to spell your name so when the lady in the Mad Hatter hands you your first pair of ears, you can trace the letters stitched on the back and know what they say. Those are your ears, man. This is big. Potty training doesn't hurt either.
Shawn and I had several very serious conversations about just the right time to take our unborn young to Mickey's hometown while he was still inutero. This limit was more for us than Luke. Something concrete to keep us from jumping the gun and heading off too early. 40" was what we settled on. You should be tall enough to ride most the E-tickets. Not that you have to do it. Space Mountain, for example, is a high-speed thrill ride that hurtles you into the final fun frontier. You need to be emotionally prepped for that as well as vertically cleared for launch. But you should be able to if you want to.
I haven't been myself in four years now. Shawn and I took one last trip together when Luke was about 1 year old. Past that, we thought that he would be too young to accompany us yet, and too old for us get away with patting him on the head and leaving him at Ama and Pop-pop's house again. "See ya, kid. We're going to Disneyland without you." No, that doesn't fly.
But now, we're ready. Ready to ride Small World so many times that the song is permanently imprinted in my brain. Ready to go treasure hunting in Injun Joe's cave. Ready to board the wildest ride in the wilderness, and fly over Mermaid Lagoon, and to sing along with pirates. Drink up me hearties, yo ho.
I don't want you think that I'm building this trip up past reasonable expectation. I expect that we'll have some temper-tantrums and some disagreements. There will probably be something cool that I want to show Luke that he'll flat out refuse to do and there will be something that he'll love and want to do over and over and over again while I cringe inside my head (please god not the Tiki Room). I expect that at least once we'll wait in a long line, get right up to the front, and the kid won't be able to muster the courage to step on to the ride. That's cool. (I've already told him he doesn't have to go on anything that he doesn't want to. I'm not one of those parents.) Look, I've been to Disneyland under the best of circumstances and in less than ideal situations. The park is always awesome and we'll have a blast.
Shawn and I have had our DIsneyland strategy in place for a long time. We modify it as the times change. I remember the year they introduced the FastPass system. We gleefully spent hours scampering around the park systematically testing the database system for weaknesses. My point is, this is going to need a whole new system. We are three now, and one of us has never seen anything like this before. This is a whole new world.
So December 23, 2011 my kid reached 40" tall, and March 1st 2012, he'll step across the threshold of the happiest place on Earth. When I asked him what he'd want to do first when we get there, he said, "Ride Space Mountain." I told him if he pulled that off he'd be much braver than I was at the same age.
That's my boy.
Now loading for a trip around Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. All aboard.