1. Never underestimate the power of agenda.
I know I just told you that my plan didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to go, BUT every minute I spent planning TOTALLY paid off, because, as I’m sure any reader with kids can predict, children are masters of “I want to do this, and because I want to do this, that means that NOW is the perfect time to do this, no matter what time it is or what anybody else is doing.” It’s adorable. Right? …RIGHT? Totally. So cute. But, AWESOME as that phenomenon is, it can be advantageous to have a general outline of attractions you plan to visit that day: (“OHMYGOSHCANWEPLEASERIDEASTROBLASTERSPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE!” “[Insert child’s name], I know you want to ride Astro Blasters, but remember when I told you that we were going to tackle the Fantasy Land rides first, and you told me how excited you were to ride Peter Pan? Let’s stick to that super-fun plan we made, and I promise we’ll get to everything you want to do today.”)
I did this by giving the kids a list of all the rides in the park and telling each of them to circle three rides that they COULD NOT live without riding in red marker, then circling two more that they really wanted to ride, but less so, with blue marker. Ideally, we could ride every ride any day we went, but Disneyland in summer is NO JOKE with respect to the crowds, people. NO. JOKE. We were lucky to get onto as many as we did (thanks to my epic planning).
2. More than one kid? Just do one park!
Siblings (or friends, let’s be honest) are going to bicker about what they want to eat, where they want to sit on rides, which rides to ride, etc. etc. I wish there were some way to avoid this, and I know I’m preaching to the choir here when I say that IT’S AWFUL AND TERRIBLE, especially when it’s hot (LIKEONEHUNDREDANDFIVEDEGREESHOTAAHHHH), which is why you should just make your life a little easier by minimizing the number of attractions available to you on a given day. If you are taking more than one kid, JUST DO ONE PARK. Don’t park-hop. Just don’t. You will hate everyone and everything and the happiest place on Earth will just not mean anything good to you anymore. Which…think about that: that’s sad.
3. Mid-day ice cream is a MUST.
It’s hot during the summer in SoCal. There is just no way of getting around that, no matter how short your shorts are or how small your shirt. In the words of Aziz Ansari: TREAT YO’SELF. Do not worry about carbs today. About half way through the day, STOP and EAT A TEN DOLLAR ICE CREAM in the shade. I promise, it is the best way to keep spirits high when you are IN THE THICK OF THE CHILDCARE TRENCHES. If you take only one piece of my advice, let it be lucky number 3.
4. Backpack essentials.
I was debating putting this in here. And then I thought about how much I love making lists. Use this checklist for your backpack next time you take the kids to Disney, and you will be just fine. (This list omits obvious things like wallet and sunglasses, but INCLUDES snarky comments.) (This list also assumes that your kids are past stroller age.)
- EXTRA water bottles. The small ones. I had two kids with me, and also cared about hydrating myself, so I brought six. Just line the bottom of your backpack with them. (This WILL be a heavy backpack. You are going to WAR here, soldier! Get used to hauling around the supplies!) (I mean Disneyland…you’re going to Disneyland.)
- As many kinds of sunscreen as you can while still feeling like a sane person. If those kids—your beautiful, sun-crazed, precious cargo—get sunburned…it’s your fault, and they will make sure you know this. Sunscreen application should be happening more than just regularly.
- Baby wipes. A travel-sized pack from a drug store will do. Have the kids use them to wash their hands before and after eating, to clean off tables you plan to sit at…well, basically anything. (As a nanny, you should never really be without these, anyway.)
- Hand sanitizer. Bath & Body Works sells nice-smelling ones for about a dollar a piece.
- Snackage. This is “officially” frowned upon, but I’ve brought full-on Lean Cuisines into Disneyland in Tupperware containers before. Nobody cares. I’m not saying bring Lean Cuisines, but, like, Goldfish are good. You know. Line food.
- Band-Aids. This should be another thing you always have on you, but…just in case. Obvious reasons.
- Hair elastics and clips. For you, if you have long hair, as well as if any of the kids have long hair. Hot days plus long hair equals sweaty necks, and equally uncomfortable kids, and equally uncomfortable nannies.
- LIGHT (VERY LIGHT) sweaters for the kids if you plan to stay for fireworks or Fantasmic. Never a bad idea. Also, if you find yourself forced onto It’s A Small World: first, good luck; and second, for whatever reason, it is COLD in there!
- Tie two shoelaces together into a large loop for playing Cat’s Cradle with. This sounds stupid, but trust me: it’s the best way to get through a long line in the sun.
[My list was far longer, but I realize that not everybody likes to carry a backpack big enough to hold a grown man around Disneyland, so I pared this down to what I consider to be the most important things.]
5. Try not to sweat it if the kids are going bananas.
The last thing I will leave you with is something I struggle with: just chilling out. Honestly, things will not go according to plan, you’re going to get tired, and then you will become irritated. But remember: these kids that you’re watching? They look up to you, and they are so happy to be spending the day at such a magical place with you. Try not to ruin it for them by being a grump. Me, with my Type A personality…I have issues with this. But I have been so lucky to spend so much time around kids—they truly teach you the value of stepping outside of your perfect agenda when it is appropriate. Remember that Disneyland really is a magical place, and it’s magical for EVERYONE, not just the kids you’re taking care of. You really can have a good time waiting in hour-long lines with these kids, as long as you’re willing to let them show you how.
Hopefully the snarky comments didn’t mislead you—I love children. Working with them brings me indescribable joy. And these kids that I’m watching this summer? They are beautiful, brilliant kids with so much to admire. For all the moments we spend as caregivers being irritated, emotional, or otherwise not stoked, any nanny can tell you how rewarding an experience it is the first time a kid tells you that they love you, or that they are going to miss you. Because, not so secretly, even though you get mad, you love them, too, and you miss them when they’re not around. Try to remember how sweet and lovely they usually are while you’re sugaring them up and letting them run around a 105 degree theme park on a crowded day, while you chase after them half-heartedly, being sad and wondering where your life is headed.