Disney Should Have Been Better Than This (And So Should I)

I fill pages complaining about so-called helicopter parenting.

I’m quick to talk about letting “kids be kids” – giving them space to roam and allowing them to feel empowered to make choices for themselves.

Seeing the news about a toddler being pulled into a Disney resort lagoon by an alligator immediately had my Good-Bad Dad doubt overflowing.

I instantly wanted to buy five kid-leashes, drain the pool in the backyard and never allow any of my children to be out of my sight again.

When I drive by the water reservoirs that surround my neighborhood, a sick feeling of anguish comes over me.  I think of the pain of the family dealing with this unspeakable loss as well as the fact that my kids pass by such standing water daily.

This anguish makes me demand that Disney has to be better than this.  Disney should have done more.  The resort cannot subtly say not to swim in their lagoons but then create a beach-like atmosphere around such areas.

Disney should have gone out of their way to warn guests of the dangers present at the resort – even if those risks were remote.  It’s not acceptable for such a company to send mixed signals to parents and kids about safety.

I read that Disney resorts have now addressed this concern with new signs and updated marketing materials.  Such changes, to me, are an admission of culpability.

As I implicate Disney as negligent in this tragedy, my GBD sensibilities have me thinking of the mixed messages I often send to my kids.

I expect my children to follow rules but often show them how to bend them.  Several examples quickly come to mind.

My son knows how to covertly stand on his tippy-toes when a ride requires a height of 48 inches.

I applaud my daughter’s technique as she cartwheels into a pool not deep enough for diving.

At one time, a screaming 11 month-old made me turn the infant seat around prematurely by lawful standards.

I’m the first to zigzag through parked cars with my kids to avoid a longer walk on the predefined, safer walk-ways at the grocery store.

I’ve written before about the lax way I make my kids wear a bike helmet for quick neighborhood rides.

The reality of my parenting is that my double-standards are a result of my assessment of the consequences of bending the rules.  So, when I turned the infant car-seat from rear to forward facing, I rationalized that decision by my child weighing over 25 pounds – an acceptable weight to do so.

As a parent, I have to make these subjective assessments of perceived risk daily.  Having to make these judgments is why I need, and expect, more from Disney.

These resorts have a responsibility to eliminate the need for my tired assessment based on a false sense of security and exacerbated by a mild warning sign on an area that, by all accounts and activities, appears to be a usable beach.

The new signs will help, but Mickey is not the only one that needs to get sharper.  I need to get better too.  If I understand that my mixed messages are not going away, I better make sure they evolve.  Relaxing my worry because “I used to do that all the time” is not good enough.

Fudging your height to ride a roller-coaster may have been okay a decade ago, but may not be when the rides are bigger and faster than ever before.

Mixed messages are everywhere – certainly in my home.  To deny that fact would yield my kids either smothered or unaware.

As much as I may want to right now, I can’t smother my kids.  I do believe that they need to roam.  They need to be unafraid of the world they will soon lead.

I do, though, need more help where I’m unaware.  I need the kind of help that scares me when necessary and puts my mind at ease when appropriate.

I need the kind of help that gives me facts quickly and clearly with no sugar-coating.

I need the help that calls a manufactured, imported-sand, beach-like lagoon by its real name – a potentially dangerous Florida swamp.

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