We recently went to Disneyland with our adult daughter and our 2 year old granddaughter. All three adults had high hopes for a fun-filled family time at the “happiest” place on earth. When naysayers told us we were crazy for taking a two year old to Disneyland, we scoffed at them. We’ve been there, done this before. But we hadn’t been there, done that with a toddler. The crowds, a cranky toddler, and plenty of unmet expectations led to a communication breakdown that was a debacle for all of us. None of us ended up having much fun and we left a day early.
Steph: So, what did I learn? We needed better communication before and during this trip. Articulating our hopes/expectations in advance probably would have saved some strife later such as: how we would handle nap times, crankiness, hunger, and the business of our itinerary. For example, I expected there might be crowds and we would just roll with it. I also figured our granddaughter missing her nap for a few days wasn’t a big deal. So, when I sensed Paul was feeling frustrated by the crowds and the length of time we were staying in the park, I had an attitude of “get over it.” I judged his negative attitude was getting in the way of us having fun and my exasperation showed. When Paul tried to express how he was feeling, instead of listening I had a ready answer. Allowing him to express his feelings would have been more productive than me sighing and giving him the silent treatment.
Paul: I learned that talking out what happened afterwards (well outside the moment) was definitely a good building block to understanding our different needs for these kinds of situations going forward. Obviously, this needs to be done with respect and sensitivity in order to be successful. For example, after the trip, we re-evaluated what went right and what went wrong. I shared with Steph that maybe our granddaughter was too young for this kind of a vacation and perhaps she would enjoy it more when she was older. I recalled an earlier Couples Post articleabout choosing one or two things that are especially important to each of us ahead of time and making it a point to do those things. For us, discussing a game plan in advance is an effective way to resolve conflict and prevent future fallout.
In the end, we took some time after returning home to affirm what we each did well during the trip – our daughter’s careful planning of the vacation and attention to her sick child; Stephanie’s care-taking of all of us including having food available and lots of words of affirmation; and Paul’s willingness to take on the long drive and financial planning. Looking for the good in each other helps us focus on our positive qualities and keeps us grounded as a couple and as a family.