Disneyland Dad

Shortly before I became officially divorced last November, I recall hearing the term “Disneyland Dad”.  The term immediately stuck in my head for a variety of reasons. I learned today my daughter will head to Disneyland for the first time in April. My ex-wife informed me of the news today and this has been in the works since last fall. I suppose now that it’s officially going to happen, I’m rather sad.

I can hardly recall the first time and only time I went to Disneyland when I was a child.  My mom talks about it over and over as if I have fond memories of the event. It happened in 1975 when I was a ripe two years old. So you can see why I’d love to be there when my four and a half year old daughter experiences Disneyland for the first time.

It’s one of those firsts a parent doesn’t want to miss, but it’s the sad realization of divorce. I would do anything to be there and see her reactions to each princess she encounters while wandering the Anaheim grounds. Unfortunately it most likely won’t happen.

Each Friday I have lunch with my daughter. Today I wanted so badly to break the news to her about her magical first trip to Disneyland. I couldn’t. I bit my tongue and said nothing. She did give me a nice big hug when I arrived today. She looked in my eyes and said “dad, I miss you” and that tore a tiny hole in my fragile heart. It’s hard enough that I don’t get to see her more than a 3-4 days a week, but to hear her say she misses me is rough. It’s not like I’m gone or a deadbeat dad, we split custody 50/50.

This is the part of divorce with a child in the mix that’s utterly gut-wrenching. This post is a bit raw, but it’s how I felt earlier today and decided I needed an outlet for my feelings.


About lessinges

Seattle native, discovering life! I like ice cream, cold cereal, and The Amazing Race.
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17 Responses to Disneyland Dad

  1. GinBerlin says:

    All divorces are different, but the ones with kids (and without abuse) are best when the parents can pretend (for the sake of the kids) to be good friends. Until they are at least friends. Many, many years of shared happiness and goals lie before you both. Can you join the trip? Spend a few hours each day together at the parks? Eat together at least a Princess meal or character breakfast?
    Whether one or both of you has another relationship, you all need to present a united and loving front.
    Good luck.

    • lessinges says:

      Gin Berlin, thanks for the comments. I’m not going to attend Disneyland with them. It’s turned into a nice girls outing as a friend and her daughter are also going at the same time. That should make it a really fun time for them. My ex-wife and I aren’t so much friends anymore, but we’re totally civil with each other (pretending not necessary)

  2. Bob says:

    I live in Washington for four days a week and then live in Portland, OR with my family for three days a week. The hardest part has been the seperation from my family. My best moments are when my wife shares brief windows into the things the kids are doing and saying. It is excruciating sometimes, but I know that at somepoint we will all move up to Washington. I feel for you and am grateful that you get shared custody.
    My way of coping is to try and do some video chats with Skype or Google video chat. It may be a tough sell, but maybe you can get a video chat agreement together so you can at least share a few moments of her time at DL.
    My other way of coping is imagining all the other people out there who have it worse than me. Families where the Dad or Mom are in Afghanistan for a year at a time or have passed away. My troubles seem pretty small compared to my imagined super parents.
    Be strong my fellow father. Your compassion and ability to share your feelings will more than make up for your absence.

    • lessinges says:

      Bob, how are things going not that you’re into your routine more? Are you getting more settled and has the video conferencing worked well enough? I know it’s not a great substitute, but it’s not too bad. We need to get together when you’re here and hang.

      You’re very right about how it puts things in perspective. I’m happy I do have shared custody and that I’m not in the middle of a war in Afghanistan. I don’t have a clue how they can make that work. Hats off to them. Thanks for the warm words Bob.

  3. sizzle says:

    My sister and her soon-to-be ex are in the same situation. Their split was fairly amicable and they’ve worked hard to keep lines of communication open. They are both awesome parents, just not a great couple. It’s hard on my nephew, I know. My BIL is seeing someone new and it’s hard for an almost 6 year old to know what to call he so he’s been referring to her as his step-mom. It’s hard on my sister and BIL to not have him full time but he needs both parents. They’ve been stalling on finalizing the divorce because I don’t think either of them wants to lay out the next 12 years of holidays and birthdays and who gets him when and who pays what for his schooling or the house they own together. Divorce is devastating. My heart goes out to you.

    • lessinges says:

      Sizzle, how are things now between them. I know it’s a month later, but a lot can change within four weeks. I know what you mean about the troubles they have attempting to map out the next twelve months. It was not easy. I was rather despondent during the mediation, but we did work it out. With major holidays we try to split the day and maybe even share some time with Baby Singe. Easter is coming up so this will be a good test for how well it’s working so far. Selling off the jointly-owned home was a nightmare…almost worse than the actual divorce. I take that back, for sure worse than the rest of it. Such a pain to divide belongings, responsibilities, money, etc. amongst the two new households. Sounds like they’re doing a good job keeping your nephew happy and not impacted. Good luck to them.

  4. Lesley says:

    I have two friends (different couples) going through a similar situation right now. Even in the most mature and responsible of situations there are many moments that are just awful, especially when it comes to the kids. The process of moving away from the ideas and plans you had for your life (some you may not have even realized were there until they weren’t) is long and unpredictable, from what they share with me. I’m glad you can let a bit of it out here and though it may not get easier, you will get better at it.

    • lessinges says:

      Lesley, you’re right about what you’ve heard. It’s not easy in the least bit. I will say time does heel the wounds and makes things better. It wasn’t fun the first few months, but almost a year after I moved out (11 months), things are pretty awesome. We’re blazing new paths often and taking things as they come. Thanks for sharing the stories about your friends.

  5. Lynnea says:

    You touched my heart in this post. It shows in your words what a wonderful dad you are.

    • lessinges says:

      Lynnea, thank you very much. That’s very sweet of you to say. She really makes me so happy and I’m in awe of the person she is today. I can’t imagine how I will feel 5-10 years from now. Perhaps that could change when she’s a teenager, I hope not.

  6. pipes says:

    Hey there, E.

    I feel for you. Truly and deeply. Also, when your heart is really aching, you may be able to move yourself to a place of gratitude by realizing that you, unlike countless other admirable King Co. dads and sweet kids, haven’t had your family’s life turned into living nightmare like this: http://www.seattleweekly.com/2012-01-18/news/ripped-apart/

    I get the impression (which, granted, could be quite inaccurate) that you may have been treated somewhat fairly to date by your ex-spouse–and if so, may that trend continue to endure. Not all loving dad and their babies are so lucky. Fantastic, dedicated fathers I know trying to raise young children could have easily been featured in this article. I’m glad it isn’t your story, too.

  7. megabrooke says:

    I’m sorry that you’re missing out on such a big experience; it’s really hard, I can only imagine. Hopefully you will be able to plan a trip with just the two of you which believe me, she will remember and treasure just as much. Disney is fun and exciting, sure.. but your little one is going to enjoy her vacations more because of the love she feels coming her way than the actual trip itself. Thinking of you and sending you some good vibes that this time isn’t too hard for you…

    • lessinges says:

      Meg, I can’t thank you enough for this comment. When I first read it, it made me cry. I thank you for this. I value your opinion given the way you’ve been raised and how well-adjusted you are. You’re right, there will be other opportunities for me. We’ve enjoyed lots of new experiences in the past eleven months and I couldn’t be more pleased with how well she has done with all of it. Thanks again for the sincere comment.

  8. Keri says:

    It has probably been 3 maybe 4 years since I last visited your blog. I suppose the last time was around the time you bought a Prius. It was strange, you were the first person I “knew” and at the same time didn’t know that bought a Prius. I was saddened to read about your divorce, as a person who is married to a divorcee with a daughter, I understand the your feelings about missing out on such a big event. There will be more, many more and I hope you have a chance to witness them all.

    With all that being said, I’ve always admired your style of writing and it is what brought me back while I was rediscovering some bookmarks. I wish you the very best from across the U.S.

  9. Flea says:

    Last time I read your blog you just had your baby. I’m so so sorry to read about your divorce.
    Been there done that and yes, it truly sucks!! All the best!

  10. Spring says:

    I can’t imagine how hard the last few years have been.
    You do really well with your situation and I think it’s great that you won’t allow it to make you bitter.

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