When she took her 3-year-old son to Disneyland, "Reno 911" star Kerri Kenney-Silver never guessed he'd get his first heartbreaking brush with disappointment. Isn't this supposed to be the happiest place on Earth?!
Kerri Kenney-Silver: A few weeks ago, my husband and I took my son to Disneyland. We had been there two times before. Every time we'd walked by the Jedi Training Academy in the past, my son had said, "Mommy, I'd like to do that." But I thought maybe he was too little.
This time, however, I figured he was the perfect age, but he's never been part of one of those "pick me, pick me!" scenarios before. We had always done rides where you go in line and wait your turn, and you're guaranteed to get on. But we figured we'd give this a shot.
We were late to the first show, so we watched it but he didn't get picked to participate. We told him we'd get to the next show extra early so he'd have a better chance.
For the next show, he was one of the first kids standing there waiting in line. When they came out to pick the kids who would go up onstage, my son was in the front row, waving his little arm wildly, jumping up and down, and screaming. In fact, he was waving for so long that his little 3-year-old arm was so tired, he had to hold it up with his other hand. He just KNEW he was going to get picked!
How it works is that there are about 50 kids standing in a bunch, and for a long time they just sort of jump up and down, and people onstage point to around 10 kids to ask them to participate. You could go to every show and never get picked, I guess. There is no order to it. An enthusiastic kid next to us with a giant pin that said "It's my birthday" wasn't chosen, but a cute little girl who looked extremely uninterested on the other side of us was. There was no rhyme or reason to it.
Once they had finished picking the kids and were moving on to do the show, my son was still jumping up and down and waving. I told him they were starting the show, and he looked up at me excitedly and said, "So it's my turn now?!"
I said, "No, honey, they already picked. You weren't chosen."
His face just crumbled. He looked down at the ground, curled up in a ball, and started shaking and hyperventilating there on the floor. His shoulders were heaving. I'd never seen him like this before. Ever.
He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, in a low, defeated voice: "I wasn't good enough. What did I do wrong?"
I know that this was probably a good lesson -- "Let's be a person among people" -- but that little heart just got crushed and I, as his mother, couldn't protect him. The Mama Bear in me came out big-time.
My husband and I did what any other sensible parent would do, dealing with their kid's first disappointment ... we reached for our wallets and raced to the Star Wars store.
I was like, "Get this boy a lightsaber! In every color!" We even bought him the robe that the kids in the Jedi Training wore. Within ten minutes, he was crashed out in his stroller in the robe, a lightsaber in each hand.
In hindsight, I know that maybe this was a teachable moment. This is life ... this is how it goes. But at Disneyland, you pay a lot of money for everybody to win that day. For one day, it's the happiest place on Earth.
But it's not happy when you're jumping around like a prize pony and you don't get picked. What I saw happen in him at that moment ... it may very well be his very first memory of disappointment.
I really don't want my kid to be the one that feels entitled to anything, but I do want him to have self-esteem and to care about other people's feelings. I'm not saying that he should have been picked, but I am saying there should be a better system. There needs to be a line, or a first-come, first-served kind of policy. It's very shocking that Disney still operates their show this way.
At three years old, when you go to a birthday party, everybody gets a prize, and at school, everybody gets a turn. No, it shouldn't be like that every day and everywhere, but for a day of entertainment that you pay for, it should be. Even if it's a raffle situation, don't make them jump up and down for 10 minutes and then not pick them. That's just cruel!
I haven't written my letter to Disney yet, but I intend to. And my mother and mother-in-law are also outraged, so there are going to be lots of letters coming from my family!
Even if my son DID get picked, I would still be upset. The looks on the kids' faces who weren't chosen sure didn't look like a pamphlet for Disneyland. They do a lot of things right at Disney, but they missed the boat on this one. There's gotta be a better way.