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MousePlanet Mailbag for August 11, 2005

Compiled by Stephanie Wien, Mailbag editor

We receive considerable feedback regarding our site. Although we cannot publish them all, the following may be of interest to our readers. If you have any thoughts, questions, or comments, contact the Mailbag editor here.

In “Happy Birthday MousePlanet,” our July 19 article in honor of Disneyland's 50th anniversary and MousePlanet's 5th, MousePlanet staff members shared their Disney memories. Some of our readers have also written in with their memories and birthday wishes. If you would like to share your Disney memories with us, send us the following information to our mailbag here:

  1. Impressions of Disney: What is your first recollection of Disney that you remember, or that made an impression for you?
  2. First Trip: What was special about your first trip to a Disney park? Does not have to be Disneyland, but if not, please specify. How old were you, and who did you go with?
  3. Most Memorable Visit: What is your singlemost memorable visit, time, or incident related to a Disney park visit?
  4. On MousePlanet: Please share with our readers your thoughts on MousePlanet and/or your involvement with it as we celebrate our Web site's 5th birthday!

Feedback for Lisa Perkis

Several readers wrote to Lisa Perkis in response to her article on dealing with a child's anxiety at theme parks (link).

A Cast Member writes:

I applaud your article about helping children face their fears at Disneyland and beyond.

I am a cast member at Disneyland, and have unfortunately seen many parents shouting at their children in front of hundreds of people for being scared to experience an attraction. I have seen parents literally walk away from their children and leave them bawling in a loading area or an exit ramp of an attraction out of sheer frustration and anger, which only makes the situation worse. It is also an uncomfortable situation as a cast member to have to approach parents of terrified children who are struggling with all their might to climb out of a ride vehicle as it prepares to embark on its adventure. It is obvious that the parent is already upset, angry, and most likely embarrassed, and it is not fun to suggest that they may want to return later when the child has decided to ride or when they are alone and can enjoy the attraction that way.

Thank you for offering suggestions and real-life testimony on your daughter's triumph over her dragons. I thoroughly enjoyed your article!!

Kathleen West writes:

Mrs. Perkis, your article was very well-researched and eloquently written. My son, who is now 8, has had “big ride” fears every time we visit any park. I found that talking him through the ride (“Okay, now we are going to turn,” or “Now we will go down a hill”) really helps to calm him down on the rides. Also, many kids are afraid (pardon me, anxious) about going onto a ride because other people are screaming. I have had my son go into an open place and scream, and, of course, he always laughs afterward. I remind him that sometimes it is fun to scream when you aren't afraid at all.

I have been truly inspired by your article, and plan to use some of its strategies on our next visit (Monday).

George writes:

I enjoyed your article! The biggest mistake I have made was forcing my son to go on attractions he expressed anxiety over. My wife and I decided to let him decline on his own and didn't let ourselves or others pressure him into going. Eventually, he decided to go on his own and without any fanfare from us. We have also approached our three other kids the same way and discovered their anxieties are cyclic. On one trip, the Haunted Mansion is their favorite and the next trip they refuse to go on it. We frequent Disneyland six to 10 times a year and the pattern of anxiety becomes pretty apparent about every six to eight months, meaning until about 5 – 6 years old, their anxiety triggers change regularly. Anyway, we all going this weekend and we'll see if anyone is afraid of the Haunted Mansion this trip. Thanks!

Hi George – Some children fight anxiety in many areas (not just at Disneyland) and need help from parents to face the problem—that was the case with my Char. I can see you know your children very well, and I'm glad you are handling their anxieties in such a calm way; a lot of parents get very frustrated. Take care and have a great trip this weekend.

Ron writes:

I've never responded to an article anywhere on the Web before, but reading about your daughter has really stirred my heart.

You should know that I am not a parent, and don't ever plan on being one, but I want to sincerely applaud you on your honest candor about easing your daughter's fears. It warmed my heart to read an account of a parent who is actually “parenting” their child. Too often in this world parents chide their children.

I am an annual passholder at Walt Disney World and I go the resort on average of three times per year. On each visit I've made the past few years I have noticed parents push their children or mock them publicly for their fears of riding an attraction they don't feel ready for. It is saddening.

How refreshing to read that you are working with your daughter to help build her self-confidence by conquering attractions at Disneyland that are completely safe to most people, and even more that you admit your own frustrations about Charlotte.

The photo of her on Dumbo is priceless.

Thank you for writing such an inspiring article.


Fighting off the anxiety and finally enjoying Dumbo for the first time. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Hi Ron – Thank you so much for your comments. I have seen the exact same scenarios you described and I've come close to doing the same things. I've found myself saying and doing things I swore before I became a parent I would never do. It takes a reality check every so often to regain perspective.

Christine writes:

I always love reading the various articles that you've written for MousePlanet. But this current one which explains your success helping Charlotte deal with her anxiety was not only great, but hit home. The way you discuss the “Anxiety Dragon” explained so many things for me when I think of my sweet little niece, Misha.

She just turned 7 years old and is an extremely sensitive girl. She sounds a bit like your Charlotte in terms of how much she needs to think and process new experiences. She has always been a bit cautious about things I wouldn't necessarily think of being stressful. Riding Peter Pan and a carrousel terrified her as a preschooler. My brother, a ride fanatic, has worked really hard to help her want to enjoy even the tamest of rides at the state fairs each year.

It was for this exact reason that I am slightly anxious (hmm… I wonder if she inherited more than my eye color?), albeit excited at the same time, about our trip to Disneyland in December. We've taken many weekend trips to “practice” being away from her parents (she's going with me and my mom alone) and she's done well. But, new experiences are a challenge for her and I've seen her struggle.

Anyway, long story short, I know I've had my own “dragons” to tame. It took me years, as an adult, to do so. I think with your article and the book you suggested in it, I may be able to help my brother and sister-in-law increase my niece's skills in helping her overcome anxiety.

What a great article with wonderful advice! Thank you so much for sharing your family's experiences with me—I think it will be helpful!

Barbara T. writes:

Dear Lisa, Thanks for sharing your story and congratulations to Charlotte. Probably only another family dealing with anxiety can understand what you are accomplishing. My own teenage sons hate group situations. We home-schooled for several years due to the anxiety of being in a school setting. They are now in public high school. They would rather get a zero on an assignment than present it in front of the class. They've both had panic attacks at school when they thought they'd have to deliver a message to another class or recite a poem in front of the class. Surprisingly enough, Walt Disney World and Disneyland are places they are OK; the crowds are so large, they feel anonymous. We have been to Walt Disney World twice and Disneyland three times over the course of their childhoods. Anyway, I just want you to know how moved I am by your success and how proud I am of Charlotte.

Hi Barbara – Thank you so much for writing. I actually heard about this book from a friend whose son was having severe anxiety attacks at school. He improved so much after working on the problem that I knew the book would help us, too. It's a tough problem and never completely goes away, but I hope your boys will continue to make progress.

Brandon writes:

This idea has to be one of the best cures for my anxiety I have ever heard of. You should let your daughter know that she has done an awesome job and that she isn't alone. I started getting over some of my fears at around when I was 11 when I conquered Big Thunder Mountain for the first time. I am now 15 and your anxiety tips have helped me. You are a great mom to help your daughter like this! Thanks!

Daria Webb writes:

Wow, that was such a wonderful article! Hats off to you for taking the time to get her through that fear. I, too, suffered from anxiety. It has been under control for about five years and each step you took with her is what I took to get mine under control. This is something every parent should read in regards to there fearful children. I have two kids (2 and 14). We are passholders and we are there at least five times a year. My youngest has no fear but when my oldest was 4 we took him for the first time and all he had to see was the whale's mouth wide open and that was it, we couldn't even walk that way to “it's a small world”! I also took the steps you did and after some time he to came around.

I am glad she can enjoy herself at the park and the steps she has learned will help her in other ways as well. Good job Mom! We are leaving on Sunday and my 2-year-old is already talking about which character he wants to see.

Hi Daria – What a great story—thanks for sharing it. I have a lot of anxiety about Tower of Terror, so I can relate. I know I need to start working on it so I can be a good example to my daughter. Thank you for the encouraging comments—Char just went on Star Tours for the first time this week and we were so proud of her! It seems to be getting easier for her to try new things.

Michele Griffin writes:

Thank you for the great article, I am so glad to hear that your daughter is overcoming her fears and trying new things. This will help her so much as she gets older and can apply this same technique to other things that will pop up in her life that will cause anxiety. I am currently a psychology student and I applaud the way that you handled the situation.

I had the same situation this year with my 5-year-old son when the two of us went to Disneyland this year. He refused to ride rides that he enjoyed last year when he was 4, as he is currently going though his fear stage. So I tried the same agreement that we have with food in our house. You have to at least try it before you can say that you don't like it (we call it a “no-thank-you bite”). It worked with all the rides in the park, even Splash Mountain, which he is terrified of. Albeit that we only went on some of the rides once, but when we go back again next year he will be over his fear stage and will have experienced these rides already so will know what to expect.

Hi Michele – Children can get a very scary image in their heads if they have not seen what the actual attraction looks like, so your technique was so smart—and your son was used to trying things at home already, so I'll bet it was a bit easier for him at the park to try the new rides. Thanks for sharing your story.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lisa here.

Feedback for Brian Bennett

Brian Bennett's recent photo tour of the Iron Spike Room at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge (link) caused these readers to write in, including several sharp-eyed readers who helped identify the “Mystery Photo.”

Alexander D. Mitchell IV writes:

I can hopefully identify more of your mystery photo for you—the one with the bicyclist behind a RR car.

Though I am unclear on the precise details (but could probably find them with a lot of research), I believe this was an attempt circa 1890-1900 to set a land speed record on bicycle, with the benefit of the wind-cutting of the train and a boarded track between the rails of a long, straight railroad. I have a feeling that this was in New Jersey on one of the lines to Atlantic City. As I recall, the bicyclist got to something on the order of 60 to 70 miles per hour before a lurch in the train made the bicycle collide with the back of the train; the folks on the back quickly grabbed the bicyclist and pulled him aboard as the bicycle more or less disintegrated.


Mile-A-Minute Murphy attempts to break a speed record on his bicycle. The vintage photo is on display at the Iron Spike Room.

Hi Alexander – Other readers have told me that you're absolutely correct. “This is Mile-A-Minute Murphy drafting behind the modified train (and track) to reach 60 miles per hour.” [Two citations to Mile-A-Minute Murphy are available at: Arrt's Archives; BikeReader.com]

Kirk writes:

Thank you for the great photo tour of the Iron Spike Room. It appears to have been very lovingly done. My only peculiar thought is why the exhibit ended up in Florida and not, say, at the Grand Californian Hotel at Disneyland. Walt's entire love affair with trains was carried out in California and ultimately was the birth of Disneyland itself. It seems it would have been more appropriate to have the trains from his home stay in their native state of operation. It's like Egyptian artifacts being shipped off to London. At least interested Californians can still go to Griffith Park to see the original spot near the carousel where Walt took his daughters when he was dreaming up Disneyland.

Again, very nice tour, thank you for sharing it with us.

Hi Kirk – I would agree about your “Egyptian artifacts being shipped off to London” if Walt Disney World didn't exist and the Iron Spike Room was located in some hotel in the middle of Florida for no good reason. However, Walt Disney World is very much a part of the Walt Disney Company. In fact, more Disney employees are located here in central Florida than in California, I think by a wide margin.

Anyway, to answer your original question… The reason why the Iron Spike Room is located there is the designated theme of the Villas at Wilderness Lodge. The Villas at Wilderness Lodge is supposed to be a rustic lodging facility for railroad workers as the steel ribbon of the transcontinental railroad pushed Eastward from California and Westward from the Mississippi. In fact, according to the Imagineer's story about the Villas at Wilderness Lodge, the Villas building actually “pre-dates” the main Wilderness Lodge building which, supposedly, is a National Park lodge.

There's more to the tie-in of the railroad theme and the Villas at Wilderness Lodge that I'll be revealing in future pieces. Stay-tuned.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Brian here.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do you have specific questions about an upcoming trip to Disneyland, Walt Disney World or another park, or do you need help with your trip planning? While you can contact one of the columnists, we encourage you to join our special MousePlanet community on our MousePad discussion board. There, you will find like-minded Disney park fans who can try to help answer your questions.

VOICE YOUR OPINION

Did you read something interesting (good or bad) on MousePlanet, or here in the Mailbag? We'd love to hear from you! Send your comments to the Mailbag here.

We welcome your questions and comments, but keep in mind that all questions submitted to MousePlanet become property of this Web site. Letters of interest to the readership may be published, and may include your full name unless you specifically request that your last name not be published. They may be edited for length or style and in consideration of a family readership. Questions may also be quoted on other parts of the site as well.

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