Her Knight in Shining Armor: Confessions of a Disney Dad

Her Knight in Shining Armor: Confessions of a Disney Dad
Credit: Disney/ Canva

I am many things. I’m a writer, albeit not a very good one. I’m a husband, a provider, and a protector. I’m a veteran, a man of faith, and a Disney fan. I’m a professional, a friend, and a colleague. However, among all the hats I attempt to balance on my head, one of the most valuable to me is being a dad. Specifically, a Disney dad. I won’t go into too many details about my personal life, but I have a lot of children, three of which are girls. I love my boys; they’re great kids! However, the special bond I share with my daughters is one of the most cherished human connections I’ve ever experienced. I often hope they feel the same.

We do just about everything together; we share many of the same hobbies. They didn’t have much choice. I drag my kids everywhere with me. Unlike some parents, I really enjoy spending time with my girls. This exposure to things I love has also harvested a healthy appreciation and fandom for them. Marvel, Star Wars, music, fishing, college football, and Disney are all passions we share in life. Although they’re older, we continue to create new memories and bond over the hobbies we’ve cultivated together, especially Disney World.

It All Started With a Mouse

disney dad

Credit: Disney

Our shared love for Disney began at an early age. While many dads are hosting tea parties with their tiny princesses, I was dragging mine around Walt Disney World. We’ve grown to all have our favorite spots to grab a bite to eat, sharing obscure Disney facts and totchos while we reminisce about the endless memories we’ve made during our trips to Walt Disney World. There isn’t a spot on Disney’s property in Orlando where we haven’t created something we’ll cherish together for the rest of our lives. As their dad, I’m proud of that. One day when I’m gone, they’ll create the same memories with their children, and so on. Weirdly and abstractly, that means I will always get to visit Disney World.

Through the years, I’ve learned much about myself and my daughters as we’ve walked up and down Main Street, U.S.A., rope-dropped Animal Kingdom, and spent too much money together at Disney Springs (don’t tell my wife). Although I’m not a grandfather yet, that day is coming soon, and I will experience it all over again with my granddaughters. Until then, I thought it might be fruitful for our readers to share an intimate look at what I’ve learned as a Disney Dad. Maybe there’s someone out there who could benefit from all the miles walked, all the dollars blown, and all the hours spent waiting in line with my daughters. 

Raise ‘Em Right

disney dad

Credit: Disney

I started taking my daughters to Disney World when they were young. I admit it isn’t necessarily because I thought they’d love Disney; it’s because I love Disney. Despite my selfish reasons for dragging them around in 100-degree weather to see shows they don’t understand and wait in line for rides they can’t experience, they grew to appreciate and love Disney Parks just as much as I do. Disney World quickly became a place where magic was real. There were no Cast Members in costumes; to them, Cinderella lived in the castle at the end of Main Street. The stories literally came to life for them, and I can’t necessarily put into words how amazing of an experience that is to see as their father.

A lot of people will tell you to wait until your children are around six or seven before you take them to Disney World. Although I completely understand the reasoning here, that isn’t an option if you’re a huge Disney fan like us. Even if you aren’t, taking them as toddlers isn’t a terrible idea as long as your trip is planned accordingly. I remember the first time each of my children saw Cinderella Castle for the first time. The pure excitement and innocence in their eyes was enough to melt the coldest of hearts. It didn’t matter how old they were; each kid had the same jaw-dropping reaction. My heart melts just thinking about it as I write this.

Buy The Ears

family disney dad world mickey ears ban universal magic kingdom

Credit: Disney

You can’t go to Disney World without looking the part. Those little ones want to be immersive and enjoy the fun too. I understand the merchandise is expensive, and they’ll quickly grow out of those adorable shirts and shoes. The balloons may deflate, and the bubble wands may never be touched again, but they’ll remember those things. Trust me, I know, and honestly, I miss the days when they’d get excited over bubbles and balloons. You will too.

As they age, they become more difficult (and expensive) to please. Gone are the days of stuffed animals and novelty hats. Instead, now they want Dooney & Bourke and Pandora jewelry. Of course, I don’t oblige to their request every trip, but I still miss the days when they were so excited to get a Mickey Mouse pen and autograph book. My wallet misses those days too. 

See All the Characters You Can

disney dad princess merida in her signature green dress and huge mass of red curls runns smiling through disneyland castle with a young redheaded girl in a merida costume and her mother in a blue shirt with red curls as well

Credit: Disney

Some of the fondest Disney World memories I have are of my daughter’s visiting with different characters around the Parks. They used to love interacting with Merida at Magic Kingdom and Olaf at Hollywood Studios. As they weren’t able to differentiate between a Cast Member and the characters they loved from Disney movies, their star-struck little faces were so fun to enjoy. You’d think they were meeting real-life celebrities, but to them, they were. Mickey Mouse wasn’t just some guy in a tux with big ears; he was the real deal! And it was magical!

Nowadays, character meets at Disney World are off the menu. I guess teenagers are too cool to hang out with Disney Princesses. We last did a character meet and greet a few years ago, but I vividly recall the last time I attempted to talk one of my girls into seeing Aladdin at Disney World. Admittedly I coaxed my second oldest into the meet and greet to try and recapture some of the precious moments from when she was smaller. She was not gracious enough to cooperate. Long story short, we did not see Aladdin that day. However, while walking out of Adventureland, I’ll always remember her words as we walked past Sunshine Tree Terrace.

 “Why would I need to see a prince when you’re my knight in shining armor, Daddy?” Although I wish I get back to those good ole days, that was enough to remind me that no matter their age, I’m still one of the most influential and important people in their lives, and I should never take those moments for granted. 

Take Pictures Disney Dads. If You Think You’ve Taken Enough; You Haven’t

Memory Maker Family Photo disney dad

Credit: Disney

It goes fast. I have two children in college now. It feels like we were visiting Disney World for the first time only a few days ago. Although so many images are seared into my brain, the sharp edges of those same faces staring up in amazement at Cinderella Castle have become undefined as I get older. Although I still remember them vividly, as each day passes, they lose more and more detail. I guess this is just the sad reality of getting older. They say time heals all wounds, but it also blurs the past and how we remember it. 

One of my biggest mistakes is not capturing pictures that freeze those precious memories forever. Not just at Disney, either. I’ve always been the kind of guy who would rather experience things firsthand than through a camera lens, and although this makes perfect sense, I missed out on the chance to capture some of life’s most significant moments forever. I’d give anything to return and ensure I had a camera with me. 

disney dad disney cruise line loss less Guests disney treasure disney wish disney magic disney wonder disney fantasy disney parks pandemic COVID 19 walt disney world

Credit: Disney

As most of us have smartphones nowadays with cameras installed, there’s no reason not to capture every moment. Trust me, one day; you’ll want to look back once the children are gone and remember those days spent at EPCOT or Animal Kingdom. Whatever you do, don’t let the world shame you for using a camera to capture all of those magical moments. Who cares how you enjoy the magic of Disney with your kids? Savor it in any way you can, even if that means snapping none-stop photos.

These are just a few observations that I’ve made as a dad in a Disney family. Although we still frequently visit the Parks, how we enjoy them has changed dramatically. Although we still create beautiful memories as a family, sometimes the nostalgia surrounding our old days at Disney World is heavy and makes me want to return to a time when the world was still a magical place for my children. As a Disney dad, I’d encourage you all to definitely slow down and try to savor every single moment you spend with your kids at the Parks. As they grow, they will change, and those precious moments once day will sadly cease to be. 



About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!