I have something to tell you, guys. Have a seat, this isn’t going to be easy for me to say and it might be even harder to hear.
I used you.
Yep, I brazenly, callously used you.
I swear it was the first time.
But I can’t promise that it will be the last.
Here’s what happened.
It all started when Brooke said that she wanted to go to Sesame Street. Which is actually Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA, but why split hairs. And then her sister said, “Ooh, that would be awesome.” And then, because she’s twelve, she added, “Just don’t tell my friends that I said that, okay?” Fair enough.
And when I came to after passing out because my children BOTH wanted to go to the SAME place at the SAME time, I said, “Definitely! Let’s go in late May or early June!”
And then Brooke, because she’s learned to pin Mama down, said, “On what date will would go?”
And then I looked through the calendar and declared that we would go on June 8th. And then she filed that into her little steel-trap brain and there was no turning back. Which was just a tiny little wee bit problematic when I told Luau about my awesome plan and he did that heavy sigh thing that he thinks that only I do but he totally does too as he said for the millionth time lately, “Jess, we really don’t have the money for this.”
And I knew he was right. Which really chaps my tush, cause it’s way more fun when I’m right and I get to be all indignant, but whatever. It also sucks that we don’t have the money to do whatever we want whenever we want. This whole “new normal” thing can kiss my ass.
But there we were. I’d told my kids we were going and now I had to figure out how to make it happen. And you know I would, right? Cause that’s what we do. Heaven and Earth, kids, Heaven and Earth.
So I nosed around. And made a whole lot of people do a whole lot of digging to basically find out what Sesame has posted right on their website.
And I was all, “Ooooh, I could SO be media!”
All I need is a hat.
So I wrote to the folks at Sesame Place and I told them our story. And I told them about you. And then I told them this.
All of that said, I have never used any of this to market a product, nor advertised or accepted any kind of payment or compensation for anything I’ve ever written on Diary or elsewhere.
However, I LOVE the Sesame Street brand, mission and culture. And at ten, my daughter is nowhere near giving it up, which thrills me to no end. I have always been so impressed by Sesame Workshop’s culture of purposeful and thoughtful inclusion, and after hearing that you go out of your way to open the park to families with autism, I’m even more excited by the prospect of visiting.
Yes, I was buttering them up, but it was (and is) all true.
And then I made the proposal. If they would help us with the admission cost, I would write a post sharing our experience at the park. To be clear, I didn’t promise anything about content. Had the trip been a disaster, that would have been the post. Had the people not been warm and helpful and Sesame-ish, that would have been the post. Thankfully, that ain’t the post. But still, it could have been. I promised only to write about our experience, whatever it was. And I told them this.
Autism families can be very hesitant to attempt ventures like this with our children. It often takes one of our own sharing a successful experience and ensuring others that a business is welcoming to prompt us to take the chance.
I’ll let you judge for yourself whether our experience was successful. (Or, we can just get that out of the way now and I’ll tell you that it was. It was.)
But now you know the truth. I used you. And I’d love to say that I’m sorry, but I’m not.
When I told Luau my plan, he said, “Are you sure you’re okay with that?”
He knows how important it is to me to maintain the integrity of Diary. He knows that I’ve refused offers in the past because feeling like I was profiting from my daughters made me queasy. But my answer was this: “I get up at 4 o’clock every morning and write. I’ve never taken a dime and it’s not like I’m asking for a damned spa day; I’m using the resources at my disposal to get my kid something that will mean the world to her and to give our family an indelible memory. Yeah, I’m good with it.”
And so now you know.
Sesame Place was kind enough to issue me a complimentary pass to the park and to discount the other three tickets by 50%, for which I am grateful. I didn’t actually wear the hat, by the way, so no one other than the woman at the ticket counter knew that their every move was being scrutinized for possible publication. Joking aside, I think that’s important. We were treated like VIPs there, but so was everyone else.
Ready to come and play?
I give you our day at Sesame. (Minus the meltdown, cause no one takes pictures of those.)
In the middle of the day, my girl melted. Hard. We’d pushed the envelope just a little too far. Katie and Luau were happily running around in the water park and I was trying in vain to bring Brooke back. I had nothing, absolutely nothing that could offer her comfort. But then she found this guy. And everything changed. Gotta love irony.
The other meltdown buster was the Vapor Trail roller coaster.
I hate roller coasters.
But I went on it six times.
Do you have to ask why?
Oh, and he took her on it six times too. You do the math. How that child could still stand up after all that rolling and coastering I’ll never know. Yes, I know the roller coaster is made for ages three and up, but that sucker packs a punch. Shut up.
See the look on his face? That’s the *actual* “I’m having fun” face. Different from my “I really hope I don’t puke on the kid on front of us” face. He also took the time to color correct his photo. Clearly he likes you better. Whatever.
Oh, look, more characters!
After dinner, we asked a Sesame cast member if she knew where we might find Brooke’s favorite character, Prairie Dawn. We’d been hoping to see her before we left the park. She excused herself for a moment to go find out, then came back to our table. The next thing I knew, we were on the list for a VIP meet and greet with the characters, including the little pink lady herself.
When Brooke saw her, she went running toward her, flapping her little wings as she ran. When she got to her, she threw herself into a hug and said, “I’m SO glad I found you!”
I might have cried a little.
As it turns out, all you have to do to be a VIP and attend the character meet and greet is to flash a season pass. Or ask to see a really obscure character. That works too.
I love this last picture. Burt was totally messing with Katie. It was a thousand kinds of awesome. (Just don’t tell her friends.)
So there you have it, my friends. My first sort of sponsored post and I have you to thank for unwittingly helping me to make it happen. It was an amazing trip. And I am grateful.
Have a sunny day, my friends. And if you have little (or not so little) ones who would love to see their Sesame friends live and in the fur, think about it. You might need to save your pennies for a while, but it’s doable.
Ed note: Sesame absolutely, positively lived up to their reputation for us. Just inside the gate, there is a Guest Relations house. There, we told them that our daughter is autistic and we were wondering if they had any accommodations that we should know about. With no further discussion, she was given a bracelet that enabled us (she and three others) to access alternate entrances for every ride in the park. Given that lines were manageable on the day we were there, we didn’t end up using it, though toward the end of the day, we should have. That’s a story for another post.
Moreover, the characters and cast members were fabulous. Everyone we encountered was patient, accepting and warm. Everyone. The characters were incredible with Brooke. Never once did we feel rushed, despite the fact that she engaged every single one of them in some kind of “Brooke Says .. ” or Follow the Leader. She even asked Super Grover to put his foot on his nose, and God bless the fuzzy lil guy, he tried.
Ed other note: Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of Katie and Luau frolicking in the water (half of the property is made up of various water parks), so you get a whole lot of Brooke and not a whole lot of Katie here. You just have to take my word for the fact that they had fun too. 🙂