“My heart pounds, and my throat gets dry. I can’t catch my breath, I feel like everyone is mad at me. I want to cry, but I’m too scared to.” That is the answer you would get if you ask my 12 year old daughter what her anxiety attacks feel like. At the ripe old age of eight my precious baby girl was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. If you want a long detailed explanation of what my princess deals with check it out here. Basically the real quick explanation is that she is irrationally afraid of everything, in her case it mostly relates to strangers, crowds, and catastrophic events. This is a very difficult thing to deal with for an adult (I have been a card carrying member since my diagnosis at 15), but it’s even harder for a child because they have less of a concept of understanding what’s happening to them. Try explaining to a child that bad things won’t happen (for no other reason than you say they won’t) and the next thing you know they are learning about 9/11 at school. Now throw an uncontrollable, irrational disorder on top and it is going to make for one confused little princess. With all this in mind our Disney trips are a double edged sword for her. She is very much a typical child in her thinking that Disney World is the Mecca of all things childlike and wondrous, but she puts a lot of faith in us as her parents to save her from what she can’t shake from her head as the inevitable doom and gloom that lies around every corner. You know stuff like kidnapping, ride malfunctions, hurricanes, strangers, and her little list goes on and on. We do everything we can think of to accommodate her; we made her a special badge to wear inside her shirt with as many emergency numbers you can think of in case she gets lost. We drive down instead of fly down (all the way from Massachusetts). We don’t push her to do anything too scary, and we don’t let her hide so far in her shell that she misses all the good stuff.
So when I ask you what’s the perfect Disney souvenir or activity for a kid that is scared of everything the first thing that pops into your head is pin trading right? NOT! No it’s definitely not and it wasn’t mine either. That’s why when a shiny pin set caught our pretty little princesses eye we were shocked. But she begged and pleaded, and swore she understood how the whole process worked, which for those of you that don’t know, it works like this: Disney Pin Trading is the buying and trading of pins with Disney related themes like, characters, attractions, movies, etc. Pins can be purchased for the base price of $7.95 and depending on how fancy or large you choose they go up in price from there (or you can buy starter sets that are a bit of a better value especially for a newbie), but you can get Mystery Bag Pins for less in Downtown Disney at Disney Pin Traders.
DIVA TIP:When you are starting out I recommend that you buy something you do not really love, that way when you trade it’s not as hard to choose which one to let go.
Cast members (except ride operators) wear pins on lanyards around their necks, or on a hip lanyard clipped to their belt, cast members with green lanyards can only trade with kids. You simply walk up to a cast member with a lanyard on and ask to see their pins, if you see one you like (or have been searching all over Gods green creation for) let the cast member know that you want to trade and viola mission accomplished! Oh, and don’t worry about being rejected cast members must trade with guests. The cast members cannot decline a trade based on preference or rarity of the pin, but can decline if the pin is not acceptable (like not a Disney pin) or pin trading rules are not being followed. The pin etiquette rules are:
·To trade a pin with a Disney cast member, the pin must be made of metal and have a representation of a Disney character, park, attraction, icon, or other official affiliation.
·The pin must have a Disney copyright on its back.
·Guests must trade with Cast Members, one pin at a time.
·Guests can make up to 2 pin trades per cast member per day.
·Refrain from touching another person’s pins or lanyard; ask to see the pin so they can bring the pin into closer view.
·The pin that is traded to the cast member cannot be a duplicate of any pin they already have on their lanyard.
·No money can change hands on Disney property in exchange for a pin.
Okay now that we have got the basic explanation out of the way let me hop back over to my princess. Since she said she knew how it worked and had her little heart set on those pins, I thought what the heck it’s her money. Watching her strut proudly to the counter with her pin set in one hand and her money balled up in the other little fist, it was like seeing a whole different child. Not a fear or worry was in her eye as she paid said thank you and donned her very first set of pins.
The next few days she proudly sported her small, humble collection, but did no more than watch longingly from afar as others traded. We prodded her to try it, but her old fears had come back and she would walk by trying to sneak a peek at a cast member’s lanyard. We encouraged her, reassuring we would be right there, but still nothing. Until she spotted something that she HAD to have! Try as she might I would not do it for her, I needed her to know that the anxiety can’t rule her and the earth would not spin off its axis if she spoke to a stranger. She still wouldn’t budge, and was ready to walk on by head hanging in shame. So like any other super hero mom with enormous mamma bear instincts I just couldn’t let her be sad, especially not in the happiest place on earth. So we struck a deal that she conceded too. I would ask the first person (just to show her how easy it was) but she had to do all of the rest. She slipped her little hand into mine hanging back a step or two as we walked (it must have looked like I was dragging the poor kid to her death) up to a cast member and I said, “May I look at your pins please?” of course the answer was yes and she poked her head from behind me and pointed to the one she wanted to trade for. That is the moment Disney World and all its hidden demons that plagued my little girl became just Disney!
Leading her sister to trade.
Now that she is an old pin trading pro she easily struts up to cast members (often dragging me behind her) and with her best manners asks to look at their pins. She asks questions about favorites (both hers and the cast members) really INTERACTS, something she would never do before. She has ridden some of her “never doing” rides like Space & Splash Mountains all because a cast member with a cool pin said she should try it. She now LEADS her younger sister up to the hotel gift shop counter and asks to see the pin board, when previous she was trailing behind if she even joined at all. She ENGAGES others in a conversation, learning about other little known fun (and free) things like Transportation Cards (another post). She wants to EXPLORE, last trip forcing the whole family to stop at each resort along the monorail so she can see all the different pin boards. For a mother of a child with special needs such as hers, who watches her struggle with the simplest of things (like home work because she is so anxious she just won’t be good enough) seeing her let her guard down and display such excellent traits makes every (mildly expensive) pin we buy for her worth it.
She has quite a few now and collects for the love of the character rather than the need for a full set. And as soon as we end our vacation she is planning what she will trade for the next time. To her they are shiny little memories of special moments, to me each one is a brilliant tiny badge of courage and that is priceless.