Getting What We Wished For

We took the girls to an amusement park yesterday–an amusement park which, as we discovered only after pushing 70 pounds of girl in a double stroller all day, is comprised entirely of hills.  Hill that go up, both ways.

But it was such a good day.  SK had an absolute blast, Quinn was happy as a clam (who came up with that phrase?  I assume that this is a clam who’s contentedly residing in some ocean, before he’s about to meet some linguine and white wine sauce, right?).  We got there when the park opened, figuring we’d probably be able to make it to four, maybe 5 o’clock and get home in time for dinner and baths.  See, we are ride people.  Roller coasters, especially, with bonus points for extra speed and extra drops and a missing floor, perhaps.  But this time last year, Saoirse was terrified of amusement parks, and spent a lot of time weeping and shaking before finally getting on a mosey-around-the-track automatic car.  This year, we hoped, some of our DNA would start to rub off.  We hoped she’d be brave and branch out a little, but more importantly, we wanted her to have fun.

Little did we know what we were getting ourselves in for.  I can say now that Saoirse has officially discovered amusement park rides and all the thrills that come with that delicious fear of risking your mortality while strapped into a car that’s careening through air.   She wanted them all: kiddie rides, roller coasters, swings–the faster the better, she said: “I want to ride the FAST ones, Mom!”

And she did.  We started out slowly, with the kiddie balloons, but as she was getting off of them, with the other little children squealing with delight, she spotted another:  the Flying Falcon.  Next thing we know, we were on line for the thing.  See, here’s the problem:  when your daughter is only 3 1/2, but as tall as a 6-year-old, she could very well get on a lot of the “grown-up” rides in a park.  But we didn’t realize at first that this was an adult ride, because it was in the kiddie section.  I mean, smack in the middle of the kiddie section, right by the frog hopper and buzzy bees.   Quinn was officially tall enough to ride the thing, and she can’t even walk yet.

So, we’re standing there, in line, next to get on, and I see Saoirse staring up at this gigantic three-armed monster propelling screaming humans through space at speeds that suddenly seemed warp-like, at a height 200 feet above ground.  TWO HUNDRED FEET ABOVE GROUND, people.  I can’t stand to type it.  My heart started beating wildly.  I looked at my little girl, I looked back up into the sky, and then I crouched down beside her.

“Hey, Saoirse,” I said, trying to casually wipe the sweat off my forehead.  “What do you think?  This will be a lot faster than the other ride.  Are you excited?  You still want to do it?”

“Yeah!” she exclaimed, and started jumping up and down against the railing with excitement.  I thought I was going to pass out.

So we got on.  And then we saw that, in fact, there were no buckles on this thing.  Nope.  No restraints, either.  She just leaned back against a grown-up who held on for dear life in a car enclosed by a simple mechanical gate.  “Ah, she’ll be fine!” David said.  “Centrifugal force is an amazing thing.”

And we rode it.  She rode it, with nary a tear or downturned lip in sight.  I have never been so frightened in my life.  Enjoying the thrill rides is one thing when you’re just at a park, riding around, having a good time.  But when my kid is there, too?  And she’s really, really young?  Oh, that’s just a different story.  A really, really scary story.

In what felt like a half hour later, the ride ended.  We descended to earth.  I pried my fingers off of the handles and asked Saoirse what she thought.

“Eh,” she said. “It was too big.”

“Were you scared?” I asked.  My legs were shaking.

“No,” she replied.  “I wasn’t scared.  It was just a grown-up ride.  That’s for grown-ups.  Can I ride the train?”

So we did.  She rode the train.  And the swings.  And a roller coaster, twice.  She loved them.  And I found that I didn’t, not with her on them.  Because she’s my daughter, and I’m a mom, and I worry.

Alas, Saoirse spent most of the day squealing with delight, her hands up in the air like the big kids, fingers clutching a tiny stuffed frog we’d won in an arcade game.  We were at the park until 9 o’clock (yes, Quinn is a trooper.  That child just grinned and giggled her way through the day, riding around in that stroller like Queen Elizabeth on a parade route), and she spent that last hour racing back and forth through the kiddie section looking a lot like our cat when she goes on one of her hopped-up-on-catnip tears through the house.  I was able to get to a real “grown-up” roller coaster once, without a young child in my charge, and found that being catapulted through the cosmos is still a massive load of fun when I’m not consumed with the terror of maternal fear.

At one point that afternoon, Saoirse got off of a “big” ride and immediately had to go the bathroom.  Holding my hand, she skipped along, listening to riders yelling with glee as a roller coaster did an aerial flip above us.

“Mom, do you hear that screaming?” Saoirse smiled up at me.  “Are those girls having fun on the roller coaster?”

Ah, they learn quickly, don’t they?  DNA is a funny thing.  But next time, we’re sticking to the rides that aren’t as tall as skyscrapers.  And buckles or restraints would be nice, too, especially since Quinn will be big enough by then to ride, too.

On second thought, maybe we’ll just go to the zoo.

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