I have been so tightly wound at varying times this summer for many different reasons, and aching for a day that we could enjoy time together. I was beyond ready, along with my husband, and my boys. The need for a family day with the only agenda item being making memories was calling strongly to us. A day of only rest and rejuvenation. Naturally, we decided the best spot for such things was a massive amusement park full of thrill rides and crowds. Maybe no resting or relaxing, but we had our solid determination to have fun and make memories.
Except for one small detail, I despise roller coasters.
This is the part where you may think I threw all caution to the wind in the name of family memories, and jumped fearlessly on the world-record holding Goliath (google it, terrifying) and while plummeting toward sweet mother earth, I felt the freest free I have ever known.
Yeah, not quite.
Walking through the park with my sons, they were on the spectrum of emotion from highly apprehensive to thrilled beyond belief, some perfectly happy to fling themselves through the atmosphere as if it were fun, enjoyable even. I felt my anxiety heighten. Maybe riding the Whizzer, “family rollercoaster,” first that seemed nothing like the sweet you tube video we watched on the way, wasn’t the best idea. It did serve a purpose however, it created a roller coaster barometer of sorts, for each member of our family. I was at one end, my husband at the other, and our kids fell in between.
We continued on, cue some positive self talk, and reminders of the intention of our day. We’ve got this. Also cue, childhood days full of nerves in my sweaty, summer intro to the Six Flags Great America of the eighties. What does moderate roller coaster mean for the non-thrill-ride crowd? Would I somehow get on a seemingly sweet ride that would morph into something awful like the Teacups of Death? Remembering the dreams I had as the bookends of such family excursions. Imagination my strong suite, this girl, once dreamed her peanut butter and jelly sandwich jumped off the plate to eat her. I don’t need much to work with.
I birthed a couple of boys who share this imagination along with the ability to immediately see the worse thing that can happen in any given situation. While I had no understanding of what this was as a child, I know now that it is anxiety, and places like this one can wreak havoc on those fears if you let them. As we made our way through, I could see distinct camps of people who were bravely working their way through the Little Dipper and those who first went all-out on the Giant Drop. I remember being the girl who wished she was that person, it seemed so much easier, much more fun. That’s exactly how my parents would phrase it, don’t you want to have fun? Except it wasn’t fun, it was torture.
I now know that I am that person, in many different arenas of life, just not this one. I am not going to be the Amusement Park Queen. And despite my strong dislike for roller coasters, I have gone on them. I no longer wish I were someone different. I will be the first to run toward the fire of someone’s pain or hurt any day. That’s my thing. And on this particular day, I didn’t want my anxious sons to feel that way either as they watched their roller-coaster riding, fearless brothers.
So I held my boy’s hand, this time just he and I, while we went about our version of fun, working our way through the Mystery Machine, Little Dipper, Big Easy Balloons, meeting up as a family for bumper cars and more fun. My husband and I making a point to take in all of their faces, the fearless ones, the littlest one in stature that surprised us the most in roller coaster aptitude along with his older brother, and the more tentative ones. We were happy to just be with them doing their thing, the thing that brought out their true smile and excitement, the thing that surprised them, wherever it scored on the level of brave.
As we closed down the park, we met up again to ride a family roller coaster that my anxious guy worked up to chancing again. No pressure. His brothers went on it five times in a row, that goodness etched in their brains. Moments like these are what we want to fill up in their childhood memory banks. He and I walked up to meet them, and the park employee put the chain behind us. We were the last ones to ride. Would we do it? Making our way up the stairs, he turned to me, “well, I am not just going to sit on the sidelines and watch them have all the fun.” And we rode it one last time as a family under the stars. This is what we came for.
Dear friends, in these last few sweet summer weeks, let us remember what we came for this beautiful season, not what we wished we had done better or the sadness in what is left. Let’s love the heck out of these kids of ours before they go off to do all the brave and scary things this school year.