Wednesday, June 18, 2014

good old American fun

Today I took 8 yo to Six Flags. He did "Read to Succeed", a reading program in which, once the kids document six hours of reading over the course of many months, they get a free ticket to a nearby Six Flags park. We did it two years ago, with multiple reminders from me. Last year, both boys failed to record their reading hours. They read more than six hours in any given week, but they kept on not writing down what they've read. This year, 8 yo wrote down his reading, while 10 yo did not. He got multiple reminders and even a deadline extension by a week (from the program, not from me), but he still could not get his act together and write down what he was reading. Being a mean mommy, I did not get him the ticket. He was very disappointed, and he kept coming up with different schemes of how to go, including using his allowance money to buy his ticket, but I said that I will not allow him to buy something he should have earned.

So today was 8 yo's day. Additionally, he got to spend it all with me, one-on-one (my MIL came over for the whole day to watch the other kids). I have not been to an amusement park to be amused in a very long time. First, 4 yo was too young to go on any rides. Then I had to wait with her while everyone had fun. Then I had to watch her. Then I was pregnant. In short, I have not had good American fun in years.

In high school, we used to go to the local amusement park often. I loved the water park, the roller coasters, the hanging out. Today was a brief recapture of those carefree days. Before I left for the park, my MIL asked incredulously whether I am planning to go on any rides. I said, of course. As we were going down a log flume, getting splashed and yelling, I thought, that is the kind of mom I am, the one who will get down with her kids to have fun. We did another water ride and then we got to the new water park, the main thing that 8 yo wanted to do. It has a shallow entry lagoon, with waves and tubes to float on. We jumped some waves, splashed, and then I plopped in a chair, warm in the sunshine. 8 yo stayed in the waves, somewhere in the depths of the lagoon. I relaxed, for the first time in months. I did not keep a close eye on 8 yo, but I knew he would not leave the area without me. Whether that makes me a slacker mom, or a relaxed mom is up to you.

When 8 yo had enough of the waves, we went on the water slides. He helped me carry the tubes to the top, and we floated down together. He was so pleasant, so agreeable, and so happy. He also noticed that the lighter the load of the tube, the higher it splashed up the zero gravity slide (and the heavier the log, the bigger splash it produced at the end). He was obviously paying attention to details, soaking in info, drawing conclusions. There was also a bit of a discussion on centrifugal force, and I will lie if I will say that I initiated it, or carried it on. He wondered aloud how many logs it will take before our turn. I jumped at that one, asking him to guess (estimate). He said that he does not want to. Learning and education happen on his terms, not on mine.

As an aside, I should mention that the reason I enjoyed the water park and the wet rides so much had to do with (finally) getting appropriate swimwear for myself. I use a regular bathing suit with Lands' End long sleeve rashguard T-shirt and skirt/pants from Princess swim wear. All material is swimsuit fabric, so it is not heavy and it is meant to get wet and dry quickly. I even got a swimmer's cap, but a tichel does just fine when no real swimming is happening, and it is light enough to dry in the sun.

The last water park ride that we did was to walk to the top of a playground and slide down water slides. There we had to go one at a time. Right next to the entrance of a slide a small boy was standing, shivering. Some older boys said that he is looking for his mommy. Right before my eyes, the lifeguard who was controlling traffic on top made the boy sit down and slide down the slide, with me going next. That slide was scary! It was pitch-black on the top, with water shooting down, and it was long. I actually happened to slow down in the middle, and a person overshot me, apologizing. When I got to the bottom and got my bearings, I saw the same small kid standing next to the exit of the slide. I approached him and tried asking whether he is looking for his mommy and whether I should help him. I did not want to grab his hand until he understood what I was planning to do. Finally he agreed to go with me. I tried approaching another lifeguard, who just offered to contact his supervisor. Luckily, at that moment the boy's mother appeared, distraught, and apologetic. He was supposed to be with somebody else, and then he got lost. I totally sympathize with her: unless the kids are on a leash, in a large space like that someone is bound to get separated.

After this whole experience, I wonder whether this boy will develop fear of the dark, or fear of heights, or of water parks, or of life guards. I wonder whether I should have done something at the top of a slide, but I could not imagine that a life guard would just shove a small kid down a slide to get him off his hands. In a bigger way, I wonder how our kids get treated in a larger world. Is everyone nice and thoughtful and kind, or are people mean and short-tempered and your kid just gets in the way?

After the water park, we went to bumper cars. 8 yo said that he will ride on his own. I saw that he had trouble with his car, causing a traffic jam. I saw that people kept on telling him to turn the steering wheel all the way to the right and then gun it, to get out. I saw that he was not listening. I kept my mouth shut about the whole experience. Either he will get better next time, or he will ride with someone.

Our last two activities were a metal chain carousel and a roller coaster. Right as the carousel took off and started looping, my stomach let me know that I am not fifteen any more. I just closed my eyes and tried to relax. No such luck. Moreover, then 8 yo asked me to come with him on a nearby roller coaster. I said that he could go on his own, but he wanted company. There was no wait, so we got on pretty quickly. This was one major ride, with big drops and multiple loops. When it was over, I was not sure how I will walk, let alone drive us home. I was thinking back to all the grown-ups from my high school days: how were THEY able to ride and not lose their lunch?

Finally, the earth solidified somehow, and I calmed down enough to drive us home. 8 yo proudly announced that he went on that last roller coaster for his brother; to say that he tried it, but it was a bit too much. He also confessed that he kept his eyes shut the whole ride. I find it amusing that his brother was able to control him even in his absence.

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