By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Last weekend we loaded up the SUV and drove to Dallas to attend one of the loveliest weddings I’ve ever seen. Our niece Abbey and her new husband Andrew are off to a beautiful start as a married couple.
The day after the wedding – after considerable lobbying from the kids – Tom and I agreed to a quick trip to Six Flags Over Texas. To be honest, I was hesitant to go. Even in late September, it was impossibly humid, and the ticket cost was nearly as high as the temperature.
But then I reminded myself that our oldest son will be leaving for college next Fall which will limit these kinds of spontaneous family outings. So even though my middle-aged, practical voice thought we should get home early, unpack the suitcases and do laundry, my inner child yelled louder and said, “No laundry! Let’s go to Six Flags. Let’s ride things! Let’s eat corndogs!”
After buying our overpriced tickets, we grabbed a map of the park and followed the kids as they made a beeline for the rides. The first three rides involved spinning, so I sat on a bench with Tom to wait and watch. I’ve always loved theme parks, but I learned long ago that my inner ear doesn’t want me to spin, and it will punish me if I do.
After three back-to-back, intense spinning rides in 90-degree heat, even my fearless children learned that spinning and twisting at high rates of speed isn’t always as fun as it looks. They came off that third ride about three shades paler than they were when it started. They sat in the shade while groaning and passing around a water bottle.
“Are you guys okay,” I asked.
“Mom, is this why you won’t ride spinning rides anymore?” asked 12-year-old Kate.
I nodded as she turned a pale shade of green. “This is exactly why.”
“I get it now,” she said.
I honestly think that if we’d asked the kids if they wanted to go home right that minute, they would have headed for the exits with no complaints. But after your parents have forked over too much money for tickets on a too-hot day, you’re going to find a way to have fun no matter what it takes. So, we pressed on.
As the nausea began to subside, the kids decided to move on to roller coasters. Most coasters need two riders per car, so they talked me into coming with them on something called “Batman the Ride.”
I’ve loved a good roller coaster ever since I was tall enough to get on one, so I expected to love this one, too. But something happened about 10 seconds after the ride started. My middle-aged inner ear spoke up, loud and clear:
Middle-aged me: “This isn’t fun! It feels like we’re gonna die! Why did you do this?”
I tried to talk her down by letting my inner-child’s voice explain: “Oh, come on! This is what we do at theme parks! This is fun!”
Middle-aged me: “Fun? That last corkscrew turn slammed your head against the shoulder restraint. Was that fun? Didn’t you get the memo from the pit of your stomach during that last loop? It is definitely not enjoying this.”
Inner-child’s voice: “Oh, relax! Just throw your hands in the air and scream like all the cool moms on roller coasters do!”
Middle-aged me: “I can’t open my mouth to scream because I’m afraid the grilled chicken salad will make an early exit if I do. Why is this roller coaster so long? Shouldn’t it be over by now? Please let it be over.”
Inner-child’s voice: “Oh, shoot. The ride is over. Can we do it again? Can we?”
Middle-aged me: “No, we absolutely cannot. The stomach and the inner ear say we’re done with rides. Two against one, so don’t sulk about it.”
The kids went on a few more rides without me, and then we all decided that the cool air-conditioning of the SUV and a straight, easy shot down the Interstate leading home sounded like the best ride of all.