Did you ever go to a theme park when you were a kid? Remember much? Yeah, me neither. I do remember not wanting to go on anything "scary" when I was little (ie, less than 16). ;) This past weekend, my wife and I took our 5.5-year-old son to Hershey Park.
We had been there when he was 3.5 and had a blast. He just wanted to go, go, go, so we let him and tried to take it easy when he crashed around dinner time. He passed out in the stroller we had rented. My wife and I finished our meal in peace, then came to the conclusion that, if he remained asleep through the park, we'd return to the hotel. We'd already done a lot but we were on the opposite side of the park from the entrance. About a quarter of the way back through, he woke up, pointed to a ride and said, "I want to go on that!" We conceded and he lasted another 3 hours (way past bed time!).
So, he was very excited to return and we had great memories of our first trip. A few things about this trip would be different though. First off, my son is now a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. This designation is based on his height and determines which rides he could go on. He was very excited to go on his first "real" rollercoaster. "Daddy, as soon as we get there, I'm going to go on the Wild Mouse." Unfortunately, the one coaster he had picke...he couldn't actually go on. Bummer...but there would be others. Second, I don't seem to remember going to the park in July. It was packed! Third, I definitely don't remember it being ~95 degrees the last time we went. I'm pretty sure I drank seven or eight 16 oz. bottles of water throughout the day...and only peed twice. I know...TMI.
Lastly, dealing with a 5-year-old is a much different story than dealing with a 3-year-old. Though he still had his moments of resistance ("Buddy, do you want to go on the RollerSoaker?" "Yeah!" "You might get wet!" "Oh, nevermind...I don't want to go on that."), there was a lot less drama regarding the events of the day. His main focus was, "I want to go on a rollercoaster.
Now, way back when, I went through a rollercoaster streak (prompted by my brother-in-law) where I had to ride in the front car. Nothing was too big, or too fast. It was a great rush. Fast forward, oh, at least ten years...and I was starting to look at these rides with a bit of trepidation. It had been a while, and now my little boy was asking to go on one of these infernal machines of death and destruction. My God! I had become a parent! Despite my anxiety, I figured the best plan was to let him make the decisions and deal with the consequences.
So, his first "real" rollercoaster was the Trailblazer. It doesn't have loops or anything, just some tight turns. He loved it. We went twice. Then, he turned his focus to The Comet, a classic wooden roller coaster. Now, the Trailblazer was fast, but relatively small. I must admit that I was fooled by it. I thought...well, a wooden coaster can't be much worse than this, can it? Foolish me. I walked right into the line with my son and looked up. sure, it was high, but it's only a wooden coaster. My wife gave me several, "Are you sure? You think he'll be ok with it?" Sure! He was fine with the other one...why wouldn't he like this one? Well, maybe it would be the near vertical drop you go into after the first rise. I nearly lost my hat and my son was mighty quiet for about 5 second where I thought that perhap this hadn't been such a good idea. Then he started screaming...but in that good kind of roller coaster way. We might have shared the same look of surprise as we pulled back into the station. For me, I'll never underestimate a wooden coaster again. For him, it might have had more to do with his ability to not pee himself. Again, he loved it. Only this time, when asked if he wanted to go again, "Yeah...umm...wait...no...I don't want to go on that again."
Fittingly, the night ended with him on the first ride he had ever been on by himself on our first trip. A ride that was probably around when I was a kid, and he'll probably be too big to go on the next time we go. He kept us going until 10:30 PM with little to no fuss. By the time we got back to the car, we were all wiped out. He was stuffed with pizza, Gatorade, cotton candy, corn dogs, and maybe just a little bit of chocolate. I pulled out of the nearly-empty parking lot to the first stop light. When I turned around, the little guy was already catching flies. It had been a good day at the park.
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