Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hold on and Enjoy the Ride!

I hadn't been on a roller coaster in approximately fifteen years but I didn't let that stop me from taking an opportunity to ride one last summer. It was, and is, a decision I regret.

While I thoroughly enjoyed riding roller coasters in my teen years this last tryst left me fluctuating between a throbbing headache and vomiting sensation.
And that was my instant reaction.

The next day I was in desperate need of a chiropractor as nursed my mental wounds and mourned my youth. I fear I am destined to become the no-fun mom who sits on the park bench supervising souvenirs while wearing compression socks and cataract sunglasses while everybody else enjoys the rides.

Despite the fact that my body has begun to betray me in my middle age does not negate the fact that I once loved the acceleration, the drops and loop-dee-loops of raging roller coasters. 

I'm not alone either. Stand near the exit of any roller coaster and you'll hear raving reviews from folks who, just moments before, practically peed their pants. Why? Because no one stands in line for boring or slow roller coasters. What's a roller coaster without hills, drops, twists and turns?  A commuter train, that's what!

This summer was our youngest's first roller coaster encounter. Now that she was tall enough I was willing, and admittedly a little excited, to let her have the experience. As we weaved our way through the line to the loading dock my daughter had no idea what she was in store for. In our excitement to ride together we neglected to show her what she was about to board. She put her faith in us and as we locked ourselves into the car I encouraged her to be brave. 

She hated the ride. Her face was frozen in fear while she held on with a death grip. Immediately regret came over me. I mentally scolded myself for being such a careless mother. How could I have not protected her from such an intense experience?

At the end of the ride I gathered her in my arms and offered her all the comfort I could give her. I patted her head and looked into her face declaring how proud I was of her bravery. I even apologized to her. "It's ok Mom," she said "at least I tried it."

We went on about our day and enjoyed many other aspects of the amusement park. As the day drew to a close my daughter asked to ride the roller coaster again. I couldn't believe it. "Why?" I asked.
"Because it was fun!" she said. 
"But you were scared" I said incredulously.
"I know," she sheepishly admitted, "but it was still fun!"

I've been thinking about roller coasters recently; how much I love them, or used to love them. All roller coaster enthusiasts will tell you the best rides are the ones with raging speed accompanied by extra high hills with unexpected twists and turns and drops that make you cry for your mommy. It seems sorta masochistic to me, that we would love to be scared. But that's the way it is with roller coasters. It is also the way it can be with life.

Sometimes I feel as if I am a rider in the roller coaster of my own life. Life is not -as much as we may want it to be- a smooth ride. For anyone. Life has it's ups, it's inevitable downs and the boring stretches in between. We can only sit down, buckle up and hold on with all our might.

Hopefully, at the end of it all, like my daughter reminds us, we can choose to be brave. We can even learn to enjoy the unexpected twists and turns life may throw at us. Then, when the ride comes to an end, we can say we enjoyed the entirety of the experience.

I may not be riding real roller coasters anytime soon but as I mature I am learning to enjoy whatever ride life throws at me. And if I can teach my children that lesson as well, it'll be a ride well worth it. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why. 

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting column in The Review Atlas.)

Have you ever made a parenting decision that you regretted but ended up working out ok? Or am I the only one? And what is it about growing older that is forcing me to pass on roller coasters? Will I ever be able to enjoy an amusement park again?

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