Our daughter has come to an age where she wants to try more and more thrilling amusement park rides. We have come to an age where we don't.
How do parents with their own fears let their kids go and have fun on the thrill rides, when accompanying them is becoming less and less of an option? And, if the anxieties are such that even watching them from the ground is too gut-wrenching, and sitting at home while the kiddo goes with others is still quite nerve-wracking, what might work to deal with those fears?
To explain a bit, when I was younger, I loved the wildest and craziest rollercoasters I could find, and went on them at every opportunity, and then multiple times in a row. My father would take me, to a point (I am an only child) and when I got older, we'd bring a friend to any and all events like this. For example, at Darien Lake, we'd go on the Viper
about twenty times in a row, when it was new
and the scariest thing around. Now they all seem to be so much more extreme and scary. At some point in my twenties, they stopped being even remotely enjoyable. I think the last one I was on, until recently, was the one
at New York, New York in Vegas. When I mentioned this to my parents, they confessed that it was always a horror for my father, as he was terrified and sick - I just never noticed it because I was, well, a kid. (I've since thanked him, and now this has come around to haunt me much
to their amusement.)
mrgood was always okay with rides, though he never sought them out and their family just didn't go to amusement parks when the kids were young. He had older sisters to go with as a teen. He had a bad experience on the Mega Drop
about ten years ago, where his restraint didn't keep him in tight, and he slipped under and out a bit. He was freaked from that point, and we both happily and willingly just stopped doing those sorts of things and haven't missed them one bit.
For the past two years, either he or I have been able to take our now eight year old daughter on things like the Crazy Mouse
at the CNE, but even that's getting hard for us. And my fears have gotten worse - I had to be taken off a Ferris Wheel
this past Christmas because I was sick and shaking and crying. Even high, open metal staircases and bridges are starting to give me the willies. I've been trying to be brave for her sake, but I'm failing. mrgood's been okay, but he's said that he wishes she'd sit more still, and hang on always, and not want to swing the Ferris Wheel car, and not want to put her hands up on roller coasters. When we're with her, conservative behaviour is required. We can't always be with her, though, and this is not a reasonable thing to demand of her for our comfort when she's away from us or older. Boundary pushing will happen, our issues needn't be her issues, and kids will be kids, and we all know it.
Today littlepeagood's camp is taking her to Canada's Wonderland. I had a mini meltdown (at home, alone) yesterday, because I couldn't stomach the thought of her on some of the really scary rides with her goofy little friends and only a teenage counselor to watch out for her. She's of a height and weight where nothing would be off limits for those reasons. She's also pretty fearless. After talking with the counselors, and reviewing the Rider Height and Assistance Guide
and watching videos of the rides she was interested in, as a family we came up with a list of rides up to and including most Level 4 rides that were appropriate and acceptable, but ruled out Level 5s for today. While I thought we were being pretty generous, there were still tears and foot stamping, because, and it's true, many of her friends have seasonal passes and go on any ride they want to, all the time (with their parents, primarily.)
There are a few other factors. Our kid is wonderful and bright and creative and active, but she is not, say, steadfast and responsible and reliable, her age considered. Our daughter has anxieties too, and is only just starting to get some help for them as wait lists are long. And her anxieties today were more about not being with her best friends and being left out rather than about fear of any rides. We're also pursuing some testing for issues she's been having at school - think ADHD-type things. She's not always the most mindful kid; will zone out and hyper-focus on things and will also get incredibly silly (just like a typical 8 year old) - but tends to try to be the craziest of the crazy little girls doing all the crazy little girl things. She has good friends who often talk her down - but they cannot and should not be responsible for her, especially
in this situation. Behaviourally, we've had a few minor issues with her at this camp, such as where even though the counselors remind kids to put on sunblock and drink water (and other kids do so without issue) she hasn't for whatever reasons and she got a sunburn and heat exhaustion, twice now over three weeks. Yesterday was a swim day and she got very sunburned, and came home starting a migraine (she's prone to these.) This is partly due to her personal issues like spacing out during instructions (and at school she's getting a Strategic Support Team to help her create systems for better listening, organizing and following through) and just goofing off because she's eight. And it's partly because while the teenage counselors are great fun and are well-trained and good people, they're not parents about things like that. (Her known consequence for not refreshing her sunblock when told to, as she's been warned, is that she does not get to swim with the camp tomorrow, if it matters.) They know her well, as it's her third year at this camp - but it's the first time she's been on this particular field trip. If she were a really sensible kid, I don't think I'd be half as worried, but she's a risk-taker and an adventurer. We've tried to support that part of her with great adventure camps, Circus arts classes and horse riding and hours and hours on the monkey bars and stuff - but the thrill rides are beyond us. I'm worried that like with slices of Swiss cheese, a whole lot of holes will line up and something terrible will happen.
Personally, I've talked to my doctor. I have Ativan to help me cope a bit - I've been on other meds in the past, but am not currently on anything on a daily basis. I've restrained myself from looking up accident records for the park. When a news article came on about a rollercoaster being stuck for a while the other day, I walked out of the room. We watched youtube videos of people having fun on the rides and being perfectly okay last night and this morning. We went over the ride rules and read the "no standing up" signs. And I am working hard to push bad thoughts out of my brain. I'm writing this out now, and am going to then go outside to try to keep busy today by trimming bushes in the yard and such, to keep my mind off thoughts of her flying out of rollercoaster seats or being silly and jumping off giant swings.
But its only working so much. My cel phone just rang, and my first thought was "They're calling from camp about an accident and it's an hour away and I cant get to her." (I've begged mrgood to call the home phone or text only today, not to keep the line clear but to lessen the minor heart attacks when it rings.)
And she's going to want to go on more and bigger and scarier rides later this summer, and she's going to be invited to these places with friends. And next Easter, we're going to Vegas and she wants to do the rides there. And I just can't. Her father doesn't think he can. We have friends who'll take her on them, but we'll have to watch and worry. And we all have to learn to be okay with her being a teenager some day, and she'll be going on Sky Screaming Death Dropping Venomous Whizzing Spiral Upside-down Super Speedy Roller Coasters of Fear.
My questions are: When did "fun" like this become "fear" for you? Is this anywhere near a normal feeling for parents? I can't find anything really about this specific focus for my fears. Is there SCIENCE behind why our feelings about thrill rides changed? What can we do to feel better and maybe either go on more rides with her ourselves, or to relax and let her enjoy herself on them? Do I really need to get therapy so my kid can enjoy thrill rides without me harshing her mellow? Have any of you ever just said "No, rides are stupid and we don't care what your friends are doing, NO NEVER NOPE" -- and if your parents did that to you, what came of it? (Bonus question: When did scaring yourself silly on purpose become "fun" entertainment that people actually pay, and pay a decent amount of money, for?)
Thank you, in anticipation, of whatever I can glean from this.
It's making me sad that my child cannot believe I ever willingly went on a Skycoaster
and screamed myself hoarse and liked it. And though, as it's said in Charlotte's Web about the rope swing in Farmer Zuckerman's barn: "Children almost always hang onto things tighter than their parents think they will" and I'm repeating that like a mantra - there's still that word in there: almost