Hanging upside down at 45 mph is definitely NOT the time to start fretting about your child’s hip-to-shoulder ratio.
I mean, if I were going to become obsessed with whether or not the overhead restraint system on a roller coaster could ACTUALLY prevent my child from plummeting headfirst to the earth, it would have made a LOT more sense to consider that with our feet planted firmly on the ground.
Instead, we were winging our way skyward at startling speeds. The people, and midway, below were receding like ants as the coaster climbed up and away. Honestly, I think I saw cloud cover.
This was the first time I had ridden a coaster with the mindset firmly set less on “thrill-seeking fun lover” and more “terrified overprotective mom.”
You see, when it’s YOU getting on the ride you have a rather savoir-faire attitude about the whole thing. It’s safe, it’s bolted down, and it’s inspected, right?
That trickle of fear as your lap bar locks you in place is part of the fun. That lighthearted moment when entertaining ride operators opine that they “hope” to see you back in 90 seconds is all part of the theater.
That momentous climb and stomach-dropping descent is all part and parcel of the adrenaline rush you came for.
Risk. Then they snapped the restraint bar over my “baby” and I just about lost my mind. This is the child I obsessively buckled into a car seat inside an airbag-laden minivan to drive 25 mph through the village.
Yet I was now allowing a teenager with a laminated badge to buckle him in preparation of being hurtled through the air at warp speeds with our feet dangling below. How does that make any sense?
Our son first expressed an interest in roller coasters last summer. Because he was 9 and of average height, I still had a little wiggle room (as did he). He did not, thank the Lord, meet the height requirements.
Fifty-two inches tall is the magic number for all the really good, high-velocity, rip-the-flesh-from-your-face roller coasters. This is crazy because any mother knows that 52 inches is not tall at all.
I would have preferred it be something a bit more substantial, say 7 feet or 8 feet.
Even before the “train” (as they coyly call roller coasters because “hurtling death cars of doom” didn’t test well) rolled out of the station, I knew we (OK, I) had made a terrible mistake.
As we hurtled through the space-time continuum, I could think only of tragic miscalculations. Did they mean 52 inches for anyone, or just those husky kids I’m always reading about? My kid is skinny. What if he slips out? He’s so small, after all. He still has a safety rail on his bunk bed for Pete’s sake!
I don’t think I breathed for the two-minute duration of the ride. Well, that’s not technically true; I did take a couple of deep breaths, primarily to provide ample oxygen for my screaming. I am not what you call a good role model.
Then, just as quickly as it began — it was over. As the car came to the much-ballyhooed “complete and final stop,” the teenage ride operator and resident sadist assured us we could now put our arms and legs outside the car if we so desired. As if I could unclench my white knuckles from around that restraint bar.
He’s funny, that kid. Finally free of the g-force, I could look left and see my child again. His eyes were closed and his face was pale. Climbing out of the car on shaky legs, he clutched my hand, pulling me forward as we nearly jogged down the ramp back to safety.
We were leaving that terrible steel beast in the dust! We were nearly free of the terrifying experience, my baby and I.
I said as much with the opinion that I was sure glad that was over. Turning to me, still shaky, his eyes opened wider and a huge grin split across his face: “That was awesome, Mom! Let’s do it AGAIN!”
Six “agains” later, our son was essentially fearless.
Grown. Leaving the park that night, the lights on that big steel monster twinkling behind us, I took note of a very prophetic sign: “Lost and Found is Located at Guest Relations” and I thought how wrong they really were.
Lost is the heart of a mother who arrived with a little boy and left with a “big kid” who is braver than she. Found is the courage of one small(ish) boy who arrived that morning having attained exactly 52 inches and left feeling 10 feet tall.
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