We’re a minute into riding The Hurricane at the carnival when I realize I’ve really messed up bad this time.
And it’s not like one of those everyday, Oh this is goofy! I shouldn’t have done this, things either. For me, this is over-the-top, hardcore bad news.
I’m talking praying for our lives, promising any and all possible higher powers complete servitude for the rest of my life if he/she will please PLEASE just allow my two kids in the row in front of me to not fly out of this speeding car stuff here.
I’ll never be the same. Two minutes into the ride and we’re going full force, the air blasting hard against Violet’s skin and bones, against Henry’s even smaller, lighter shell. This is beyond uncool. This is I’m never going to be the same guy again.
And you want to know what the worst thing is? I can’t even be sure if any of us are actually in terrible danger right now or not! There is nothing but a single steel bar across their laps, a bar which is probably a good foot or so above their actual thighs. Is it even a safety bar if it’s that far up from them?! Or have I just had too much coffee today and now I’m wigging out from caffeine at the worst possible time?
We keep whipping past a cart selling tacos below us and I get it stuck in my head that one of us is going to be crashing through that metal roof any second now. Oh the humanity. I wanted them to ride the stupid Merry-Go-Round and maybe trot through the funhouse a few times. To hell with any of this big kid ride stuff.
Oh, I’m freaking out.
My hands are literally digging into Henry’s tiny collarbone as I try and keep him from a certain tragic demise even though he’s pretty much just laughing up there. This makes no sense to me in my heightened state of insanity. I can hear Violet and him screaming happy screams and giggling. Well, except for when he keeps hollering into the gust, his tiny voice yelling, “Dad! Let GOOOOO of me! You’re hurting me!”
I don’t let go though.
I’m in full-on panic mode, people. In my mind I have to save my own children’s lives. I got them into this ridiculous mess, now I need to get them out. Am I overreacting? Am I crazy? Am I unfit to be their dad?
Are my beautiful children about to be flung far and high into the evening sky because I paid five tickets each for them to do that?
Help. Me. Please.
Life is so strange, especially for parents. We spend so much time dealing with the mundane turning to chaos that we tend to get used to almost anything. Peaceful picnics become trips to the emergency room for stitches. Grocery store runs become legendary toddler meltdowns. Moms and dads become experts at expecting the unexpected.
So why did I ever agree to let my kids get on a ride like this?
I’m not even sure. From down on the the ground, almost all carnival rides seem … I don’t know … so rideable. And this Hurricane is certainly no different. Plus, it’s been a long time since last summer’s carnival season, so maybe I was too relaxed or too out of practice. It just seemed so easy; a few screams and some light terror and Violet, 7, and Henry, 5, would be thrilled, I figured.
Other youngish kids are riding it when we walk up to the line to get on. No one is coming off the ride looking pukey or upset or anything. Everything is pretty perfect this late afternoon, especially if your idea of perfect is loud hair metal and sunshine and the smell of funnel cakes.
They’d been pestering me to ride this one particular ride since they’d spotted it last week when the whole carnival was just being set up. I’d never thought twice about it really.
“Sure,” I told them, dismissively. “As long as the sign says you’re tall enough, you can ride it.”
God, I was such an idiot.
I wanted to be a cool dad.
I wanted them to see that I’m not helicoptering them; that I’m not holding them back from life or adventure, or even fear. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I think this whole thing was about me from the start. But in all the wrong ways.
Confession: deep down in my gut, I didn’t feel all that comfortable with their newfound courage, with their updated desire to ride these bigger rides. They’re still way young, I kept telling myself, trying to let the “cool dad” thing go.
But I ignored my own voice of reason. And nothing good ever comes from that, let me tell you. Lesson learned. We owe it to ourselves, as parents, to listen to our deepest concerns when it comes to our kids. I understand that a lot better now. Sure, other people may tell you you’re being too overprotective and your own kids are always going to nag you to try and get their way, but to hell with all that.
Just grin and bare it, that’s what I say.
Just make ’em ride those goofy little kid rides until they’re like 17.
Or not. I don’t know. We each have to figure this stuff out on our own.
And, if you ask me, that’s the hardest thing of all.More On