Recently, I went with a group of friends to a kid’s amusement/water park to the tune of over $50 to get in. We’ve never been and a good friend was in from out of town, so the cost wasn’t really an issue. The cloudy day that turned into a light rain on the way up? Not an issue either.
What was an issue? The fact that the moment we set foot through the gates my daughter (3 ½) started in with the whining and “I’m afraid” business. Go on the spinning dragons? No! How about the little racecars? Tears. How about the airplane? No followed by tears followed by screaming (okay, the screaming was me!). Nothing pisses me off faster than wasting money and time. I’d just driven 30 minutes and spent double that to get in the door and you are going on a ride missy! So, I did what any parent running for Mother of the Year would do. I picked her up and slapped her down and belted her in a ride and watched her go round and round. No, she wasn’t sitting alone. Yes, it was evil on my part.
I tried to regroup and let her select what she wanted to do. Carousel? No problem, let’s go! Helicopter? No. Hot air balloon? No. Roller coaster? Hell no! Once again, I attempted to force her onto a ride. She cried. She screamed. She begged the man going around checking seat belts to let her out. He did. Nothing made me feel worse as a mom than this moment. (In my poor attempt at defense, I would like to point out that forcing my daughter to do things usually results in her liking what she thought she was afraid of and watching her do it over and over again.)
For the rest of the time in the amusement park, we sat on a bench and watched her friends.
Okay…water park up next. This will be fine. She loves water. The pool area is, at its deepest, not even quite calf high. They had little water slides for the kids. 3 to 4 feet in length. She did one. Her face got wet. End of story.
Change of tactic. They had a wonderful lazy river and the sun had come out. What could be scary about sitting on my lap floating in an inner tube enjoying the cool water? Oh, the fountains and water falls and whatever else they had going to get you wet. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to paddle our tube to the left, to the right, to the middle to avoid all these “fun things” they added. And she thought she wanted her own tube. Ha!
After all this, I had to step back and take myself out of the experience. Was she having fun on her own or by having her mother force her to do things she didn’t want to do? Obviously, the answer was clear. So, I sat down on the edge of the pool and let her splash around and do things on her own terms. Her enjoying the experience was more important than my perception of what I felt we should get out of the day. Once I let it all go, I was more peaceful and she was more peaceful.
In the end, was I proud of my behavior that day? No. I’m sure my friends made a mental note not to take parenting advice from me. But, I like to think I grew as a mom from this experience and also realized I have to say “no” to trips or events that I know my daughter can’t handle. She has a high sensitivity to loud noises and is very timid/cautious when it comes to new things. I’m learning to embrace that about her even though I don’t quite understand it.