Saturday, August 15, 2015

Roller Coasters & Tender Hearts -- Sequel to "Crying for Ethan"

I am a roller coaster fan. That should really be "Fan" with a capital F. As long as I can remember being tall enough to go on the fast rides at Disneyland (Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Matterhorn), I've passionately loved roller coasters.

Sadly, the Six Flags in driving distance from us (Six Flags America) is not what I'd consider an exemplary theme park, nor does it have great coasters. When we first moved to the DC area 4 years ago, we lived only 20 minutes from the park and gratefully received season passes from family. But after trying all the rides once, I discovered only one roller coaster that I really liked. The rest were quite jerky and left me either with a headache or just disillusioned. So I'd reconciled myself to only riding Superman and then enjoying the smaller rides that my kids liked, as well as the waterslides (which Six Flags America does do pretty well).

We're now farther away and only go once a summer (quite cheaply thanks to two different reading programs). Yesterday was our trip for 2015 and it was a milestone in a couple ways. For the first time, all three of my kids were tall enough to ride every single ride. This meant that Ethan wanted to try the roller coasters! Since we got there early and the lines were non-existent at first, we rode Superman three times in a row. Ugh. It made me feel sick afterwards! That was the other milestone: the first time riding a roller coaster made me feel nauseous, and I found more joy in watching my kids ride it than riding it myself. (Though in reality, I just shouldn't have ridden it three times in quick succession!)

I chalked it up to 'growing old' and told the kids my roller coaster days might be over. We headed to the water park and I avoided coasters 'til the end of the day. I thought I'd abstain from coasters altogether, as I was not anxious to feel sick again, but because my boys did not want to go 'without a grown-up,' I changed my mind and rode two more right before the park closed, actually feeling okay after all.

Before I changed my mind, however, I'd apologized to the boys. I'd said, "I'm sorry I can't ride with you anymore because I'm getting so old." Ethan turned to me and said, "You're not old, Mom! You just feel sick when you ride the roller coasters. Which I can understand because I even feel sick sometimes just from spinning on a chair. But the rides give me such a thrill that I still want to ride them." I just about fell over. Here my 8-year-old son was being both very empathetic and very articulate. To hear him say "I understand" to me made my heart melt because of his kindness, and to hear "they give me a thrill" made me smile. Five years ago, Ethan couldn't communicate his feelings to me at all other than with grins and tears. I remember being so frustrated that I couldn't know what was really going on in his little heart and mind. And now he was not only able to share with me his own joy in riding the new-to-him big coasters, but also his thoughtfulness in understanding where I was coming from.

I'm so thankful that my youngest child has learned to talk clearly, and feel privileged to have been part of his journey. And more than anything else, I'm grateful for his tender heart.

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