Theme parks really bring out the worst in people. Half the people are wandering around clueless and lost and the other half are running you over to get to the front of the line. For those of us in the middle of these two groups, it’s a bit of a war zone. We spent Easter week at Disney and most of that week we spent either dodging people staring at their phones while running through the park, or tripping over people as they stopped to figure out where they were. I was almost flattened by multiple scooters as Grandma let little Bobby try to steer his way through a crowd at 12 miles per hour while eating an ice cream cone. I love Disney, but that week was a little traumatizing.
One of the enduring themes throughout our stay was watching people attempt to get on rides that were full. We watched a group of teenage boys climb on to an overly full safari jeep and literally sit on each others laps while forcing small children over the rails on the other side. One older couple ended up completely surrounded by sweaty teen boys yelling at each other to scoot over and make room. If they had waited their turn, they would have ended up occupying the two rows ahead of us, so I was happy to see them go, but I wouldn’t be surprised if grandma never made it past the giraffe crossing. Another woman tried to climb onto a two seat roller coaster behind me and drag her daughter along. She just looked at me for a minute before realizing that she had to wait for the next train to arrive. I’m not sure how this happens since they have numbers in each ride queue and they always stack people two loads deep. My rule of thumb is if you don’t know the person in front of you, don’t follow them on a ride and try to sit on their lap. It leads to discomfort for all parties involved.
The rides with younger kids were the most problematic. We watched a little girl dressed as a princess with a birthday sash force her family to change seats on three separate rides. She was climbing over seats and attempting to get her 300 pound grandfather to do the same. One of the cast members finally told her to pick a seat and stay in it after she had a tantrum about not being close enough to the front. I had to laugh a few minutes later when she got soaked, unaware that the front of that ride was probably not the best seat in the house. Two little boys followed my daughter and me on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and tried to get on the ride with us in a two seat car. When they realized they didn’t fit, they tried to turn around and one got squished in the door. I watched as their parents stood on the other side completely oblivious that one of their kids almost just lost an arm. That was probably my favorite episode of Kids Gone Wild at Disney.
I think what prompts people to behave this way is they want to have the best experience they can and are impatient to have their experience. They don’t stop to think that cramming themselves into an overly full truck or climbing over other people to get to the best seat is not going to do it. I watched the birthday girl spend her time looking at all of the other kids to see if they were looking at her rather than enjoying the ride. They weren’t looking at her, and the ones who were (like my kid) were mostly commenting on what a brat she was. I heard three different dads get reprimanded by cast members for putting their kids in danger. While on the safari a man had to be told that the animals around us were real and dangerous as he held his baby in the air near the alligator pit. I’m sure he was making sure she had the best possible view since babies are really into alligators and all. Another man had to be told that his child needed to sit multiple times on the Jungle Cruise. It took an entire boat of people staring at him for him to finally comply.
We are fortunate that our kid is past the age of caring about the characters so we didn’t have to stop for any photo ops. I saw some of them, and it was similar to the fourth circle of hell. It doesn’t help that only about half of the characters are making appearances. We spent enough time waiting in line for our little foodie to taste frushi, seared scallops and avocado toast. Although we didn’t encounter many hangry little monsters in these lines, there were a couple bitchy bros with man buns. Disney really does provide entertainment for everyone, even if that entertainment is being a judgmental asshole. By the end of the vacation, my kid was already talking about visiting Universal instead next time. I see many more trips to theme parks in the future, with rides for bigger kids and trading in pushy princesses for sweaty teenagers. Somehow I know this is going to be a grass is greener situation the first time a stoned 15 year old barfs near my shoes.
**Since theme parks are a bit like a pit, I had to listen to some good old fashioned hardcore while writing this piece.
My child has taken up roller skating. This is an unexpected turn of events since she went to a roller skating party once in the second grade and hated every second of it. She had not tried it again until a few weeks ago when a friend asked her to go skating. Apparently she loved it because since then that’s all she has wanted to do. So much that we had to run all over town finding her a pair of skates so she would be ready next time.
Next time ended up being yesterday and it was with Mom and Dad. I hadn’t skated in at least 20 years, probably even longer, but I agreed to lace up and skate with her. After about three minutes I felt horrible about having sent her skating with her friend who had to endure hours of holding my kid’s hand while she tried to simultaneously hold the railing and make her way around the rink twice while barely moving her feet. This child was so afraid of falling that she barely let go of the hand rail. When we skated up behind someone standing at the rail or moving even slower than us (hard to imagine), she stopped behind them and waited. I finally started grabbing her hand and pulling her along with me. I tried a few times to pull her away from the rail and you would have thought I was trying to drown her watching her arms flail.
I have to say that walking into that place brought me right back to being a teenage girl. I’m not sure how they manage to stop time but there are a lot of 60 year old women looking for whatever magic lives between those four walls. Time has actually not progressed in almost 40 years at this rink. Even the carpet is exactly how I remembered it. All of a sudden I had the urge to smoke a cigarette and rat my hair. Walking past the bathroom on the way in brought me right back to the time a girl threw a slushie at me because her boyfriend asked me to couples skate on a Friday night. And lacing up the rental skates brought me right back to lacing up my speed skates, getting ready to win whatever crappy ribbon and free snack bar treat was waiting at the finish line.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to be on wheels again. It had been a long time and lets be honest, breaking a hip after a fall would not be all that unlikely for me. I have made it through 5 years without a stupidity-inflicted injury, but it’s only a matter of time before I trip, slip or fall. But apparently skating is a lot like riding a bike because once I was on the rink, it was like I had never taken off skates. Within a few minutes I was skating backwards and spinning in circles. I even got a little gutsy and sped around the rink a few times only wobbling a bit while trying to do a crossover on a turn.
I refrained from getting back on the rink when they called an adults only skate and opted to watch the crazy old black guy who kept waving and fist bumping people as he made his rounds. I am always up for embarrassing my kid, but not to the extent that she’ll never leave the house again. A bunch of boys from our neighborhood were there who would have tortured her relentlessly if I made an ass out of myself. Plus, if there was a time for me to fall and break a hip, it would have been in that moment. I try not to temp fate, especially with the kind of karma I have earned. I saw that old black guy’s wife as well, and she looked like she had thrown a slushie or two in her lifetime.
I have to say, I never thought I would be hanging out with my kid at the same place I used to flirt with boys and smoke cigarettes. But here we are, and I honestly couldn’t ask for much more. Well, maybe that my legs didn’t feel like I ran six marathons the next day.
*Spending the day in a time warp had me listening to some music from my youth – Violent Femmes.
While my daughter was doing volunteer work at school last week, the organization they were working at passed out a survey to get some background information about their volunteers. While in theory, this is a good practice, the volunteers on this day were fifth and sixth grade girls who didn’t even understand many of the questions, especially about sexual identity and orientation.
I received an e-mail later in the day from the head of school explaining what happened and offering an apology. The surveys were collected by the school since the girls did not have parental permission to be giving their phone numbers and addresses to strangers at a homeless shelter. I’m sure the surveys were pretty useless anyway since most of the girls had no idea what the options meant. I just felt bad for the teachers who had to field questions about the meaning of terms like pansexual and transsexual.
After reading the e-mail I asked my kid about the survey since she had not even mentioned it. She said her concern was that she couldn’t remember her phone number. Luckily an older girl next to her instructed her not to write her address or phone number on the form. I asked if any of the questions were confusing and she assured me she understood them. When I prodded for more information she told me that she answered “female” for her gender and “straight and homophobic” for her sexual orientation. This second answer gave me a little pause. I will concede that a lot of straight folks like myself are pretty vanilla, but we are not all bigots. Either she misread that question or the survey takers think all straight people are homophobes. I was leaning toward her not remembering the answers so I asked if she knew what “homophobic” meant. She informed me she did not and when I said it means you are afraid of and dislike gay people, she was horrified. I told her the term that meant the same thing as straight was heterosexual and she started laughing and said “yeah that was it!” I could not even contain myself to continue the conversation by that point. I guess we are getting to that sex education part of parenting a little sooner than I expected!
**Of course I am listening to the Queers while writing. How could I not?!
The other day we were talking about teaching my 10 year old to drive the wave runner by herself. She is tall and she always wants to drive, but having her sit in front of someone is difficult since you can’t see around her Amazonian body and Mowgli hair. In the middle of this conversation between me and my dad, my mom stopped us and said “you know it’s illegal for her to drive those alone right?” to which we both stared at her like she was speaking Greek. I quickly said “Only if she gets caught!” And this is where it is clear I am my father’s daughter, and my child is following right down those rebellious misguided footsteps. We all looked at my mom like she was crazy to say out loud that breaking the law was probably not a good idea.
My Dad gave me my first motorcycle ride before I was a year old. Apparently I caught a cold shortly thereafter and my grandma quickly put the blame on the bike so I wasn’t allowed back on until I was 3. I also got my first helmet that year. It was orange and loud and too big. I loved it, and I loved the motorcycle. So much in fact, that by the time I was seven I was demanding to ride alone. My dad made me show him that I could hold it upright unassisted and operate it alone before I was able to take my virgin solo ride. By the time I was ten I was a little terror in the trails down the street and ripping up the baseball field at the elementary school. I was also very clear on the rules which were “if you see a cop, turn off the bike and say you are out of gas and waiting for your dad to come back.” I was then to walk it home with the cops following me. I partook in this parade quite a few times before the police finally told my mom if it happened again they would see that I did not receive a license to drive at 16. I guess I shouldn’t have been all that concerned since I actually drove myself to driver’s education classes in my own car at the age of fifteen, but at the time it scared my mom enough to make my dad sell the bike. Although that was just the beginning of my tendency to push the limits, the lesson I learned was you don’t get in trouble unless you get caught.
This lesson has trickled down to my daughter. Fortunately, she isn’t doing anything she feels the need to hide from me yet, and with my experience in jackassery, she will probably have a hard time doing so. Right now she is still wondering if she is allowed to do things on her own and when she is given a yes by mom or grandpa she follows up with dad or grandma to get the real story. I just keep telling her not to worry. She won’t get caught and if she does, mom will be in trouble which is a pretty familiar place for mom to be. Apparently my kid is totally okay with me paying the price for her misdeeds as well since as soon as I explained I would be in trouble for making her drive, she grabbed the keys and tried to take off on me. Luckily, the wave runner takes a few seconds to start or we may not have seen her again until she ran out of gas. Although, she drives like a grandma, so I probably could have caught up to her with a quick doggy paddle.
I have had a lot of great experiences in my life, party because I was not afraid of much. I have had some bad experiences for the same reason, but that is a whole different story. Little things like laws and rules have rarely deterred me from trying something new and have often times made me learn a new skill, like jumping off a roof with a skateboard or moving through spaces that are too narrow for a cop car to follow. I am hoping that my kid can learn some of these life lessons from my stories rather than having to touch the ot burner herself, but only time will tell. For now, I am grateful that she will take a chance now and then but drive slow enough for her mom to still catch her.
We have been playing a lot of games as a family lately, and after the first few games, I really don’t know why we weren’t doing this more because it is hilarious. The best kind of game seems to be any kind where my child has to give an answer. It doesn’t even really matter what the question is because her answer is going to have us all rolling.
Last month we played a game my parents bought from some redneck comedian where you get a bunch of answer cards with phrases like “that’s what she said” and “you’re not supposed to do that to a melon.” A card with a scenario is drawn and everyone has to pick a phrase from their cards that they think fits best. No matter how hard I tried, my answers were totally inappropriate for a child to hear. Somehow I brought the game to a whole new level of dirty and we quit playing. On the plus side, my kid had no idea what I was crying about when I played the card that read “is it supposed to be that small?” repeatedly.
Last time we sat down with a deck of question and answer cards, they were a little more benign. My mom had chosen a game where kids answer questions that adults would know and adults answer questions kids would know. Strangely, my dad appeared to know the most kid trivia and none of us could answer a single thing about Sean Mendez or Ariana Grande.
Here are some of my daughter’s best answers:
Q: What was Flipper?
A: A clown
Q: Sikhs wear what on their heads?
A: Those things with feathers…. The tall things. Oh I don’t know…. to which I replied “do you mean a headdress? That’s the wrong kind of Indian.”
Q: Fill in the blank – Smokey the…
A: Pig! (In her defense, my answer was Bandit)
Q: What did Michele Obama plant in the White House garden?
A: John Kennedy (If this were true, Milania Trump would have dug him up….)
Q: What president was also a famous actor?
A: Kennedy (I guess she has a thing for Kennedy. Who knew?)
We learned a lot last game night. Mostly that we know nothing about the things most kids do (which explains a lot about our family) and that I can make any game dirty. If you don’t believe me, just challenge me to a game of Scrabble.
*I wrote this while listening to the new Unsane.