By Mary Becelia
Here we are in the dog days of August and many of you, like me, have probably made a trip or two with your kids to King's Dominion this summer. Have you, by any chance, figured out what, exactly, is fun about these outings? If you do, can you let me know? Because I am still trying to figure this out....
Maybe it's the lure of the season's passes, one flat rate (or three, or five, depending on the number of adults and children in your family, and how you calculate the flat rate--is it per person? Or per family?) and you have a summer of "fun" ahead of you. Our fee for family fun rang in around $300.00, and that did not count the price of food once we get to the park each time!
Perhaps the excitement lies in getting our gear packed the night before/morning of our departure: water bottles chilled and ice crammed down the necks, snacks ( outside food is forbidden, technically, but I've never had the security detail confiscate our Goldfish), sun screen, wipes, hats, sun glasses. All this is just for the basic trip. Throw in a stop at the water park and suddenly towels, goggles and bathing suits are added to the list.
Once we get to King's Dominion (or any amusement park, I am not trying this facility, it just happens to be the one we frequent), we are treated to Katherine, age seven bellowing like a drill sergeant ,"We NEED to go on a roller coaster, NOW!" "I want to ride the Hurler!" "I want to ride the Rebel Yell!" "NOW I want to ride the Grizzly!" As you can discern, our rising second grader is a bit of a thrill seeker, and also tall for her age...alas...and thus eligible for many of the more hair-raising rides normally reserved for older children. I am long since past the age of enjoying being hurtled through space and dropped at neck-breaking speed down sharp inclines and basically boycott all scary rides Her dad is slightly more willing to go for the thrills, at least until he (inevitably) wrenches his neck or back on one of the loop-de-loops and then Katherine is left, sulkily scuffing her heels, reduced to riding the much tamer Scooby Doo roller coaster and other "kiddie rides" with her four year old brother, Robert.
Ah, yes, that brings us to Robert. Like his sister, he is a budding daredevil, and unlike the last time we held season's passes (when he was a mere two years old), he knows what he is missing out on now, due to his relative lack of vertical dimension, and he is not loathe to tell the world that it is "NOT FAIR!" that he cannot ride all the "big kid" attractions. The best strategy here, of course, is diversion and distraction, so we split forces. Yours truly takes Robert to the tamer rides (he loves the "bumpy cars") and Daddy or whatever other family member I've recruited, takes their life in their hands and tries to keep up with Ms. Katherine, she who knows no fear.
There you have us: trudging through the blazing sun, humidity at 85%, rationing out dwindling snacks with one hand and fiercely guarding our cash from our ravenous offspring with the other ("You have to eat the raisins I brought before I buy you a treat! Yes, I DO mean it!"). The parent who has Katherine has a pounding headache from various near-death experiences and also probably a roiling stomach. Sunburn may also be imminent from the lack of shade in the majority of the park. The parent with Robert has fared slightly better on the heat index since the kiddie area is fairly well shaded, however, this lucky individual has the treat of pushing the overgrown "baby" of the family in his too-small stroller. This is a true feat, as he weighs in at 40+ pounds and his weight, added to the weight of the bags crammed below and hanging off the stroller, plus the conveyance itself, easily tips the scales at 60 pounds. I try to remind myself that this is as good as a work out at the gym, and that ought to be worth something, but it still does not equal up to tons o' fun.
So, indeed, up to this point, there hasn't been a whole lot of fun experienced, at least not on the part of the adults. Lunch is usually a high light, as long as I don't think too hard about the prices we are paying. The pizza and other entrees are surprisingly good and an icy soda on a hot day is heaven. Follow this with a few rounds on a calm ride like the carousel and we parents feel almost human again.
Then Robert starts his chant, "When can we have ice cream!?" (in reality, he's been repeating this ever since we got in the car at 9:30 am, but it intensifies as we pass the mile marker indicating lunch and the frequency of his inquiry ratchets up to roughly once every 30 seconds until I finally declare, "It's ICE CREAM TIME!"). The arrival of ice cream serves to slow Katherine down from her quest to ride every single roller coaster by the end of the season (here is a girl, and I have to hand it to her, who is determined to get her money's worth out of that season pass!), and a peaceful moment is enjoyed by all, licking our cones, watching the other fun-seekers trudge by, offspring and huge stuffed animal won as prizes, in tow.
It may not be a Day of Fun, start to finish, but that cone licking part is pretty good. A moment of sweetness after a long day of trudging, doesn't that sort of sum up parenthood?
Next month: going to the beach with your kids, who says it's all that great either?