I’ve officially become the mom who is content to drive children to amusement parks and hold all their stuff while they take off for daredevil adventures.
I’ve become the kind of mom I once pitied a little, the one I assumed was having no fun as she saved seats or carried a giant bag of gear.
Teenage me was mistaken. Teenage me didn’t understand yet that grownup fun sometimes is simply rooted in the happiness of children — and the absence of achiness that might come from a bumpy ride.
The shift was evident last summer, when I took four kids to our nearby water park. They are all old enough to wander on their own (always in pairs), to check in periodically and to make good decisions in my absence.
I didn’t stick a toe in the wave pool. I didn’t lollygag on the lazy river. I didn’t swish down a slide for old-time’s sake. I settled in on a lounge chair, smothered myself in sun block, sipped water and read an entire novel. I snacked a little, visited with my charges when they appeared, served lunch — all from the comfort of my chair.
All five of us left cheerful — four with raisined fingers and a little too much sun, plus me, relaxed and ready to tackle another book.
My status was reinforced last weekend, when we set off for a bigger park, armed with new season passes (a generous gift) and plans to conquer the biggest roller coasters in Texas.
Our first stop was the giant pirate ship that moves back and forth, back and forth, making passengers feel like they just might tip out. I was game to sit on the very back row with Cooper, who’s never met a roller coaster he doesn’t like.
After just two sways of the ship, I was queasy. I gripped Cooper’s arm. I closed my eyes. I yelped a little.
It would take me a couple of hours to recover. While the rest of my party gallivanted on coasters, I remained grounded, holding eyeglasses and maps, scoping out our next destination, looking forward to tales from the adventurous riders.
At last, one of my childhood favorites pulled me back in. Yet, the mine-train car seemed a tiny bit tinier than I recall. And the ride itself, though exhilarating, was also a tiny bit rockier than I remember.
I was happy to reclaim my role as mom-who-holds-all-the-stuff, happy to take photos of my waving children, happy to listen to what they loved most about each ride.
Finally, we’d ambled as much as we could, stood in lines as long as we dared. We were ready to drive home — but wait, not until one more ride.
We snaked our way to the front. We climbed in to impossibly snug cars. We zoomed up and down hills, we screamed (or at least I screamed), we laughed. I was, yet again, a little queasy and tiny bit achy.
As we searched the parking lot for our minivan — with a little less pep in our step — we recounted the day. We compared favorite rides and plotted strategy for the next visit. Which ride should we dash to first? Which roller coaster can we bypass?
I’ll run, skip or walk to all of them. I may bypass most of them. As long as I’m with my people, and my people are enjoying themselves, I’m happy to go along for the ride — figuratively speaking, of course.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.