Monday, February 22, 2010

Riding Roller Coasters

I love riding roller coasters. My wife, on the other hand, is not a fan. So, when it came time to expose our children to the joys of roller-coaster riding, it was to be my personal pleasure to introduce them to this wonderful, thrilling invention of man. Or so I thought.

I can remember the day when each of my children took their first roller coaster ride. The excitement, dread and anticipation was almost too much to bear, as they struggled with their decision, to ride or not to ride, then decided to go forward, reluctantly. Imagine my frustration, eagerly anticipating the ride to come, and the joy of sharing the experience with my child, and waiting as patiently as possible for up to an hour or more in the amusement park line, all the while watching as the child becomes more and more nervous, trying to make small talk, distract, change the subject, only to find him bailing out in tears just before boarding the ride.

For some of them it took several years to get up the courage to ride. I had to wonder, will I ever have someone to share this roller-coaster experience with?

Last year I went to Bush Gardens with these same formerly reluctant, roller-coaster adverse children, all of them now in their teens or twenties. Bush Gardens, for those of you who may not be familiar, is a roller-coaster enthusiasts’ dream with at least five fantastic coasters. And we rode them all. Over and over. And over. And over. Until I, the roller-coaster master, the undisputed king, the self-taught Jedi of g-forces, had to quietly say, “enough”.

And at this my boys said, in echoes of my own voice, “Come on dad, let’s ride again, please will you at least try to ride with us?”

And I found myself saying, in a voice that sounded almost child-like, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

So, does this mean my parenthood journey is completed? As the great philosopher-father Kal-El in the superman comics said, “The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son.” Something amazing happens to our children we age together, and it is nothing short of a miracle.

I see this same behavior repeated in a number of other areas: seeking a job, filing a tax return, and going out on your first date. Not that I want to accompany my children in all of these activities, but I do see the same reluctance, fear, and second-guessing, and finally, with continual patient encouragement, an eventual victory to be celebrated. Sometimes they even surpass my own accomplishments and go on to greater and greater achievement.

It’s a wonderful transformation. So keep on pushing your kids. Let’s get on the coaster and ride. At least until I throw up.

This article originally appeared in the Operation Us newsletter.  Operation Us is an initiative of Springfield, Missouri based Forest Institute.  They received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to promote healthy marriages, relationships and families.  You can read more here:  Operation Us website (click here)

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