This weekend, hubby and I took our children to Legoland to celebrate our son’s seventh birthday.
In addition to all the
noise fun, strangers invading my personal space meeting new people and standing in long lines excitement, I learned a thing or three about life.
1) Amusement park excitement is like
crack meth the ultimate sugar high. It’s exhilarating in the moment but the crash can be a monster. Children are vastly more prone to this crash but will also miraculously forget it by the next day, leaving them wanting more. Parents, while potentially scarred for life, will eventually forget too…prompting them to give into their kids’ demand to visit such places in the future.
2) Parental pride goes before a kiddish meltdown.
After two brain-rattling days in the park, I was feeling rather smug that my children were still a) speaking in coherent sentences, b) walking out of the park on their own two legs and c) generally responding well to direction.
Fast forward a couple of hours…
Sibling relations declined precipitously following an ideological dispute over whether Lego Poison Ivy could beat Lego Batman in a staring contest. While my 10-year-old (who is
mostly past the tantrum stage but probably well on the way to the stomping, door-slamming, “you’re ruining my life!” yelling stage) retreated to the safety of My Little Pony fan fiction, my soon-to-be 7-year-old lost it completely (remember that crash I was talking about?). Fortunately for the rest of the hotel, his nuclear meltdown involved little screaming and a whole lot of sobbing in a heap, snot dripping, fervent denials of fatigue and pleas of “hold me, Mama” (a stage which I foolishly thought we were past).
By morning, of course, he was transformed back into his affable self with absolutely no memory of the previous night’s meltdown.
And here’s the biggest thing I learned:
3) Roller coasters are a pretty good metaphor for change. Change is change whether it’s good or bad.
Even good change can feel like being strapped into ride, hurtling down the first big drop. You know it’s probably safe – after all, these things are well maintained and go around without incident hundreds of times a day. Plus, you saw that little kid get off with a huge grin of joy (unless it was a rictus of terror), so it can’t be that bad. But you still can’t quite convince your lizard brain you’re not gonna die.
And those infamous roller coaster lines correspond to how much time you have to prepare for change.
A very short line is kind of like sudden change. Before you have time to either think things through or psych yourself out, you’re
screwed strapped into the ride. There’s no way off and all you can do is ride it out with grace or scream you’re head off.
The longer the line, the more time you have to prepare but also the more time you have to really look at what awaits you. Is this thing really that well maintained (am I really going to like my life after this change)? Am I going to embarrass myself by throwing up or freaking out (can I really do this)? You can think about all the things that can go terribly, horribly wrong or you can think about how you’re going to react once things are underway, practice deep-breathing and what-not. You can hightail it out of line or see it through.
Others may react to the
threat possibility of change with all the grace of a 2-year-old being told it’s bedtime.
Still others start out enthusiastic but quickly change (no pun intended) their minds either right before or just as the change is getting underway.
I’m not a big fan of sudden change, mostly because I don’t like change and prefer to lie to myself that I need time to prepare, which really means “time to weasel out of changing.” But, the more time I have to prepare, the more anxious I get…even if the change is positive, such as seizing a long-held dream. If I’m not careful, I can talk myself right out of anything no matter how beneficial.
So, what can I do?
- Stay in line. Some long lines are inevitable. Projects like writing a book or getting fit and healthy do not happen over night. Sometimes the time requirements are far more than we originally anticipate (which sucks for those of us who hate change but are also severely impatient).
- Remind myself of all the good things that are going to happen because of the change and that it’s not really going to kill me. It’s not going to kill me. It’s not going to kill me. It’s not going to kill me…
- Make a really big fuss once I have made the change. Strut around, pound my chest, brag excessively etc. The bigger the deal I make about having succeeded, the more I can look forward to succeeding in the future.
My son seems to be feeling this strain of change. For him, 7 implies a lot more “big boy” responsibilities than 6 and, while he likes the idea of being a big kid, he’s not sure he’s ready to “give up” his younger ways (this is likely another reason for his post-park meltdown). Of course, growing up is one of those changes we really can’t avoid…even if some adults seem to have escaped it.
All in all, the trip was tremendous fun. I may not be hungering for a visit to another amusement park anytime soon, but I had a wonderful time with the family. Learning a few things was a great bonus.
Have you learned any life lessons from amusement parks? How do you approach change?
Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
Legoland California entrance by MGrannetia, on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0
pataleta / temper tantrum by rafa2010, on Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0
Roller Coaster in motion by Bart Heird, on Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Lego faces by Sunfox, on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0