Yeah, Disney is So Not Happening
Going to a carnival with little kids — good in theory, not so good in reality.
How do you say to a little kid with a dream, you will NEVER get that ball to drop in the red glass. NEVER. When pigs fly. Let mommy teach you a word: S-C-A-M, as in, this game is a scam. Not computing? Try, J-U-N-K, as in, those toy prizes are junk. Not worth the many thousands of dollars it will take to finally get a ball in that stinking red glass.
And the rides, my goodness. Such rusty, rickety hulks of steel and metal moving at seriously high speeds. I was struck with the thought that back in law school torts class, there was a whole section on carnival ride accidents. Strange, so much of the law school experience I have blocked out, yet the memory of those cases remains.
I was shocked when my kids expressed the wish to go on “The Scrambler,” a ride that zigged and then zagged at 90 mph until your brains were, if not scrambled, at least sunny-side up. Although the kids are not big enough to ride by themselves, they could if an adult went with them. Fortunately, my husband likes this type of thing and was happy to accompany them. As for myself, I generally work under a no-scramble policy.
As they hunkered down in their Scrambler car and clicked the bar into place, I was left with a sinking feeling: Is this what it comes down to? I’ve done nothing up until this moment but strive to keep these children safe: buckled them into car seats, high chairs, strollers, grocery carts and now I was handing them over to be scrambled by some dilapidated fun-house contraption.
It’s a moment that every parent must face: constrain, protect, or set free and liberate. I decided to let them go and kept to myself the somewhat irrational fear that they would end up as a torts lesson in a law book.
Off they went, fast, really fast. So fast, my husband (for the nano-seconds I could see his face as he whipped past) looked afraid, really afraid. Oh dear, oh dear, I fretted. What if my little one loses consciousness? He’s so prone to vomiting; this is a clear recipe for disaster. I try to catch sight of his little face as his car hurtles in my direction. OK, he’s not crying, he’s conscious, so far so good. What an interminable ride . . . end, end, already.
They got off, rubber-legged, dizzy, but alive. Apparently halfway through the ride, my little one soberly said to my husband, “I shouldn’t have gone on this ride.” Such solemn self-awareness from a 4-year-old, it warmed my heart.
As if my nervous system hadn’t taken enough abuse from merely watching my loved ones in the tentacles of The Scrambler, my oldest announced that he was ready to take on the flying swings. This ride consists of a bunch of swing-set-like swings that spin faster and faster until you are no longer in a vertical state. Sounds like fun, right?
My discussion with my husband:
“But can he fall out the opening in the back of the swing?”
“Nah, the centrifugal force will keep him in.”
“But what if the belt holding him in breaks?”
“That . . . that would be a problem.”
This is the ride my child wants to go on, the boy who was until recently scared of merry-go-rounds. At least he was big enough to go on by himself. My husband went along for sport. Watching his way-too-large-for-the-swing body lurch awkwardly to and fro while he whipped around and around was worth the price of admission — pure hilarity for me and those standing around me.
With everyone back on terra firma, we checked out one last ride, the baby airplanes. No swings, no scrambling, just good old-fashioned mini-jets that barely left the ground with little pretend guns they could shoot. Lovely. Perfect for our little fighter pilots.
As we’re watching our little guys go around and around in a circle, pretend flying and pretend shooting, the man behind the controls strolls over to us, skin leathery, eyes hooded, and confides to us “he can barely keep his eyes open.”
My husband and I looked at each other, expressions a mix of surprise and horror. This had to be a clear violation of the carnival worker handbook, page 1, item 1: NEVER, EVER ADMIT TO PAYING CUSTOMERS THAT YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE STAYING AWAKE WHILE OPERATING HEAVY MACHINERY INVOLVING CHILDREN.
OK, check please, we are so out of here. We leave while all arms and legs are still attached to bodies and equilibriums are stable. The kids are energized, we are exhausted. As we drive home, I’m struck with yet another scary thought: “How am I ever going to do Disney World?”