The Firstborn Always Gets To Be Guinea Pig!



Since he recently turned 40, I’ve been reminiscing about his birth and childhood and perusing old photo albums. There we were, in Nashville, Tennessee, and Jesse was just tall enough to reach the “You Must Be This Tall To Ride this Horrible Awful Scary Roller Coaster,” otherwise known as the “Rock n Roller Coaster” in Opryland, USA. As a GREAT mother, I knew it was time for him to take his first big-people ride, and this would be it.

Sure, Jesse was tall enough to ride the rollercoaster, but just barely. I’d ridden it a few times, the Rock n Roller Coaster, and it was smooth, tame compared to most adult-sized coasters. I wasn’t scared! But he was. Well, it was time to remedy that. The kid had to grow up sometime, and that summer seemed like a good place to start.

He stood closely beside me in the queue on the hot concrete that day, and it looked like he was taking the fetal position stance. (If it appears he didn’t trust me, it’s probably because he didn’t. I don’t know why.)

It went something like this: “I don’t want you to ride it, I just want you to wait in line with me, okay?

“I don’t want to ride it,” Jesse said.

“What did I just say? You don’t have to ride it, just stand here in line with me and keep me company.”

“So . . . I don’t have to ride it?”

“That’s right. Only if you want to, and I think you might want to.”

“But, what if I don’t want to? I DON’T want to!”

“Okay, then you won’t have to. Just wait in line with me, that’s all. I promise.”

“You promise?”

“What did I just say?

This went on throughout the entire line-waiting process, and the closer we got to the top of the wooden steps up to the platform, the more I thought I’d probably throw up. What kind of a mother does this to her tiny, baby boy? He was 8, or 9, I don’t recall. I decided we’d reach the top and take the coward exit back down the steps. No problem. Then, I’d never try anything like this again. Finally, it was our turn and as the train approached I said with one, last ditch effort, “Okay here it is. Do you want to ride it?”

“Um . . . okay.”

What had he just said? “Okay?” We slid into our car; I buckled him in and lowered the bar. I told him if he’d close his eyes and yell, “Jeronimo” at the top of the first hill, and all the way down, it would make the rest of it a piece of cake. He looked at me as though I’d lost my mind. “That’s the way your grandmother always did it. Trust me. It works!” But, how could he trust me after this?

We breezed through the trees in graceful circles, round and round. When we came to a stop. I watched him to see what would happen next.

“Can we do that again?”

“Sure, we can. Let’s queue up!”

And that, folks, is how you teach your son how to have fun, even when he thinks he can’t!

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1 Response to The Firstborn Always Gets To Be Guinea Pig!

  1. Scott says:

    We tried something similar a couple of times with our son, and it backfired both times. The first was simply a spinning ride. You sit in a circular little car with a wheel stationed in the middle. The whole platform goes in a circle, and by turning the wheel, you could also spin your individual car. David was probably only 5 or 6, but he wasn’t afraid to try it. He took his seat and the ride started up. All was going well and he was enjoying it when one of us suggested he turn the wheel. He took hold of the wheel, gave it a good turn and soon his little car was spinning in a tight circle. The problem was the centrifugal force pulled David off the seat and onto the floor of the car. His hands still grasped the wheel which was above his head, but he appeared totally lost as to what to do. Although his face showed fear he remained calm. His mother, on the other hand, was panicking. She wanted to have the entire ride stopped, but I held her back since David did not appear in danger of flying out of the car. He finished the ride shaken, but not emotional. However, his interest in riding carnival rides quickly waned.

    However, a few years later I was able to get him to try another ride. This one looked like a school bus but was really a couple rows of benches. The benches slowly rise up and follow a circular path, gradually picking up speed as the ride progressed. This time I convinced him to try it by riding along with him. The first gentle swings were no problem (the bench basically went from side to side without making a complete circle.) Eventually, the ride picked up steam and as it did so I watched the color fade from my son’s face and his fingers gripped the seat with vise-like strength. He never said a word and would not move his head or his eyes; he just remained focused straight ahead. When we got done, he wobbled off the ride a little weak in the knees and stated he never wanted to ride that ride again. I believe that was the last amusement park ride he ever took. So my guinea pig experiments failed, but at least they left me with some fun memories. I’m glad you had more success.

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