I was the cool mom when it came to amusement parks.
My fun, younger self liked everything about roller coasters and amusement park rides. I loved the thrill of the hairpin twist, the speed, and the perilous drops. I was all in when the kids shouted, "Let's go again!" Yeah, let’s!
I'm no roller coaster fanatic, but I could go on just about any roller coaster or attraction in my footloose and fancy-free days. I'd get in any line, and enjoy the heightened heartbeat as we got closer to our turn, so fun!
But somewhere along the way, I've crossed an old lady line for amusement park rides. One side of the line is fun, excitement, and pure joy of riding a roller coaster. On the other side, well, we have snacks and cholesterol medication.
During a recent trip to an amusement park with the kids, an alarm in my head warned, "This isn't for you anymore." It also said this is too fast, jerky, and startling; also, you'll lose your glasses.
It was a gradual shift. At first, I found myself deciding if I would get in line based on the others in the line. Are there small children? This certainly couldn't be that bad if a first grader is allowed to ride. Are there people in line who look like they remember World War II? If members of the Greatest Generation are in line, I can tough it out too. Footloose and fancy-free turned into, will I survive this?
This narrowing criterion still allowed me to ride a few coasters. No one needed to know if I closed my eyes to protect myself from bad guys, dragons, strobe lights, and other evils. But I felt with each drop or spin…how should I put it? Awful. I tried to pretend I was my younger self. The young mom that didn't have readers or worry about arch-support walking shoes. I paid for that denial. Hours after the more intense rides, I still felt like I was on a ride. I was slightly nauseated, my neck was stiff, and I couldn't walk in a straight line.
So, I've crossed over from the cool mom stage of life into the old lady stage. I've stopped trying to tough it out on a ride that makes me feel dizzy the rest of the day and started exploring new places.
And you know, it's not bad. I enjoy nice strolls through the gift shops, leisurely rides on the lazy riverboat, and a view of the park from the restaurant. When you're not in line all day, you have more time for that kind of thing.
Don't get me wrong, I ride some of the rides, but I leave the high-intensity thrill rides to the kids. I wave to the kids with one hand and hold a cool drink in the other.
The fun discovery? Even parks I've been to multiple times hold brand new treasures. Attractions I bypassed so I could stand in a line, offer a new kind of fun. Exhibits, gondolas, and shows were always there, but I missed them in favor of the rides.
Though I've crossed the old lady line, our family still visits the parks we love together. But we enjoy it in our own way. We tailor the day to our own versions of fun. My number one piece of advice for a successful amusement park visit with multiple generations is to split up. It's okay if the jungle walking trail is your speed while the kids ride a slingshot around Mars.
The number one way to ruin an amusement park day is to whine that you aren't having fun. It's true for toddlers, and it's true for middle-aged Gen-Xers. Have fun your way. And let the kids do the same. We break into smaller units and meet up for snacks, meals, or shows. It delivers a family vacation experience without the roller coaster-induced vertigo.
I've lined jumped from cool mom on the roller coaster to cool wannabe grandma on a shaded bench, and I'm still having fun. You can, too. Just remember, we may not be on the thrill ride du jour, but we do have snacks!