Last summer I took the family to an amusement park for what I mistakenly thought was going to be a carefree day of pleasure and family closeness. By the end of the day, we were sunburned, dehydrated, and broke. It occurred to me: this experience is a LOT like raising kids. Here are 5 reasons why this is true.
1. You pay a lot of bucks to take risky chances with no guarantee of return on your investment. Everything costs about 68 times what you estimated and there’s no (not even remotely implied reassurance) that the Princess Caterpillar Ride is even up and running today! It might be currently out of commission. I can relate to the worn-out Princess Caterpillar. Truly I can. In fact, the only guarantee Fun Town can deliver is the exposure to millions of bacteria from ALL OVER THE WORLD. That’s right. You’re welcome!
Raising kids is also expensive. Some experts speculate that the average cost of raising a child is $240,080 (http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/14/pf/cost-children/). Let’s face it: if someone had taken you aside previous to the conception of your first child and demanded money in advance like the hospital does before a surgery, most of us would be (as my mama says) “Up **** creek without a paddle.” It’s a good thing paying first is not a requirement!
2. You’re always waiting in line for something. Unlike Fun Town, we don’t always have the tantalizing choice of “Do I really want to wait 3 ½ hours to ride a rickety canoe down a 2,000 foot water slide that was just repaired by a bored maintenance man who resembles Gary Busey after a few drinks?” Sometimes, as parents we just have to wait—and it really sucks. Sometimes waiting teaches us something valuable–sometimes not. For example, I learned that Fun Town only employs one guy to fix everything, and I’ll say this for him: he does it really slowly.
Parenthood is all about waiting. We wait at the doctor’s office, in traffic, school registration, the McDonald’s drive-through, in front of the school, the police department — and most of the time waiting ends with a bill of some sort. We just get used to it. Most of the time we pay for the pleasure of waiting! Time moves very slowly on Prom Night when you are waiting for your own Princess to return. But most of the time, the relief we feel when we see the headlights in the driveway is worth it.
Sometimes, however, it seems disappointing after the wait, and nobody can protect you from that. It’s just part of parenting. For example, when you wait 4 hours in the ER (surrounded by people dying of Ebola) just to be told that your kid has a virus and they can’t do anything. That’s $150. Cha ching. Meanwhile, you still have a sick baby, you’re out of money, and you just wasted three hours of your life. Live and learn. There is a tiny ray of hope here, however. Next time, you might remember this mistake and recognize the same symptoms and pour Sprite down your kid until he’s swimming, saving you both some heartache.
3. The map isn’t to scale. The Giant Death-Defying Roller Coaster SEEMS really close to the restroom, but in actuality it’s several miles of hiking on blistering asphalt past deranged costumed cartoon characters. Seeing as your kid waited until she actually FELT her pants getting wet to tell you she needed to go, there’s just no way you could have actually made it to the restroom in time. It’s small compensation that the restroom is a pink castle when you forgot to pack extra Pull-ups and have to take out a small loan to buy a single pack at the Princess Pinkie Gift Shop.
Raising kids is like uncharted territory. There are maps and parenting books aplenty, but until you are in the thick of it without a Pull-up nobody can really prepare you. The distance from toddler to teen is deceptively short, dear parent. So very short.
4. Sometimes it seems like you only stop fighting long enough to take a picture. Vacations that are designed to be fun, relaxing times to reconnect often bring out our inner serial sociopath. After four hours listening to canned music and fishing my iPhone out of the filthy Candy Mountain lake, I become a lot less caring about everyone’s feelings. I’m not proud of this. Being a part of a family is stressful in the best of circumstances, but add an unfamiliar environment (Fun Town, a new house, relatives staying with you, etc) sometimes it’s just enough to push us over the edge. We are only human, after all. Families are stressful entities! As much as we love each other, family members get on one another’s nerves, hurt feelings, steal one another’s French fries, and call shotgun for the hundredth time. Parenthood is simultaneously messy, irritating, ulcer-inducing, tear-causing…and heart-stoppingly amazing. As much as you sometimes like to leave your kids at the local In-n-Out, you know in your heart of hearts that you’d go to hell and back for them, and God help anyone who tries to hurt them on your watch.
5. Stuff’s always breaking and there’s never enough help. Just when it was our turn to ride the dystopian themed roller coaster that was aptly named something akin to “Death Star,” we were roped off by the ten-year-old employee who held our lives in her hands and told that “tests needed to be done.” What were we to do? We’d already invested hours of your time waiting patiently in line, stepping in globs of gum, fighting a migraine headache from the strobe lights and circa 1985 music blaring from the speakers. What you forgot is that there’s only one maintenance man (good old Gary) in the entire park and he’s still at the log ride. It may seem like you are alone in the parenting amusement park, but you aren’t. Sometimes we just need to hire more help, whether it’s a babysitter or a best friend–the ultimate solution is the babysitter who IS your best friend.
Here’s the thing about parenting (I mean Fun Town). No matter how difficult (and wearing, and sticky, and annoying) it becomes (NO I’M NOT BUYING YOU ANOTHER CORN DOG!), even when we swear that this is IT for Fun Town, there’s the peaceful ride home where everyone is just so exhausted they are crashed out in the backseat for a blessed few moments. And they are stinking adorable.
After a few hours and a bit of rest—it all seems completely magical and you can’t wait to do it again. You might even buy a season pass–because more times than not, nothing can really beat it.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: What is your favorite amusement park and why?