I love riding roller coasters. My wife, on the other hand, is not a fan. So, when it came time to expose our children to the joys of roller-coaster riding, it was to be my personal pleasure to introduce them to this wonderful, thrilling invention of man. Or so I thought.
I can remember the day when each of my children took their first roller coaster ride. The excitement, dread and anticipation was almost too much to bear as they struggled with their decision to ride or not to ride, and then decided to go forward, reluctantly.
Imagine my frustration, after eagerly anticipating the ride to come and the joy of sharing the experience with my child . . . and waiting as patiently as possible for up to an hour or more in the amusement park line . . . all the while watching as the child becomes more and more nervous . . . trying to make small talk, distract, change the subject, only to find him bailing out in tears just before boarding the ride.
For some of them, it took several years to get up the courage to ride. I had to wonder, if I would ever have someone to share this roller-coaster experience with.
Then I went to Busch Gardens with these same formerly reluctant, roller-coaster adverse children, all of them now in their teens or twenties. Busch Gardens, for those of you who may not be familiar, is a roller-coaster enthusiasts’ dream with at least five fantastic coasters. And we rode them all, over and over. And over. And over. Until I, the roller-coaster master, the undisputed king, the Jedi of g-forces, had to quietly say, “Enough.”
And at this my boys said, in echoes of my own voice, “Come on dad, let’s ride again. Please will you at least try to ride with us?”
And I found myself saying, in a voice that sounded almost child-like, “I think I’m going to be sick.”
So, does this mean my parenthood journey is completed? As the great philosopher-father Kal-El in the superman comics said, “The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son.” Something amazing happens to our children as we age together, and it is nothing short of a miracle.
I see this same behavior repeated in a number of other areas: seeking a job, filing a tax return, and going out on their first date. Not that I want to accompany my children in all of these activities, but I do see the same reluctance, fear, and second-guessing. Finally, with continual patient encouragement, an eventual victory is celebrated. Often they surpass my own accomplishments and go on to greater achievement.
It’s a wonderful transformation. So keep on pushing your kids. Let’s get on the parenting-coaster and ride. At least until I throw up.
At the time of this writing, Duane Highley’s children were ages 13 to 24.