My daughter, the gutsy kid …

So we took a family trip to Six Flags: Great Adventure two days ago.

In a word: Dazzling.

I love theme parks, but only when theme parks aren’t overrun by 8 gazillion people and two-hour lines. That’s why we went in Maym before the masses converge like ants atop a rotted apple.

For me, the theme park experience is everything great about being a parent. You get to be a kid; to run and play and scream and laugh and giggle and wave your hands as a coaster swoops you you through the air. My daughter Casey is a second grader; just 7-years old. Yet she has inherited my height, which means she projects to be a 5-foot-10 adult. Which means, in 2011, she’s tall enough to go on rides most kids her age wouldn’t dream of trying.

Casey is a cautious kid, day to day. Doesn’t like scary stories or singing to a crowd or, ahem, her daddy yelling, “I love you!” out the window after school dropoff. For some reason, however, she digs coasters. She tries them, then tries them again, and again. Casey was barely 4 when she tried parasailing for the first time—and I knew at that moment, dangling hundreds of feet in the air, that I’d hatched a winner.

Anyhow, on Saturday Casey and I (along with my nephew, Jordan, my sister in law, Jessica, and her boytoy, Chris) entered the park and immediately hit up Nitro, the insanely scrary coaster that makes your stomach feel like an angry pig. As we approached the front of the line, Casey was nervous. R-e-a-l-l-y nervous. “Daddy, I don’t know,” she said.

“Well, it’s up to you,” I said. “But I think you’ll like it.”

“I don’t know …”

We got on. The climb up is slow and long. Casey’s face (I taped it with a Flip) conveys pure horror. Then we start dropping. “Oh, no!” she says. “Oh, no!” She looks like she’s about to cry. Midway through she says, “I’m not doing this again.” I’m sad. Have I forced her hand too young? Am I being a shit dad? The ride comes to an end. I turn to her. Tears? Sobbing? “That,” she screams, “was awesome! Again! Again!”

We skip over to Batman, a coaster with loops. Neither Casey nor Jordan have ever done loops. They are, as any veteran coaster rider knows, vastly overrated. Not nearly as scary as they seem. But Casey is 7. She doesn’t know. Again, as we approach she pauses. “I don’t know, Daddy …”

“Casey, it’s your call. But I think you’ll love it.”

Jordan looks equally nervous.

We board the ride. Casey looks even more scared. “Oh, no!” she says as we rise. “Oh, no …”

Again, I’m questioning myself. Too much? Too soon?

We reach the end. “Daddy! Daddy! I did it! I did it! I said I’d do it, and I did it!”

My day is made.

PS: Above photo was taken in my lawn. Props to Andy D.

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