I am a daredevil when it comes to carnival rides. I love to feel the wind in my hair, I love the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, and I love that moment just before a ride starts when you’re filled with anticipation. My children both share my passion for amusement park thrills. Both of them love to go fast, but my seven-year-old daughter Hannah is the braver of the two so far. I’ll never forget taking her on the kids’ roller coaster when she was only 18 months old or so. She laughed out loud the whole time, until the ride stopped and she started crying because she didn’t want to get off. Everyone else thought she was frightened. I knew different.
For years now I’ve been eagerly awaiting the day when one of my children reached the coveted 48 inches in height, so that I could have an amusement park partner in crime. Last week when we visited Playland here in Vancouver, Hannah measured in at just 48 inches. There were still a few rides that were off limits, but Hannah was now tall enough for most of the really good ones. Right off the bat, we set off for the iconic wooden roller coaster, a fixture here in this city. Before we were even halfway through that ride, she was planning our next ride – the roller coaster that spins you upside down. And then she planned the next ride, and the next ride, and the next ride.
Hannah’s thrilled to be over 48 inches
I think that most teachers have a moment when they realize their students have surpassed them. I had that moment during my visit to Playland with Hannah. There’s a ride there called the AtmosFEAR, although I didn’t know that was what it was called until after I rode it. It looks like a much taller version of the Wave Swinger, which I’ve ridden many times and love. Hannah had been saying over and over, “I know I’m not tall enough for the big swing ride, but I can’t wait to try it!” When we realized that she was in fact tall enough, I couldn’t see any harm in riding it with her.
It was only just now in checking out the website that I read the stats on the AtmosFEAR. Apparently, while you’re on this ride you’re travelling 70km/h (43.5mph) and you’re 218 feet up in the air. That is high. That is fast. And it goes on and on for what is probably under five minutes, but really feels like a whole lot longer when you literally think you are going to die, as I did. I was totally and completely terrified, in a way that I have never been terrified before. The fact that my daughter kept wiggling and twisting in the seat beside me to get a better view didn’t help. She was having the time of her life. I was planning what to do when her buckles gave way and she went flying. How could I save her without dying myself?
What was I thinking agreeing to ride this?
When my feet finally touched down Hannah asked to go on the ride again. I said no. She asked more emphatically. I told her that I would never, ever set foot on that ride again for as long as I loved. She believed me this time, and I resisted the urge to kiss the ground. My husband, who does not share my love of rides enjoyed a good laugh. I spent a while doing some deep breathing.
A little bit of exhilaration is all in good fun. Too much exhilaration is terrifying. I recently discovered just where that line in the sand lies for me. Where Hannah’s line in the sand lies, however, is still an open question.
Do your kids like amusement park rides, or are they more cautious and reserved? And have you ever been on a ride that your child enjoyed but that scared the living daylights out of you? Tell me all about it!