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Lagoon was an annual family outing. Since I was a baby my family had been going to Lagoon once a year with my dad’s company. I don’t ever remember being scared of anything. Well, at least not scared enough to stay off the ride.

I was plenty scared of a lot of those rides. The Log Flume was my worst nightmare. The whole family fit in a log shaped canoe. We would lazily float along a winding path. Just long enough for my blood pressure to get up to dangerous levels. Then the log clicked onto a track. The track went up slowly, clicking the whole way. My heart would be racing and I wondered how I would ever survive the impending drop. Eventually we reached the top. The log precariously tipped for a moment before freefalling along with my heart. The log crashed into the water splashing all occupants and the ride was over. I had a love/hate relationship with that ride!

My dad would always take me on the roller coasters. The white wooden roller coaster was terrifying. I was always grateful for the sticky bar I could hold onto with a death grip. I used to believe the sticky rubber was the only thing that held me in my seat when I was a tiny little girl. It felt like that roller coaster was a tradition for years before a new roller coaster joined Lagoon. But I was 7 years old the first time my dad took me on Colossus. Memories get muddled over time.

I do remember the first time my dad took me on Colossus. If I could have had a stroke I would have just to get out of line. It went upside down. Twice. Oh I was positive I would die!

We got in and the lap bar came down. I grabbed on with all my might. The train slowly crept up the first hill. My heart rate was mounting. Suddenly gravity took over and the train was rushing through the course. It’s possible my eyes were shut so tight I didn’t even notice going upside down. I don’t remember if it was on my first ride or some number down the line. I do remember the first time I realized I was upside down. The whole landscape turned and I saw the trees upside down. That was the only way I knew it had happened.

Of the two roller coasters, I preferred Colossus. It was a smoother ride. But my dad took me on the terrifying white roller coaster every single year. I always wanted to say no but I never did. He would ask and my brain would lose connectivity with my mouth. My mouth always said okay. As we stood in line my short life flashed before my eyes. And somehow I always managed to live through the thrilling experience.

My uncle Dale came with us to Lagoon a lot. He would ride with us kids on the Haunted House rides. He would say the funniest things which had us giggling through the whole thing. I felt nervous and some parts of those rides were scary, but as long as Dale was there cracking jokes I was fine. 

Those trips to Lagoon were so much fun. It was something we looked forward to every year. We would go from open to close, without fail, every single year. It was the best. I hope to take my kids someday.

For now we go to Disneyland every other year. The boys are becoming a little more brave. Parker and I had grand plans of going on California Screaming together. We were the only ones willing to go. Unfortunately it didn’t happen. Well, we both hemmed and hawed until it was too late and raining.

Parker also wanted to go on the Tower of Terror. I told him I refused to go with him. I hate those rides where all you do is freefall while sitting behind a huge harness of bars. I’ve done those rides before and I hate them. Heath didn’t want to go either but he was a good dad and said he would. Parker changed his mind about going. So we were all safe!

The boys had a lot of fun on the roller coasters at Legoland. Gwen hated the Test Track roller coaster. I did too. It’s one of those jerky roller coasters. Those aren’t fun. They give me whiplash. She refused to go on it again. We were fine with that because the rule was everyone had to try a ride at least once. We kept convincing her to go on The Dragon. She always loved it at the end but her nervous bladder always raged while we stood in line.

Any time she felt scared or nervous she suddenly needed to go. Even if she just went. I tried to be positive about it by saying things like, “Is your nervous bladder back because this is such a fun ride and you are so excited?” If it was a ride she liked then the words helped. Otherwise she got more uncomfortable. It was really hard on the rest of us. We wanted to have fun together but Gwen was determined to be afraid of everything.

Gwen is the same age I was when I went on Colossus for the first time. I really thought we could push her limits and she would enjoy it. I think we pushed too hard and our efforts backfired. It’s hard to make peace with the fact that everyone is different. Despite how we feel, Gwen doesn’t like thrilling rides. No matter what we do or say, or how much we force her to do these things, she still hates it. I could recount my childhood Lagoon memories until I was blue in the face and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference to that girl. She likes what she likes.

A friend of mine talked about her youngest child. She said that most people tend to baby the youngest. That was not how her family did it. Gracie was born and everyone expected her to catch up. That’s how I parent too. My kids are all close in age, which could be one reason why they think they can do what the older kids do. Gwen is no exception. If her boys were doing it, she figured she could too. Playgrounds were a nightmare when that girl was little.

As much as we do everything together as a family, this vacation created a divide in us. Gwen was every bit her own young age. No more wishing to grow up. We tried to drag her along. “Keep up, youngest!” And it bit us every time. It was really hard.

Heath insisted we all go on Splash Mountain. While I had never been on the ride before, I knew it was one of the more intense Disneyland rides. Gwen was about to lose her mind and pee her pants at the same time. It was a long line too. The people around us were nice enough to not stare. They knew Gwen was freaking out and we were desperately trying to change her mind. They never made us feel stupid. I am so grateful for that. Because part of me was thinking we were the worst parents in the world for forcing our terrified 7 year old daughter to go on a super scary ride.

The closer we got to our turn the more warnings there were that it was an intense ride with a 50 foot drop. At least five signs had that 50 foot drop warning in large bold print. How Gwen missed it I will never know. A 50 foot drop! What kind of parents were we?

Heath put Gwen in front of him and behind me. We told her she would be safe between the two of us. Gavin was in the very front seat. That boy is a champ to do some of the things he does without complaining. I would have major incontinence if I had to sit in the front of a ride that puts Lagoon’s Log Flume to shame. He just gritted his teeth and enjoyed the rest.

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Gwen looks like she stopped breathing. I am screaming my head off because let’s face it, this part of the ride is freaking scary! The picture was taken just before my hat blew off the back of my head. I was sure I had lost it forever. It had dropped right in Gwen’s lap and Heath grabbed it for me. A ponytail is not enough insurance to keep a hat on for these rides.

The boys loved Splash Mountain. Gwen’s reaction to the ride was interesting. She didn’t think the drop was that big. Whatever. She was shaking like a leaf through the whole ride and didn’t stop shaking for quite some time afterwards. She said she hated it and would never do it again. The kids pressed pennies with a Splash Mountain theme. They would always remember how they conquered Splash Mountain.

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Mickey’s Toon Town was the turning point of our trip. I hate Toon Town. It’s an overpopulated playground. The parents are completely obnoxious there. I had suggested we go there because I had never been on the one and only ride there. It’s a kiddie roller coaster. My thought process was that if we went to a more juvenile part of the park, Gwen would feel more comfortable. And maybe a kiddie roller coaster would get her over her own fears. It was a nice thought.

We pushed and shoved while being pushed and shoved through Minnie’s house. She wasn’t even there to sign autographs. That was the other idea of going to Toon Town. But all the characters were on break when we got close enough. We made our way over to the roller coaster and Heath gave us his blessing. He was not going to have any part of it. I was having second thoughts about the whole idea because Gwen was so upset. I went forward with the original plan.

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And instantly regretted it.

Oh the tears, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth! Not to mention the judging stares of every single person in that line. I kid you not! The boys went between arguing with Gwen to encouraging her and back again. Frankly all I wanted was to get through the dang ride and take a break from her for a minute.

Could you hear Gwen screaming? The ride was tamer than The Dragon at Legoland. The Dragon was Legoland’s biggest roller coaster too! Gwen insisted she hated the Toon Town roller coaster. We had all snapped in our own ways.

Heath took the boys on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and picked up a rider switch ticket. This brilliant idea had never occurred to us sooner. The boys got the best end of the deal because they were able to ride everything twice. Once with Heath and once with me.

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We did that for Space Mountain. Parker was nervous his first time this year. He was really chatty and kept getting in Gavin’s face. It’s funny how we learned everyone’s anxious body language. Gavin agreed to ride alone so I could sit with Parker. When the ride was over Parker was loud and proud. He was so excited and loved every minute of the ride. He could not wait to go with his dad. This picture of us is on the boys third ride. Parker insisted on sitting alone. You can tell he could not be happier about it. We all had so much fun (despite the terrible picture) and we were all really glad Gwen wasn’t involved. She was too.

We did make Gwen go on Star Tours twice. Once because we hadn’t thought of rider switch tickets yet. And once because it was raining and there really wasn’t anything else to do. Only the indoor rides were open. She claims she hated Star Tours both times. She did laugh at the end of the second ride when the alien crashed through the windshield. 

The rider split tickets were wonderful. We didn’t do it all that often now that I think about it. When we did it made the ride much more fun. No more worrying about Gwen or what other people were thinking about us.

I think Gwen is still trying to process everything. Hopefully that means she can change her mind about rides. Her toys go on roller coasters or Splash Mountain. She draw pictures of roller coasters. Heath took the boys to the Haunted Mansion while I took Gwen on Winnie the Pooh. While we stood in line her fingers were on a roller coaster with lots of drops.

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She liked Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. And she loved the Snow White and Pinocchio rides. She is still convinced that the evil queen in Snow White likes to eat pink and that she (Gwen) is lucky the queen didn’t see her pink that night! I wasn’t sure what to think when the ride operator tried to scare Gwen by saying all that as our car was slowly heading toward the darkness of the ride experience. Gwen believed every word but wasn’t scared in the ride. She loved it. Who knew!

I hope that one day she realizes how fun other rides can be. Until then we just need to be patient with her. Her idea of fun is not the same as our idea of fun. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. No one has the right to tell someone how to feel. Or invalidate their feelings. Maybe next time she will appreciate shaking with excitement.

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