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Pittman: Surviving Six Flags

People often believe that if someone was born in Florida that means they grew up at Disney, riding the tea cups, and spent every weekend at the beach. That might have been some people’s life, but mine was much different. It involved things like wading in creeks to catch tadpoles and crawfish (thankfully, never ringworm), and getting stung by horrible bugs while attempting to eat foreign berries growing in the swamps.

I haven’t been to Disney in more than two decades. And while I now frequent those random little fairs that pop up at Legion Field and in parking lots (only because I love my child, and he loves white trash fairs), I am not an amusement park sort of girl. But I am the sort of girl who doesn’t mind taking one for the team, which is how I ended up at Six Flags.

I had only been to Six Flags twice before. Once in eighth grade when we first moved to Georgia, and then a second time when I was about 20. Neither times were horribly successful – though they were memorable.

The first time, none of my girlfriends thought to tell me I shouldn’t wear white. After the first water ride in a white t-shirt, I spent the next several hours with my arms tightly crossed across my chest, while gross old men leered at me. Not a good time. The second time I decided to go on one of the more terrifying roller coasters and promptly puked. Not a good time, take two.

But I am a glutton for punishment, and I thought my kid would enjoy it, so I was all about going to Six Flags with a friend and his kids. First ride: The Mine Train. Now I had ridden that before and I didn’t get sick. My thought has always been that rides don’t agree with my predilection for motion sickness, but that they didn’t scare me. I have been lying to myself. With a 7 and 12-year-old sitting behind us, my 4 ½-year-old son and I hopped on and got ready for his first real roller coaster.

It was fine at first, but then it was getting a little scary for me. I don’t like flying through the woods sideways, but I kept my cool, since the girls behind us are giggling and saying things like “oh my gosh, this is SO scary,” in sarcastic voices, and my kid is squealing like he’s having the time of his life. Until we went through the dark tunnel at the end. I’m sure we’ll be discussing the sheer terror he felt in counseling one day, because when we came through that tunnel he was trembling and sobbing. Mommy fail.

The water roller coaster was fun, not too fast or too scary (who are we kidding, I was still scared), and I was smart because I sat in the middle. Surely my son – who hates water in his face so much, that hair washes sometimes sound like I am murdering him if water drips in his eyes – would get only slightly wet and his face would be free of spray. Wrong again. Apparently the middle seat is where all the water lands during the big splash in the end. More tears, especially when I was so wet that I couldn’t wipe them off without making his eyes wetter. Eventually he calmed down when he realized he could run around wet and dirty. From what I can tell, boys enjoy that for some reason.

The rest of the day was spent attempting to have fun and not want to beat everyone up, since it was as hot as the surface of the sun, the lines were ridiculously long, my son was whining because he was hungry, hot, his feet hurt, it was Saturday, the sun was shining – you name it. Water rides were a nice reprieve, but didn’t last nearly long enough. So were the giant drinks available that my son and I sucked down at an alarming speed, and ended up setting me back $20 in total.

From 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. we were troopers. Then mommy was done. My kid was too. We trudged back through the park, with him half-heartedly asking for things like giant inflatable hammers and me wearily telling him to get a job. But our hearts weren’t in it, and our usual banter fell flat. Six Flags had kicked our butts.

In my excitement to get us into the park that morning, I had neglected to pay attention to where we parked. We trudged around the massive parking lot for 15 more minutes, me pressing the panic button on my key fob in an attempt to locate it before we passed out, before we finally found the car, which was, amazingly enough, hotter than it was outside. As I got the AC turned on and us situated, I asked my son if he was going to fall asleep on the way home.

“I don’t know, but probably.”

He didn’t make it to the interstate before he was snoring; clutching a crappy blue alligator he had won at one of the games (that cost me $20), mouth wide open.

I assumed, with the trauma of water in the face, long lines, being hot, the terror of the Mine Train, that my child would never ever want to return to Six Flags, which would get me out of trying to explain to my kid that Mommy was far too terrified to ride roller coasters with him. As I got him ready for bed that night he asked what we were doing the next day.

Me: “I don’t know, buddy. What do you want to do?”

My son: “I want to go back to Six Flags!”