Father’s Day has been difficult for me for the last ten years, since the passing of my father. The pain has lessened somewhat since the birth of my son by allowing me to celebrate my husband. Every year I still struggle to make peace with the day, find joy and let go. This year it was even easier with the help of my son.
We decided to celebrate with some close friends and their four-year-old son. A day at the beach? Brunch? Barbeque? I wasn’t sure what we would do. Then they suggested – Magic Mountain. How better to celebrate my conflicting feelings about Father’s Day than by turning my cliché into reality and celebrating with rollercoaster rides. So, of course we agreed. My son was excited about the idea of celebrating with “fast rides,” even though he had never been on one.
We headed to Magic Mountain, where I haven’t been since the creation of other roller coasters that make Colossus look not so colossal after all. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then as I expected, but the metal detectors at the entrance were an unexpected surprise. (Not that I was sporting weapons, but really?) Was it safe to even go? Of course it was, because there were metal detectors. And besides, our friends had annual passes and were frequenters of the park who brought us along as their guests. They are quite the non-violent type, so I figured we were good.
We spent our time in Bugs Bunny World and Thomas Town for the kids. (How else would we celebrate, of course.) Then my son asked to go on a kiddie coaster. I gladly stood in line with him until the ride operator remarked, “Ma’am, this is for kids only.” I would have to send him on a roller coaster alone, at the age of four? I guess the mother standing next to me waiting for her even younger child to get on must have seen my hesitation. “We all have to let them go sometime,” she joked. And she was letting hers go at least a year or two before mine.
My husband convinced me along with our friends that our four-year-olds would be fine. How could we disappoint our sons who were holding hands and jumping up and down asking to go on the ride together? (At age four, two boys holding hands does not merit much attention, but it changes somewhere along the line. At five?) How could we say no? I didn’t want to become that parent. Or was I already that parent?
Our sons got on and I stood close to the gate, only after I was told that I couldn’t stay within the gate. The ride operator was probably right. What good would that do me anyway? Would I leap onto the track to stop the coaster from derailing in case of emergency? I don’t know what I was thinking, but wanted to stay inside “just in case.”
So, the ride began and my son was cheering as they headed up their first hill. He didn’t know what was coming, but could not wait to find out. I watched my son as he followed the other children and raised his hands fearlessly in the air as the coaster speedily raced down the track. The ride lasted all of thirty seconds, but felt more like thirty minutes to me, at the least. I entered the gate (and was the only parent who did) to help my son out of the train, to which he replied, “I can do it alone!” I thought at that moment – “Yes, you can.” He and his friend were giggling as they left the ride, “That was fun and scary. Can I do it again?” And he did. Again and again and again… Each time got a little easier for me…as does each passing Father’s Day.