Splash Mountain

by Jennifer on April 17, 2012

“You lied to me!  You lied!”  Little Boy K hung his head, his cheeks flaming from frustration and anger, his hands balled in fists, swinging at his sides.  His words were like fingernails scraping at my heart.

I chased after him, reaching for his hand, desperately trying to explain that I hadn’t lied.  Lying is intentionally deceiving someone and I would never do that.  Lying is bad.  Mommys do not lie to their little boys.

“You said it wouldn’t be scary!  You said it would be fun but it was scary!”

That was true.  I had told him it wouldn’t be scary even though I knew that it might be, that it probably would be.  We were at Disney World – the most magical place on earth and my little boy was angry.  My little boy thought his mom was a liar.

Earlier, we had stood at the bottom of Splash Mountain and watched the people riding in the long wooden logs raise their arms over their heads and scream as they took the final descent into the “briar patch”.  Little Boy K had vehemently expressed his trepidation.  It looked too fast.  He didn’t want to get wet.  People were screaming.

But I had been on this ride probably twenty times.  I knew what he could not see from the bottom of that hill.  He couldn’t see the vast majority of the ride that consisted of laughing animals, fun songs, tummy twisting hills – things I knew he would love.  I didn’t want him to miss out on all of the wonderful parts of that ride because of the fear he had for the last ten seconds.   I felt sure that if he took a chance on this that it would be his new “favorite” and we would end up on Splash Mountain for the rest of the day.  I didn’t want him to miss out on all the fun because of his fear.

Needless to say, I overestimated the fun and underestimated the fear.

Little Boy K is a lot like me when I was a child.  That’s when we start to make mistakes, isn’t it?  When we start to see ourselves in our children?  I was afraid of everything.  I was afraid of ghosts, roller coasters, tornados, the dark, loud noises, flashing lights, many movies…the list goes on and on.  Without getting too philosophical on the nature/nurture debate, Little Boy K shares a lot of these fears and that is probably my fault, genetically or otherwise.

And that’s okay.  Kids are afraid of a lot of things.  It’s part of being a kid.

But I start to worry when I see his fear prevent him from having fun, enjoying new experiences and most of all feeling the thrill of having beat your fear, of having been terrified and surviving and the awesome sense of accomplishment and pride (not to mention the adrenaline rush) that results.

I thought that if I could just get him to take a risk, he would get caught up in the magical parts of the experience, forget about the gigantic drop at the end, and plow through it.  I saw the rest of our day being lit up by the glow from his smile at having come through the other side of fear with all limbs and bodily organs firmly intact.  I could already see the deposit being made in his bank account of self-esteem, the bank account it was my job as a parent to keep full, his chest puffed out from the infusion he had received, fueling his self-assured swagger for days to come.

Instead he spent the ride with his hand gripping mine, asking in a shaky voice if the drop was coming yet.  “Now?  Is it going to be now?”

“Don’t worry, I will let you know.  Look over there, do you see the turtles shooting water in the air?  And do you recognize this song?”

It was hopeless.  No amount of distraction would calm him.  The ride, a very long one indeed, went by in an electrified, anxiety-filled haze, his sole focus on the terrifying drop at the end.

When we were finally ascending the hill.  Listening to the clank, clatter clack of the wheels engaging the tracks beneath us, I looked over at his face, his beautiful face, twisted with fear, his cheeks red in preparation for the tears welling up in his eyes.

I had done this to him.  I had pushed him too far.  At that moment, I had the usual feeling of being trapped at the top of a roller coaster with nowhere to go but down, but my desire to get the hell off was more about wanting to undo what I had done.

We sped down the hill, the spray from the water shooting in our faces.  The people in front of us screamed in roller-coaster fun, Little Boy K screamed in fear, and I screamed at myself.  At the bottom, he whimpered and gave me a look of betrayal.  My boy thought I lied to him.

He eventually forgave me.  He consented to hold my hand again.  We enjoyed the rest of our day, but he wasn’t exactly trustful of my appraisal of the remaining Magic Kingdom attractions, and for good reason.

I had put what I want for him before what he wants for himself.

My heart was in the right place but the better choice would have been to accept him for who he is, insurmountable fears and all, and be his safe harbor in the dark rather than the person shoving him towards the ledge because “you’ll love it!  really!”.  I know that some day, he will probably push himself and discover the fun in a little fear but that needs to come from him, not from me.  I want to be the Mommy who hugs him and holds him, not the one who makes him scared.

Lesson learned.

Until then, you can find us on Winnie the Pooh.


Happily linking up with Yeah Write #53 and Just Write!

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Alison@Mama Wants This April 17, 2012 at 8:02 am

Aw, you just did what you thought was best for him at the time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Children are resilient and forgiving!
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Julie April 17, 2012 at 10:03 am

I’m sure he’ll get over it. Kids are forgiving! Now adults on the other hand? My husband made me ride The Mummy at Universal, and didn’t tell me it was a rollercoaster. In the dark. With FIRE. Still mad. Four years later.
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Susan April 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

i totally agree with alison – it’s hard not to be, but don’t be too hard on yourself! trying to help little boy k have fun new experiences is a great thing. i live in fear of the day dane not only wants to go on roller coasters, but wants to go on them himself because i’m no longer cool…
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Julia April 17, 2012 at 2:10 pm

It’s so hard to judge what will work for our kids at any given time. You are doing a great job. It’s all a learning process.
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Lisa AKA Mama Finch April 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm

What a touching story! I can relate to your feelings of guilt, but like Julia said it really is a process, learn-as-you-go. Nothing in the world cut us to the quick like the judgement of our children.
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Missy | Literal Mom April 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Ohhh, I hate it when I do stuff like that. I’m glad he forgave you (though not surprised – deep down he knew you weren’t trying to hurt him).
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Miranda April 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Poor little guy. However, I agree that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Sure, this time was not a pleasant experience. But, in the future, he might be less fearful than normal because he did something scary and was okay. Who knows?
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Amanda April 17, 2012 at 6:42 pm

:( I know that you were upset with yourself but as everyone else has said don’t be to hard on yourself. We go to Disney about every 3 years or so. When my nephew was 5 his dad did the same thing and made him go on Splash Mountain. He came off crying and upset also. This past year we went again so he was 8 and loved it. He also went on several other rides that he refused at 5. Like you said someday he will push himself and then he’ll think back and laugh that he was ever upset at you for having him ride that.
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Cathy April 17, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I did that when my son was little. He was not a brave kid. He was a thoughtful, kind, caring kid but afraid of so many things. I wanted to make him strong and brave. After a couple of attempts I decided I like him better just the way he was. Loved this story.
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Mayor Gia April 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Hah, that was my dad’s attitude with my sis and I when we were little, but we were both little anxious kids. I can imagine how he felt.
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Youngman Brown April 17, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I’m on his side on this one. I had the same exact experience when I was a kid on the same exact ride. But the thing is, I still hate roller coasters, so it wasn’t just a childhood fear.

And I guess I shouldn’t say that I’m afraid of them, I just get no enjoyment out of them whatsoever.

But don’t feel bad. You took him to Disney World for crying out loud. And that place is a guaranteed cure-all for any kind of bad experience.
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Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms April 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Now forgive yourself mom. :) Ellen

Jamie April 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I know this feeling all too well. And you hit the nail on the head about seeing ourselves in our children. Just today I reacted the WRONG way when my oldest told me he didn’t touch a single one of the animals that the guest speaker brought to class today. When I was done with my temper tantrum I thought who the F cares if touched them or not!
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Lady goo goo gaga April 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm

This is an understandable mistake…..
I would totally chance it and convince my kids to go on that ride…..

Katie @ Chicken Noodle Gravy April 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm

You know what? You may be beating yourself up over that moment, but I can only see a loving, caring mom only doing what she thought was best. I can speak from experience on this matter. I’m 29 years old. As a child, I loved roller coasters and fast rides and anything like Splash Mountain. As an adult, I was paralyzed with fear about the same fast rides. Particularly, Splash Mountain. I didn’t go to Disney World as a child, so I didn’t get to experience it then, but I have been several times as an adult, and each time I’ve gone I’ve avoided Splash Mountain.

For whatever reason, I had built this ride up in my head to such an extent that I was terrified to ride it. Finally, on my honeymoon, my hubby convinced me to ride. I loved it. I wonder where all that fear had come from. But, like your little boy, I worried through every minute of that first ride. “When’s the hill coming?” “Is this it?” Such an irrational fear, I know, but a fear nonetheless. I can see where your little boy would be terrified by it…because even as an adult, I was. But I can also see the great intentions you had of helping him to experience something you thought he would love.

So don’t beat yourself up too much? Okay?
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jamieywrites April 17, 2012 at 11:04 pm

After all the commotion, I know parents will do their very best for their children. Don’t be too hard on yourself 😉

Mel April 18, 2012 at 4:56 am

My son was 4 and INSISTED he wanted to go on the Tower of Terror while we were in WDW. We kept trying to tell him, but he was relentless. He wanted to go because he was tall enough. My dad finally agreed to take him after all of us tried to warn him. He only wanted to go with my dad. No one else. So they went. Longest 20 minutes of my life sitting in that dumb shop waiting for them to come out.
I saw him. Face completely white and gripping my dad’s hand. He came out and the first thing he said to me was, “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME IT WAS SO FAST AND SCARY IN THERE?” Last summer, when he was 6 and we went back, he went no where near the Tower of Terror. However, he went on Space Mountain 4x…which I consider just as intense and scary. You never know!
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WilyGuy April 18, 2012 at 6:26 am

I remember rides like this where they clutch at you the entire ride, there is a chorus of “I wanna get off” and at the end they say “can we go again?”

I deceived my 13 year old when we went to Kings Dominion. We wanted to ride the Dominator and it had been closed a lot (warning, I think not) and when we got there he saw how much shorter the line was to ride in the front. His desire to get there faster bled into my desire to ride in the front and I said “sounds like a good idea.” At 13, they figure these things out faster and he was ready to switch lines, but at that point we’d made friends with the people in front and behind us in the crazy line.

Nice Post.
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Michelle Longo April 18, 2012 at 6:52 am

I really, really felt this post. First, because my kid is like your kid. Second, because I spent several minute with my child clutched to me screaming in terror on one of the least scary rides ever. The way you wrote about his anger – the fists, his face. I get it. Been there too. And it sucks. It’s our jobs as moms to push them through what will be hard for them (if no one pushes us, we stagnate). Sometimes we go too far. And he forgave you, like you said. Hugs, Mama. You’re not alone on this one!
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Stephanie April 18, 2012 at 2:59 pm

This post made me want to hug you AND your boy.
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Donna B. McNicol [@donnabmcnicol] April 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I remember taking my daughter, about age 5, to Space Mountain at Disney. First of all, no one told ME it was an inside roller coaster (I HATE ROLLER COASTERS). She loved fast rides. Halfway through it was all I could do to maintain and she is sitting next to me repeating over and over, “I hate it. Make it stop. I want to get off.” Thus I empathize completely!!
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Kristen @ Motherese April 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Oh gosh, I can relate to this story so well and your terrific details made it even easier to do so. Like you, I was a timid kid (and now I’m a timid grown-up) and my son is timid too. And like you, I try to help him stretch out of his comfort zone without scaring him too much. Such a tough line to walk! I’m grateful to you for putting your experience out there so I know I’m not alone!
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tara pohlkotte April 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm

this motherhood thing. it’s tricky! loved what you said about putting what we want for them before what they want – this is so true. great words to remember. sorry it was a bad experience. see, i was the other way. just sure my son would hate it. my husband had to intervene and tell me to chill the crap out, and …he loved it. I could have prevented that, thinking I knew him better than he knew. we’ve all been there.
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Louise Ducote April 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm

What a kind, thoughtful mother you are. Be proud!
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Delilah April 18, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I was the kid who was scared of everything. My fear kept me on the sidelines of many things that I probably would have truly enjoyed. My mom rarely pushed me to try new things, she was scared of screwing me up and traumatizing me. I was the oldest, the test kid. I wish she had pushed me, made me do things, made me put myself out there. If she had then maybe I wouldn’t have carried so many of my fears into adulthood. I walk a fine line with my kids. I see some of the same traits in them that kept me from trying new things as a kid. I push them much harder than my mom pushed me and I hope for the best. You should be proud of your little guy for giving the ride a chance and proud of yourself for caring enough about his experience to push him.
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Abby April 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

Give him a year or two. Then he’ll be dragging you on the ride over, and over, and over again.

Would it make you feel better if I told you I had to bribe my husband to ride the Tower of Terror? LOL
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Jamie April 19, 2012 at 10:17 am

I could have written this post. Wait, maybe I did? (in my mind anyway.) Too. Funny my 18 at 4 years looked at me halfway through Thunder railroad in sheer “how could you do this to me terror.” Just last January our 8 and 11 year old begged us to go on Mount Everest. I looked at my daughter half way through the ride and she was gray. The 8 yo came off in tears. Oh well, it takes a beer to get me on the Tower of Terror.
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Kristin April 19, 2012 at 11:12 am

I’ve been in the same situation, but for less fun reasons. My son is VERY cautious, so we rarely get to the point where I am proved a liar. I think it’s great that he went for it!

And I love the photo with Piglet!
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sheri April 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Aww, hope you don’t feel too guilty about it, you only wanted him to have fun! I really enjoyed this post. I can relate because I am petrified that I may hold my daughter back from having fun outdoors due to my fear of bugs. I scream and flail like a maniac whenever I’m outside. I am so afraid I am not going to be able to control myself and pass my fear along to her.

Love your writing!
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Jennifer Worrell April 22, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Boy, do I feel your pain! I did something similar to my daughter while skiing with her this winter. She got over it, but I still haven’t. Great post!
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