I was once one of the fearless riders on the Timber Wolf at Worlds of Fun: I’d unbuckle my seat belt and stand up on the first big drop. Dumb, I know. Don’t tell my son I did that.
Bo, now 10, is the opposite of his mother. He refuses to ride any kind of roller coaster.
Honestly, what’s the big deal? The kid doesn’t like heights. He’s not a thrill ride kind of guy. Maybe this is a good lesson on how to handle peer pressure.
“If any of your friends make fun of you because you don’t get on the Mamba tell them to walk the other way,” I tell him. “It won’t make you uncool if you don’t get on that thing.”
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Some people might say I should encourage my son to face one of his fears.
But is this really one of those fears he must overcome to live a good life? Does anyone really need to force himself into a panic attack over a roller coaster? It’s not like our son won’t get on an airplane or an elevator.
Actually, I was terrified of roller coasters for the longest time. When I was 5 I was scarred — but not for life — by Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.
It took me awhile, but I built up my courage to ride my first Worlds of Fun coaster, the Zambezi Zinger. And then I was all about the roller coasters.
Back when I was a middle schooler in the ’80s, you could bring a Coke can to Worlds of Fun to get in for a discounted price of 10 or 12 bucks. I could ride the Orient Express over and over again no matter how banged up my head was.
And who can forget going with your boyfriend or girlfriend and riding the Zulu together just so you could snuggle up against each other?
I stopped going to Worlds of Fun for about a decade until we finally introduced our son to our childhood theme park. Like me, I thought he was just starting off scared to ride coasters. Maybe he’d grow to love them like I did. Or not.
Now we take Bo once a year for something to do in the summer. My husband hates spending over $100 for the three of us to get in when we don’t ride the coasters, but I remind him it’s about being together.
Our son’s favorite ride is the Fury of the Nile. A few weeks ago we rode that thing at least eight times. He loves spending money at the carnival games, winning prizes like a giant narwhal and random plush things that collect dust in the closet. We also can’t leave Worlds of Fun without riding the classic Le TaxiTour and dizzying Scrambler.
Our son has never gone with his buddies because he’d be left waiting for them all day while they rode the big rides.
In the end I don’t mind being soaking wet all day with smelly, murky water from the Fury of the Nile as long as I’m smiling and having a good time with my boy.
It’s not necessary to force unpleasant things on people you love. But, OK, maybe someday, with the right type of encouragement anyone can face their fears.
Tasha Fabela-Jonas: 816-234-4886, firstname.lastname@example.org