15 years ago I worked as a performer at Busch Gardens for a season. 6 shows a day 5 days a week. It was a great job. I did my 20 minute Mother Goose show and than I was off until the next performance. I would meet up with other performers and we would ride the roller coasters non stop. Back then the faster the coaster the better. There was nothing more thrilling then the feel of the wind in my hair, and that tickle in your stomach as you drop 200 feet. I was young and fearless. Ahhhh the good ole days!
2 babies and lots of stretch marks later I returned to my beloved summer job place. Boy have things changed. I hardly recognized anything. I was praying that my son would not notice the coasters of my youth that some how seemed to have grown larger and scarier over the years. Yeah like that was going to happen. Everywhere you turn there is a gift store pimping t-shirts boasting how the wearer has conquered the “FEARED FOUR”. Thank GOD MACH TOWER is not open yet. I wonder what they will do with all those t-shirts when it is open?
Jay too wanted to conquer these bad boys! In fact it became an obsession. He mapped out our entire day based solely on this. “Mom we will work our way towards the Curse of the DarKastle. It’s not really one of the Feared Four mom, but it is a good warm up and then we can do Apollo’s Chariot . The Loch Ness will come next , followed shortly by Alpengeist and last but certainly not least we will do the Griffon!”
Now here is the thing… One: My boy has Aspergers which means when he gets obsessed he REALLY gets obsessed! Non stop talking about it, facts about it, more talking about it, you get the idea. Two: Have I mentioned before that shortly after having Gracie I developed stressed induced vertigo? I take medication for it and everything. And lets just say the idea of riding these steel death traps was creating quite a bit of stress within me. Three: Although my husband is a Super Hero in our eyes, his kryptonite is anything that affects his stomach. This grown man can become a helpless kitten in a matter of moments when his tummy hurts.
So… who was going to ride with Jay? Whose smart idea was it to go here? Oh wait it was mine! SH*T that means I had to either admit my mistake or suck it up and ride. Guess which I did?
We started with the Curse of the DarKastle which is a 4-D, roving motion-base simulator, dark ride. In the heat of the afternoon sun, it felt great to be in air conditioning and honestly on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being whimpy and 10 being OMG I think I am going to die , this ride is a 5. I was feeling rather brave and confident after this and agreed to tackle what Jay said was the easiest of the Feared Four.
Guess what… my boy lied! And since my son is as honest as ABE he chose to tell me the truth just as we were locked in and started our climb upwards. Look… Need I say more! I wish I would have purchased the picture that they take while riding. I have a death grip on the railing, my eyes are shut and my mouth is wide open screaming in terror. And there sitting next to me is my boy with a smile pasted on his face that goes from ear to ear. And he has his hands in the air! When the ride stopped and I somehow managed to pry my hands free the boy actually had the nerve to ask if we could ride again!
Flapping and happy we made our way back to our awaiting group. I sat down and tried to keep breakfast down. My husband smiled nervously and volunteered to try the next one.
Now the Loch Ness does not have the drops that the Apollo has so Jay told his dad not to worry. I knew better than to believe my little Benedict Arnold and set out to find a barf bag… my husband was going to need it. And here is why…
Hubby exited the ride green as Oscar the Grouch and well in the same mood as the garbage dweller too. He walked right by us and kept going. I did not follow. A guy has to keep his pride after all.
Obviously hubby was not going to ride any more and I certainly was not going to do it so that meant having to explain to Jay that our coaster riding was done for the day.
My son craves external stimuli. This is why he enjoys the coasters. He even described the feeling he gets to me as, “Mom I feel everything rushing down on me and it makes me feel complete and alive. I love it!” The idea of riding these coaster was what was keeping him going all day. He was able to tune out the noise and block out the people and commotion because he knew that he would feel fine when he rode that roller coaster.
Like any mom, I would do anything for my kids. But if I rode any more coasters I knew I would need a lot more than an ” I conquered the Feared Four” t-shirt to change into. I also knew that no amount of medicine would make the vertigo go away if I did it again. So I prepared for the worst and tried to reason with my son.
What happened next I was no way prepared for. Jay of course melted down. But he did something this time he has never done before. I guess he was craving external stimuli so much that he started banging his head against the railing. I mean HARD! He was screaming and kicking at me. My husband had to physically retain him.
My mother in law was saying lets just go, which you would think would have been the appropriate thing to do. BUT it was Gracie’s birthday. I mean the actual day of her birthday and all she wanted was to have a caricature done. I was not about to leave without doing that.
So with Jay still upset but at least under control we continued on. We tried to act like a happy family. You know my new commandment about until you feel it just fake it. Guess what it didn’t work that day.
We left with picture in hand and went back to the hotel where Jay was able to get his external stimuli he needed by going down the water slides.
Now here is the kicker… I know many of you are saying to yourselves, “And that is why I will never go to a theme park with my autistic child”, but guess what even with all this… I would do it again. I would bring someone who could ride the rides with him without puking and I would go. I would do it because I know if he would have been able to ride all of the Feared Four he would have been fine the entire day. Not only would he be fine he would be on cloud nine. He would feel confident and proud and as he says “ALIVE”. And that my dear friends is worth risking a meltdown for.