Being a Dad…the best role I've ever had.

Posts tagged ‘kings dominion’

We finally made ‘the trip’…to Cedar Point

WP_20160824_17_37_05_ProMy oldest son, Chase, is a theme park junkie.  He always has been.  Like myself. Like my father. It was prevalent on his mother’s side as well. She loved them, so did her father.  For the first few years of Chase’s life, we only went to Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, Virginia.  When he got old enough to start riding the kiddie rides, we began getting season passes to Kings Dominion, a theme park just north of Richmond, Virginia.  Chase always had a fascination with rollercoasters, playing the game ‘Rollercoaster Tycoon’ on our computer. It was an impetus behind his desire to learn to read.

Once he actually rode one, though, he became obsessed with the rollercoaster. His first one was the Barnstormer, 4EC3E5D0-4C3E-47C8-9BA0-B64E95AB6678 (1)which was—oddly enough—at Disney World in Florida. From that point on…and once he could read…he started learning all he could about the various rollercoasters in Kings Dominion and Busch Gardens.  Riding each one with him, as was able to ride them, was such a thrill.  Not only for the ride itself, but seeing his reaction.  The sheer joy he got from riding them.  The sense of accomplishment when he could, finally, ride that ‘big boy’ coaster or the one that had tallest inversion or this or that.  It was just as much fun for me seeing his reaction as it was for him to ride them.

Indeed, when he was able to ride the Hypersonic XLC at Kings Dominion, you could not smack that smile from his face.  See, this thing was a launch coaster, went straight up and straight down. The whole ride was done in just seconds. It looked menacing.  His sense of accomplishment was off the charts.  This particular rollercoaster, though, did not become a favorite. The next time he rode it, it gave him a really bad headache.  I felt horrible for that.  The rollercoaster was dismantled shortly after that anyway. But, that first ride…I don’t think I have ever seen that much enthusiasm, joy and wonder from him.  It was awesome.   He hasn’t been that way since. Oh, sure, there were times where he came close, but nothing has really matched that … until recently.

WP_20160824_18_33_30_ProBefore I share that, though, lets continue with his journey into rollercoaster enthusiasm excess.

Every vacation we had was planned around some kind of amusement or theme park trip.  Be it to the great land of of Orlando, Myrtle Beach South Carolina, or where ever, there was an amusement park close by.  We hit parks like Disney World, Carowinds in Charlotte, the two in Virginia, Six Flags America, small ones like Family Kingdom, the Pavillion and Hard Rock Park (all in Myrtle Beach) and Trimpers and Jolly Roger in Ocean City, Maryland.  Recently, we made it to Dorney Park in Pennsylvania, but that was just a day trip. There was one park, though, that remained elusive.

All through his young life, Chase would read all he could and watch all he could about rollercoasters.  He read about the tallest, the fastest, the longest, etc.  One park kept showing up with all of these wonderful machines:  Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. 

He desperately wanted to go.  For years, my late wife and I had planned to take Chase.  We even got as far, about ten years ago, as reserving a room near Sandusky.  Unfortunately, life kept getting in the way and we never made that trip.

In 2010, Chase’s mom passed away.  Early that year, before she became ill, we had talked about going in 2011.  As her health declined, so did our plans, once again. I took Chase and his cousin on a sort of rollercoaster ‘tour’ that summer, but Sandusky wasn’t in the cards.

Two years ago, Chase got his drivers license and decided to go to work.  He fulfilled one of his lifetime dreams and worked as a ‘scare actor’ at Kings Dominion.  He is really good at it too and is doing it again for the third year.  WP_20160824_18_06_23_Pro

Chase and I had talked about going to Sandusky last year, but, as was always the case, it just did not work out.  But, as he always has, Chase did something I never expected.

He gave me one of the best Christmas presents ever:  a rollercoaster tour that was to include Sandusky.  We started out by going to Carowinds, a place special to us both for reason I won’t go into now.  Sentiment aside, it really is a nice park and, if you get there, ride the Fury 325…one of the best rollercoasters ever.

As summer went on, we kept hitting this snag or that and our trips were delayed or altered quite a bit. Our trip to Dorney Park was to be a two day trip, but turned out to be a day trip…quite a drive to ride a handful of coasters, but the time we spent in the car was well worth it.

So, getting back to the sense of awe and joy he had with the Hypersonic…well, he showed it once more when we actually pulled into the parking lot.  I felt it too.  After about twelve years of trying, we finally made it. Walking through that turnstile, seeing the old Carousel and, looking to our left, the bus used for the Hallow weekends and seeing the Raptor…well, seeing the look on his face…was priceless. Even at 19, that sense of wonder shone through his very adult face.  My eight year old boy from 2005 was with me once more.  We were both quite, walking around, taking it in.  The park was not busy and we were able to ride one of the coaster he had only dreamt of riding just a few years ago…the Raptor. 

The next day, we spent walking around, riding the coasters, taking photos (that was me) and not believing we were actually there. Fortunately, the park was not busy and we were able to walk on to most of the coasters.  Millenium Force has to be one of the smoothest rides ever. Exciting, fast, TALL…this was THE coaster he wanted to ride. Of all the coasters anywhere, this was the one he had talked about the most, since he had first seen an on ride video.  Getting to ride it, for the first time with him, that was special.

We spent that day, not really saying much, but bonding and have a great time.  The place is massive and we have to go again. But, any other visit there will not be the same or as special as this one.  Sure, it will be great to have my other two sons and my wife with me (I was lucky to have another wife who also loves the parks, she’s pretty awesome) but this visit, well…after so much anticipation…well, it was just special.

WP_20160826_12_38_25_ProPerhaps the most ironic thing was that it ended up with Chase taking ME instead of me taking him.  And that’s pretty damn cool.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg…not putting its breast foot forward (here’s a hint…they need women in charge)

One of the benefits of being a Dad is that you are not the Mama. In my case, I don’t breast feed my 12 week old son. For me, that’s a bonus.  For my wife, however, it is both a blessing and a curse. However, before I go on, let me say that is a beautiful thing to witness: that closeness of mother and child. A symbiotic relationship that, until recently, I never fully appreciated.

My late wife was unable to breast feed and it always angered me the attitude that many took toward her for not doing so.

Fast forward fifteen years and my current wife is breast feeding our infant. I totally get why mother’s want to do so: that is a very strong bond and something that is just wonderful to witness. Overall, it’s such a natural and lovely thing…until you go out.

While April has yet to encounter any prejudice or been told to stop, you can see how uncomfortable and just how ill-equipped many places are to handle such things. Places that purport to be family and child friendly. Like a theme park. Busch Gardens Williamsburg, to be specific.

I had recalled seeing several ‘nursing stations’ in the past, but never paid much attention to them. Well, we recently went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg-it is, after all, our favorite amusement/theme park. Big, beautiful, good food and very family friendly.

Except for the nursing stations. 

Elmo land, Sesame Woods or what ever they call the newest kids section is one area where, one would think, there would be nice, accommodating nursing areas. Wrong. They have ONE, little, tiny room with a stool.That’s it. If there’s more than one child who needs feeding, well…mom just has to whip it out and let the child eat.

And that is precisely what happened. 

April was lucky and got the room.  I  am standing outside, waiting. This tall, somewhat thin woman walks up with her infant. Knocks, realizes the room is occupied and turns around and sits on the carrier that she was pushing her child in. Next thing I know, the child is feeding. The woman is sitting there, just smiling and feeding her kid. She did it so fast, I did not realize what she had done.  The woman obviously knew how to discreetly feed her kid. Thing is, she should not have had to do that. (As it turns out, she was a lactation specialist…she and April spoke for a few minutes.)

Now, the other theme park in the Richmond area, Kings Dominion-which, really, is second rate to Busch Gardens-has a really nice BUILDING devoted to the little ones with nearly half of the building devoted to breast feeding Mom’s. It is a decently sized building. A large play area, staffed desk, diaper changing areas, microwave and bottle warmers are available and…five rooms to breast feed. Comfy chairs too.  The difference in the parks, I’m sure, is that there were likely women involved in the Kings Dominion area and men for Busch Gardens. (In fact, we did speak with an employee who suggested that it was, in fact, all men who were in charge.) It is almost enough to me ashamed to be a dude.

However, at least BGW does have them. Most public places do not.  Now, I’m not advocating a law that would require it, however I would think that many business with the room would at least have a small area where a Mom could take care of such things and not make others uncomfortable.

And, I have to wonder, what’s the uncomfortable business about anyway? Most woman can ‘whip it out’ in such a manner that you: don’t see anything and baby just looks like it is using a pacifier (which, I suppose, a nipple is anyway.) I can’t believe I ever worried about it or felt uncomfortable.

Once in awhile, someone will get it and actually talk about it. I recall, recently, an older waitress noticed and just started talking to April about it. It was like it was something that happened all of the time (I don’t think it is in that particular place) and it was as if she knew my wife for years. That was the first time they ever saw each other. 

Males are the worst at hiding it. Some will act like nothing is going on and make sure they direct their attention at me while others will discreetly stare or, at least, appear to look my wife in the eye. I know they are angling for a glimpse…horn dogs.

I have to admit…when she first started, I was very aware and a little embarrassed. I got over it quickly. I don’t care where she feeds Xander now.  It is a natural and wonderful thing.  People just need to get over it.

Seriously.

Being Dad

xander_spock_paintingI have been a father for fifteen years now.  I have two sons and one stepson.  They are 15, 5, and six weeks. Yep, six weeks. At the young age of 47, I have started over this whole Dad thing.

I still remember when my late wife informed me that she was pregnant. I was still mostly asleep.

“Honey, I’m pregnant.”

“Honey!”

“That’s nice dear!”

“Did you hear me? I’m pregnant!”

That was nearly sixteen years ago. Last summer, my wife says “Honey, I’m pregnant! I’m not crazy!”

My reaction, this time, was a bit more lively. Tears ensued and, well, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.  Just like that moment, sixteen years ago when it finally struck me that I was going to be a Dad.

Until I met and married my first wife, being a father was the last thing on my mind. I was a horny geek. I only cared about geek stuff and sex.  Funny thing, once the sex entered the picture, I didn’t even care about the geek stuff.

I was a late bloomer when it came to dating.  Awkward and inexperienced. I had no idea as to what to do or how to act.  Again, being a father was something I had not given a second thought. I was a typical guy, I suppose. Dating and all that comes with it was fun and exhausting. I had a couple of ‘long’ relationships, even thought one was going to be ‘it’. It wasn’t, but that is OK.  It would not be long before I found ‘it’. She was cute, funny and someone I took to right away.

And, once I realized that this cute, funny woman was someone I wanted to settle down with, then I began to think. Maybe this family thing was something I wanted. Yeah, maybe so. We talked about it, a lot. We decided we wanted to be in our own house before raising a child. Almost six years went by…

Fast forward to 1997 when my first son was born.

Suddenly, I had this wonderful little person to help care for.  It was rough at times, for Chase was colicky and, once we got that under control, he started getting sick. A lot. As time went on, we found out that he had an autoimmune problem. He could not produce enough white blood cells to fight off anything. As he got older, it got worse and we ended up having to give him infusions once a month. It worked, and his immune system got much better.

Today, he still gets sick, but not as often and not as long as he used to.

In 2010, Chase’s mother passed away. She died from pneumonia, but had been sick for quite some time.  It was quite a shock to both of us, but Chase was my bedrock and we got through it.

Through Facebook, a relationship with someone blossomed and, last year, I married her.  She is a beautiful, vibrant and all around awesome lady. And, best of all, she puts up with me.

Preston, my wife’s son from a previous marriage, is a smart and full of energy five year old.  Like Chase, Preston is a scary smart kid.  Preston needs little in the way of instruction when it comes to electronic devices. He can grasp certain ideas (but, like any child, there are some that go over his head, like listening to parents) and has an excellent grasp of the English language.  He is lucky in that he has not one, not two but three parents who care deeply for him and spend the time with him.

Xander, our six week old, is just so damned sweet. So sweet, you just want to eat him up, figuratively, of course.  I cannot wait to experience the firsts again, to watch him figure out what those things are that he keeps flailing. To watch him experience solid foods. Take him to his first movie. Watch him walk.  Watch him develop. And, I cannot wait to ride his first rollercoaster.  I got to do that with Chase and Preston. It was very special. I still remember riding one, for the first time, with my Dad. It was the Scooby Doo at Kings Dominion near Richmond.  I remember the Jet Star at the State Fair.  I don’t know why, but the rollercoaster experience seems very special to me and I cannot wait to do so with Xander.

Being a Dad has its downs as well. Having to correct them is never fun. Especially when you know they are fully capable but were just careless. Teaching them that there will be consequences in life for ones actions is, perhaps, the most difficult part of parenting.

Perhaps being able to tell when they need guidance and help is also a difficult aspect.  I know I’ve had issues with it. Both our five and fifteen year old have needed certain help and I was slow to recognize that. But, we have gotten over that. At least, I hope we have. As with anything in life, one never can be certain but you hope you do the best for them.

I hope my sons know I am there for them. It may not always seem like it, but I am. Just as my wonderful wife is, so am I. 

Trying to maintain a balance with the kids, my wife and my own needs is very tricky. Sometimes I am selfish, I know.  I try my best not to be, but I know I don’t always succeed. My bride sometimes lets me know, but, for the most part, she puts up with me and does not complain. She is awesome.

With all it entails, I cherish the role of Dad. I would not trade it for anything in the world.

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