Three weeks ago, we put an incentive program in place to encourage The Littlest Dude to stick with his swimming lessons: a trip to Wonderland. What he didn’t know is I had already planned to take the boys during the summer; it just happened that I was able to use that to my advantage. On Thursday, he had his last lesson (and passed – hooray!); the next day, we planned our Wonderland visit.
Yesterday was a recovery day for me so I didn’t need to build time into my day to run. My oldest wasn’t working and The Littlest Dude was ready to drop everything for a day at Wonderland. To make things even better for us, the weather was expected to be great. Monday was the obvious choice.
The only problem was getting there was a huge stress for me. Despite my age (51), I am still a fairly new driver as I only got my license 8 years ago. I am comfortable driving and I’ve driven on a lot of highways, but I have never driven on the 401, a major highway that goes through Toronto. It has 6 lanes in each direction, collector lanes, other highways and roads passing over it and, at times, traffic facing the lane that you’re driving in. It is overwhelming. Living outside of Toronto, I hardly ever have to use it and, when I do, my husband does the driving. So when Dave said that he wanted to stay home for the day, panic set in. I didn’t voice my anxiety. Instead, I took a deep breath and planned a different route. There was no other way, though. I had to drive on part of Highway 401 to get to Wonderland.
Once we had arrived, I looked forward to spending the rest of the day with the boys, even though it would mean spending about 50 minutes in line for a 3 minute ride. But it was time together and I was fulfilling my promise to the Littlest Dude. I expected that I would stand in line with them, wave as they got on the rides and take some pictures. Wrong. What I didn’t realize was both boys expected me to go on the rides with them. Every.Single.Ride. It didn’t matter that I am afraid of heights. Even when the older of the two chickened out of Riptide, a gondola which takes you up in the air and flips you upside down over water, I still sat beside the Littlest Dude because he really wanted to go on it. Did I get pictures of my ponytail and me hanging upside down – and there were several photo opportunities? No. Not one. But, throughout the day, my sons watched me face my fears. They watched me do things that I really didn’t want to do and I hope it is those memories, more than the memories of the rides themselves, that they took home.
Monday was a rest day from running for me but, in the end, I ended up doing a different kind of training – mental training. While we waited for the Time Warp to begin, the three of us were lying horizontally, facing the ground, locked in a cage. I was nervous about the ride that would take us flying through the air while we always faced down or, if we were on a curve, sideways. As at the start of every other ride, I was worried; my heart was pounding; I was sweating; I didn’t want to be there. Suddenly it hit me. I realized that I was learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Running is the same. There are times when it is going to be hard and it’s going to hurt but, through practice and training, we start to get use to it. Fast paces, longer distances: to take those on, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. At Wonderland, although in a different atmosphere, I took on a load of that same mental toughness.
At the end of the day, the boys and I waited for the big one: The Leviathan, a long coaster which has drops at 85 degree angles. Without a doubt, there were several hundred people ahead of us and I made a point of telling the boys that I was easily the oldest person in line. This was the only ride on which we agreed that I could wait with them, watch them get on and wave them off. Instead, as we waited together, I looked around at all the people and thought “If all of them can do it, so can I. I’ve done the others; this can’t be much worse.” So I did. We got on together and I listened to them laugh and scream.
For us, Wonderland started as a family outing but it became so much more. It reminded The Littlest Dude that I fulfill my promises; the trip was a huge deal and I am sure there are times when he wondered if I would follow through with this one. It forced me to come out of my comfort zone by driving on the 401 and going on rides that were beyond anything that I had imagined. My boys saw that it’s okay to be scared. Most importantly, though, is the trip let my boys see that there are times when you have to do something that you really don’t want to do.
Will we go again? Maybe next year. And if we do, I’ll be able to drive, go on those same rides and try some new ones. I am more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.