What follows was originally posted over at Coasterbuzz. While there is crossover among us, I know not everyone checks in at both websites, so I thought I would post this here as well, especially since Part 1 takes place at Cedar Point. You know it's a long story when there are two parts. Alas:
Those of you who know me with regards to what I actually do (professionally and/or personally) with regards to the context that follows might find this especially sad or hilarious…or somewhere in-between. That said, there is no short version of this tale, but I will try to be as concise as possible. If you like to read (or need help falling asleep), please continue.
Part 1: “I wanna go upside down Daddy”
Early June, Cedar Point.
I have two daughters; Kylah (10) and Hayden (6). Like many siblings, there is a constant and beautiful tension between the two, with the younger wanting to do everything the older one does. With regards to the obscure world of roller coasters, Hayden has a peculiar advantage of being in the 95th percentile with regards to height; at 6 years old she is already 50 (and change) inches tall. This of course means that she has the opportunity to ride machines that her older sister could not at such a young age, and she is all about breaking through any barrier she can as soon as possible. She is completely determined to ride Millennium Force before this season ends at age 6. The courage she exudes is inspiring to me.
On our first early-season trip to Cedar Point this year, Hayden had a very specific goal; she wanted to ride Corkscrew so she could go upside down for the first time. Words cannot express how big of a deal this was for her. Since Christmas, she had been talking about making this happen, and her big sis and mommy and daddy did all they could to help her get ready as the trip got closer. On the very first day of our 4 day trip at Cedar Point, she got a glimpse of Corkscrew, and picked daddy to ride with her (flutter!) for her first time. Let’s go!
Sometimes going upside down is scary. Especially when you’re 6, and especially when you have never done it before. When it comes to being scared, we’re pretty cool with the ideas that 1) it’s ok to be scared, and 2) it’s ok to cry if you feel like that’s what you need to do. That’s just part of getting through something. Uh oh.
As we crawled into the train, it happened. A few tears started to well up in Hayden’s eyes, and she asked daddy to hold her hand on the restraint during the ride (flutter!). While I was deep in a serious daddy-daughter moment, I noticed a worker standing over Hayden and then looking back at me quite sternly. She looked at me and said (and I quote, as it is etched in my brain); “Sir, we cannot allow you to torture your daughter. She clearly does not want to ride, and we cannot let this happen.”
Yes, she said the word torture. This will become more significant 2 months later in Part 2, but for now I will simply finish this first adventure with what happened in that moment and just after.
I was dumbfounded. First, all my attention is on Hayden and helping her through this moment, and now I have a Corkscrew ride worker telling me that I am torturing my daughter. Am I a bad daddy? Am I torturing my daughter? Hell no. For clarity, Hayden is by no means crying; there are some tears but that is from the fear she is experiencing. To make it even more interesting, the worker actually asked Hayden personally…”is this something you want to do or something your daddy is making you do?” Hayden told the worker directly that she wanted to ride (with no prompting from me, mind you), but this worker was not convinced, and channeled her inner social-worker, looking at me and yet again pronouncing that I was torturing my child. And yes, she again said the word “torture”. To be honest, all this over-attention to the situation was making Hayden more nervous.
I honestly thought this was the end of Hayden’s journey towards her goal. We had now been sitting in the station ready to dispatch for an awkward amount of time, and everyone within earshot had now heard that I was a very bad daddy. Just when I thought it was over, a second worker rushed over, and told the other worker (the social worker) that Hayden would be fine. In fact, she actually gave the still-tearful Hayden a high-five and told her that 1) “she could do it”, and 2) “she would be fine”. The folks in the station started clapping for Hayden (special thanks to the extra motivational dude in the Megadeth t-shirt), and she held my hand as the button was pushed.
Lift hill…..drop…..loop……double corkscrew inversions….brake run……laughter……success!
The moment we got back in the station, I told Hayden to go up to the social worker and tell her how much she loved the ride and how proud of herself she was (she was smiling ear-to-ear and absolutely beaming with pride). She did. I also took a moment to calmly tell the worker that someday, if she has kids, she just might understand what just took place.
By day 4 of our trip, Hayden was riding Corkscrew by herself. Level up, Hayden. Level up.
My points of inquiry to all of you are various. Have you ever encountered something like this as a parent? Is there some sort of policy with regards to workers and when to let a child ride? Are a few tears not a part of breaking through a fearful moment for some people...especially the little ones among us?
Am I a bad daddy?
(I wish this was the end of the story, but there is a Part 2 that took place at Kings Dominion)
Promoter of fog.
My little girl just turned six in June, the day before her birthday (so still 5) we took her to Cedar Point. She is also tall for her age, just over 48 inches. First stop was Iron Dragon which is loved, next stop was Millennium Force.
She was not excited and complained several times while we were walking up that she did not want to ride. It was too tall and scary, etc, etc. Her mom and I pressed forward anyway, and got her on the ride. She wasn't crying or screaming or anything, but was very nervous. No one said anything or tried to stop us or anything like you experienced. She survived and rode Skyhawk (I really thought she would enjoy this one, but was even more scared waiting to board than on MF.), and Gemini, and Magnum, and the Mine Ride, and even MF again (though she required quite a bit of coaxing the 2nd time as well!)
I don't feel bad for making her ride it at all. She has always enjoyed rides and sure maybe she wasn't quite ready for Millennium Force yet, but she isn't scarred for life and she enjoyed her day. Nothing wrong with having a child face the fear of a roller coaster. Calling it torture is absolutely WAAAY over the line by that employee. You are your child's parent, you know them best, and putting them on a roller coaster is certainly not torture.
My daughter talks about Cedar Point a lot since we were there a few weeks ago and keeps asking when we can go again, so we clearly didn't scar her too badly with the big bad rides! Can't wait till she's tall enough for the rest of them!!
Glad you brought this up. My daughter (9) wanted to take her cousin, my niece (7) on Gemini. Her mother was with us. She cried and it was similar to what you are describing. The worker in this instance forced us to get off the ride because she was crying and refused to let her ride. It was actually even more dramatic than what you are describing.
Thankfully we talked her tears down and rode later in the day... she LOVED it, but I felt the employee went out of her way to insert herself into a situation that did NOT concern her, to the point she refused to let us ride.
OP, I wouldn't considered what you did bad at all. She actually wanted to ride it. It would be different had you forced her on it. I've always let my kids kind of come in to their own as far as rides go. 3 of my 4 love them, the other I know never will.
A long time ago I remember hearing that a park had a policy against allowing any riders who were crying. It was so long ago, I am not even sure what park it was. It is possible multiple parks have this policy.
Say NO to Maverick!
When I was 6 years old my mom dragged me on the Geauga Lake Big Dipper kicking and screaming and crying. I was surely a bratty basketcase. But that experience opened the door to a hobby that has defined the majority of my life. Does that happen to everyone? Of course not. But 9 times out of 10 the tears on the lifthill turn into “can we go again?!?!”
When my youngest was 8 or 9 he willingly got on American Thunder at SFSTL but right before dispatch he started breaking down. The op offered to let him off but I said no and they dispatched. He was fine once it got going but I do regret that decision. He was ready for coasters two seasons later.
Last summer we took advantage of a $5 per person offer on Xtreme Skyflyer at KI, about half way up he started breaking down. The ops lowered us down and made us Whole with a refund (they didn’t have to do that).
I think there is a big difference between tears of fear and verbally requesting not to ride or be let off.
Right? I completely agree. One of the points I want to emphasize is that it was Hayden's idea, she wanted to do it, and she has been taught that it's OK have a few tears when you're scared. I wouldn't categorize what she was doing as crying; there were tears welling up in her eyes, and there was no wailing, no screaming....just calm and focused on the goal with daddy to help.
And when she was asked if she wanted to ride, she did not hesitate in saying yes. If it wasn't for that second worker...well...here is part 2 of the saga....
Part 2: We’re happy. And we know it.
Let me begin the sequel by saying that after the ordeal at Cedar Point in June, my wife and I both chalked it up to 1) it being early in the season, and 2) most likely a new employee who was over-enforcing a rule (which, again, I understand the premise of in a situation that is warranted). It never crossed my mind that we might encounter a similar situation at another Cedar Fair park, especially a park that let my wife and I take beers onto their Ferris wheel the previous year (if you’re curious, here is a link to the trip report for that one).
Just last week, we took a week-long family expedition to Sandbridge, VA (just south of Virginia Beach). Like the previous year, we stopped at Kings Dominion for a couple days as we made our way back to Ohio. Little Hayden has been really interested with Steel Vengeance ever since it opened; fueled in part by how much mommy and daddy (and sis Kylah) love it, but also how she was told she was tall enough to ride it (48 inches!) only to have that status removed shortly thereafter. But no fear, Hayden….for at Kings Dominion there is (drumroll) Twisted Timbers….or as Hayden calls it, “Baby Steel Vengeance”. The best part, Hayden…you’re tall enough!
Hayden had two goals on this trip; 1) Twisted Timbers, and 2) Anaconda. She also somewhat dictated how our first day at Kings Dominion would go. On the 2 hour journey from the ocean to Kings Dominion, she told all of us that the first thing we are doing is going straight to Baby Steel Vengeance. She even had the park map out showing Kylah exactly where we needed to go. Once again, Daddy and Mommy (and Kylah) are so proud of this little daredevil.
We arrived at Kings Dominion, and Hayden is unfazed. “Twisted Timbers first, Hayden?” we ask. “Of course”, she responds…”that way I can get it out of the way and I’m not scared of anything!”
To Candy Apple Grove we go….
Twisted Timbers was a walk-on. We made our way through the queue (love the queue, by the way), and up the stairs to the station. Much like in part 1, everything is drama-free until we board the train. And just like in part 1, Hayden is riding with daddy (flutter!) for her first ride. This time, however, Mommy and Kylah are right behind us, so there is a family witness for what is about to happen.
As I am helping Hayden with her seatbelt (and reminding her not to touch the lap bar!@#!), the little tears for fears start to well up in her eyes. Now, again, I had put what happened at Cedar Point out of my mind, and once again I am totally invested in this moment with my family. Mommy is patting her shoulders from behind, big sis is telling her how awesome the ride will be, and I am focused on holding her hand and telling her how brave she is, etc…and she is good to go.
The ride-op came to push my lap-bar down, and took a look at Hayden, and then back at me. I instantly knew exactly what was about to happen, and I felt this little fire of rage lit somewhere in my stomach…maybe the large intestine (it’s hard to pinpoint). I held onto Hayden’s hand as the worker said the following:
“Sir, your daughter clearly does not want to ride, and you are torturing her. I cannot allow a parent to torture their child like this. We are going to have to ask you to get off the ride”.
She said torture. Twice.
I thought my wife was going to lose it. She had heard the Corkscrew tale, but wasn’t actually on the ride to witness it. Now she knew the reality I had lived in back in June, and now we were all a part of it. I told the worker as calmly as I could that I was not torturing my child, and that her tears were simply a part of how she gets through something she is scared of. Just like on Corkscrew, she leaned into Hayden (while eyeing me like a hawk) and asked her if she really wanted to ride. Hayden looked her dead in the eye and told her that she really wanted to ride but she was scared. We’re good to go, right? Nope. No second employee to help us this time. No dude in a Megadeth t-shirt to cheer us on. Only shame.
We were asked to disembark. The lapbars were released, and we were asked to get off the train.
To say I was pissed would be an understatement, but there was no time for recourse. We were once again holding up the ride for an awkward amount of time, and as I tried to explain to Hayden what was happening, she started to bawl her eyes out. Great job, Kings Dominion! Why was she crying so hard? Because she really wanted to ride it, and you just kicked her off the ride. She was honest with you and openly expressed her fear and courage at the same time, and you just stepped on it.
I think the first thing I said (loudly) to my wife on our way down the stairs (as I consoled Hayden) was that I was going to find the park manager. Whatever. I was angry. But then, another idea popped in my head, thanks to what Hayden said to me next. She was a mess, and as we sat near the photo booth waiting for Mommy and Kylah to get off the ride she looked up at me with her teary eyes and asked…”are you mad at me for being scared?” Dad mode engaged. No way am I letting this be the end to her little dream, and no way am I letting this be the takeaway she has from this experience.
Apparently at a Cedar Fair park, a child cannot show any tears, or their social workers will swoop in and remove them from the ride. I took Hayden aside and explained to her that if she wanted to ride, she 1) unfortunately cannot cry (even though it’s ok!), 2) needs to smile, and 3) needs to really tell the worker that she wants to ride. Like a champion, she held back her tears and told the very same ride-ops that this is something she really wanted to do, all while displaying an ear-to-ear smile. Our lapbars were locked down, and here is where it started to get very strange.
The operator in the booth had her eyes locked on us. Every ride op in the station had their eyes locked on us. We did not dispatch (mind you, train number 2 is waiting outside waiting to get off). After a solid (and weirdly silent) 30 seconds of everyone sitting the train ready to go, the operator in the booth starting singing “If you’re happy and you know it…”…(I wish I was kidding)...and they kept their eyes on Hayden and myself the entire time. This went on for another good 30-45 seconds, and like any 6 year old, Hayden was simply playing along, clapping on queue. Because she’s happy. And she knows it. After they were “satisfied”, we were dispatched, and the rest is sweet RMC history. I once again had Hayden explain to the social worker how much she loved the ride, and this time the ride-op looked at me and said “I was just doing my job”. I took the high road and simply enjoyed Hayden’s moment with her. All told, she got 6 rides on Twisted Timbers over two days, and we ended our vacation with a night ride in the front seat of the ride….which was her idea.
Level up, Hayden.
Promoter of fog.
Haha - inner social worker - that's perfect! I can totally picture this happening and I can see it from a dad's POV and the employee's since I've been in both shoes. :)
For what it's worth, when I worked at CP, there was a rule that scared kids shouldn't ride. I had my own rule that unless I saw you being forced (like physically or verbally berated to sit down in the seat), if you were sitting down in the train, you were okay to ride. A few tears or hand holding isn't the end of the world. 90% of kids that left the station like this came back smiling. And hell, we had an interval to hit! I don't think I'm insensitive or a bad daddy and I doubt you are either.
A beautiful story of a beautiful family, and a chilling reminder what it must have been like living in the Soviet Bloc, with eyes always on you making sure you conform to THEIR standards.
Amazing, and I applaud you keeping your calm.
Quantum Loop used to be located at SeaBreeze when I was growing up. My Mom forced me on that ride with tears flowing. Then came TTD and that brought us to CP. (I'll never know how one little roller coaster made me fearless)
Looking back I feel like some compensation from momma bear would be nice considering what she started!
Bottom line though, a kid that doesn't want to ride......simply won't. Crying and anxiety is all apart of graduating up to new and bigger rides. Hell it's a good metaphor for life. I don't have kids but being shamed for having your own child next to you with some tears is just sad.
Let the damn parent decide.
I had a similar issue in the past with my daughter Charlotte, I believe she was 6 at the time. Before I tell the story, there was a major factor at play here... she sleep well the night before, which in turns meant that something small and meaningless could set her off for no apparent reason. Things were going well, until she wanted to ride Skyhawk. She was all excited, until they assigned us seats. The seats were next to each other, but not in the same pair. The picture below hopefully makes sense of it.
Anyways, walking up to get on the ride, she starts crying (not screaming, just a few tears running down her face), simply because it wasn't the seat she wanted. Surprisingly similar to your story kevinJ, I got the same "Sir, you can't torture your child" spiel. My daughter explained that she was upset with where she was seated, but wanted to ride. We had the same deal with the ride host asking her if she wants to ride, while the ride op and everyone else stairs at me (because I'm a bad parent torturing my child). They ended up letting her ride, but man I thought it was odd. Glad to see I'm not the only one that's had odd "torture" encounters.
That picture of Skyhawk looks like it was taken mid-afternoon on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. But Cedar Point isn't open then.
OSU/Michigan gear - because people don't wear that stuff year round in a place that's situated right between the 2 regions ;)
Also, sweet Firehawk First Rider shirt on that dude 2nd from the left. I'm not proud at all to say that I also have one of those shirts.
380 MF laps
Smoking Area Drone Pilot
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