A few weeks ago my incredibly brave three-year-old took my mother by the hand and pulled her toward the Dragon Roller Coaster at Centreville, the amazing kid-friendly amusement park on Toronto's Centre Island.
My mom went with her because I refused to. I don't like roller coasters. Even if they don't go upside down.
After the ride, my daughter looked slightly terrified..but also extremely proud of herself. My mom said that as the ride began, she looked over at Willow and noticed a look of panic on her face. "Just close your eyes and scream," my mother told her. And so the two of them did just that.
Somehow this has come to be a perfect metaphor for life with a toddler. Despite the fact that I really really don't like roller coasters, it seems I'm riding one...on a daily basis. This past weekend was the most frightening.
Perhaps it was the full moon.
Or maybe the heat.
Or because her beloved daycare teacher announced she'd be leaving at the end of the week.
Or, maybe it was just because she's 3!
No matter the reason, the roller coaster ride began mid-week and continued through Saturday, culminating in the longest, loudest temper tantrum I've yet to experience.
What made this particular ride so terrifying, was how unpredictable it was. One minute our little girl was her usual, happy self...and the next...we were all running for cover.
How did I handle all of this?
Let's just say I wouldn't be called out by a Andrea Nair for my exemplary parenting skills.
As most roller coasters do, this one started out slowly. I braced myself. I tried to ignore the unreasonable protests. Tried to pretend I didn't hear the whines. I tried to divert her attention. And I asked her calmly what was bothering her.
But, the louder her screams got, the harder it became to ignore. She didn't want the new wagon we had just bought her. It was for the sand, not for the house. She didn't want to take a bath. She wasn't tired. She didn't need to eat something.
I wanted the ride to stop so I tried reasoning with her. "What's really making you so upset?" "Can you please stop yelling?" "Let's go do something fun." No such luck.
The louder she got, the more panicky I felt.
Get. Me. Off. This. Ride.
Every time the roller coaster seemed to be slowing down, I'd take a deep breath. But then it would start up again. I'm pretty sure I cried. I definitely said "I can't do this," about a hundred times. And finally, when I just couldn't take it anymore...
I took my mom's advice: I closed my eyes and screamed.
(Actually, my mom's advice is to read parenting books. I've bought them...just haven't read them yet.)
Thank god, Sunday morning the roller coaster came to a full stop. My little girl woke up smiling and remained in a good mood all day.
But the thing with the toddler roller coaster is...you never know when it will start up again.