Roller coaster family

One of the great joys – and hardest parts – of becoming a new family by having children is figuring out who they really are. Do they love to read, like you do? Do they love hiking and camping? Are they morning people or night owls? Do they tend to see things as funny or offensive? Is their first reaction one of compassion? Do they work hard for their goals? There are so many things you discover over time about your children. Many of these things you can influence. It’s hard to get a kid who loves to read if they never have any books around, whereas a constant supply of books and time set aside for reading increases the odds dramatically … but not guaranteed.

Some of these identities extend from the individual to the family. We learn who “we” are. “We” go camping together. “We” play board games. “We” play soccer. For this period of twenty some odd years, we’re a team who does a lot of things together, or not at all.

This weekend, Adam and I asked our family a big question.

Do “we” like roller coasters?

Six Flags New England - I didn't take this one!
Six Flags New England – I didn’t take this picture!

There’s a lot riding on this question. If the answer is absolutely not, then I probably never ride the big coasters again. It’s not worth it to go with reluctant kids, and it’s probably not something I’d do after I have no kid responsibilities. I mean, maybe my life would hold one or two more big coasters… but not many more. With Thane at the 52″ mark, this was the first time we’d be able to investigate and really thoroughly address the question. I confess to being a bit nervous – I really like roller coasters and would be sad not to share that with my kids.

I’m happy to report, the kids loved the coasters.

We tried a bunch: the one built in 1941, the one where you bounce up and down from a great height. We went on the Mind Eraser three times, when a gentle rain dissuaded everyone else from riding it. Then the skies opened and there was thunder, which means nothing was going on. We had lunch (totally breaking from the Pantry Challenge for a day), bought ponchos that were apparently spun from the most precious plastic-sheep ever raised and waited for the rain to stop.

Legit downpour
Legit downpour

This was the best possible thing to have happen, since most folks left at that point. We bought too much fudge and waited. Miraculously, the weather cleared and we had fast run of almost all the rides. It was phenomenal.

Bumper cars were first to open
Bumper cars were first to open

Then we hit the big rides, with very very few lines. Our favorite coaster was the Cyclone. It was a perfect coaster – great drops, twists, upside curves… but not so shaky or vertiginous that we felt like barfing. The kids loved it. We loved it. I think we ran it three or four times.

Grey in line for the Cyclone
Grey in line for the Cyclone
Thane in line for the 300 foot swingset
Thane in line for the 300 foot swingset

At the end of the day, Adam wanted to do one of the really big coasters. Thane is 52″, not 56″, so there was a category of coaster out reach for him. So Adam and Grey went to do the big one, while Thane and I tested our courage against 300 feet of elevation. Thane loved it. He was phenomenal. After every roller coaster he’d say “That wasn’t even scary! Let’s go again…”

So. This weekend I discovered, we’re a roller coaster family.

Especially if the roller coasters come with non-stop sugary treats
Especially if the roller coasters come with non-stop sugary treats

Roller Coaster Ride

It’s taken me years to finally figure out the rhythm and the schedule of the grownup me. It’s hard when you leave behind the beginning and conclusions, the milestones, the counting down of your school life. All of a sudden, there are no logical breaks. You do not get a fresh start every fall. You do not matriculate, commence or otherwise change. It feels as though life is now a blur of barely differentiated days: a gradient instead of an ordinal scale.

But finally, after more than a decade of careful attention, I think I have it figured out. Beginning in January is a long, slow slog up the tracks of the year. We go seven or eight months with only a handful of three day weekends. There’s a particularly appalling stretch from mid-February to the end of May when every single week has five workdays in it. Before I had kids I resented this time of year as boring, undifferentiated, tedious. Now I find it enjoyable in its own right. That slog-uphill time is the time of year when not every weekend is claimed, when I have time to read novels or play video games, when yes-I-can-get-together-this-Friday happens. You spend a weekend doing something that doesn’t Make Great Memories and somehow it doesn’t matter as much. I mean, it’s not like you wasted great weather this weekend.

As the weather warms, the snow melts and May arrives, things start heating up. Suddenly, “it seems like a pity to waste” re-enters the vocabulary on Saturdays. I realize that the next three weekends are fully committed. Whole blocks of the calendar disappear under markings like “Camp Gramp”, “Gen Con” or (this year) “London”. These are, of course, completely awesome things. Summer is the high season for adventures. The pictures pile up on the memory cards, the laundry is carefully calibrated around how many bathing suits my eldest son has (and his !$@#$ summer camp t-shirts that must be worn twice a week) and take-out menus get a good workout. But still, there’s that feeling of space in life. It’s summer. Vacation is coming. This is going to be great!

Sitting in Ashland, sipping my 93rd cup of coffee at Dragonfly while reading “A Civil Campaign” (again), I had this sensation of being on a roller coaster. All winter and spring it had chugged its way up the mountain of tracks as I gazed around at the altitude-revealed scenery. That moment in Asland we were at the very top of the tracks, and only the weight of the cars behind us kept us from our full plummeting speed.

So today… wheeeeee!!!!!

From here to 2013 is a crazy ride. I’m conducting a wedding on Saturday. Adam goes to Gencon soon. I have approximately 93 batches of jam to make. We’re camping again. School starts. My MIL arrives. My birthday happens. I get started on the labor of love that is my Christmas cards (yes! In September!). Then Grey’s birthday. Somewhere in here we go apple picking and then make at least two batches of apple butter. Two weeks later, Adam’s birthday. A week after that, Thane’s birthday. Three days after that, Halloween. Two weeks after that, Mocksgiving. Two more weeks to Thanksgiving. (Ironically, the only breather in this schedule. Unless I get inspired to go somewhere … which knowing me I probably will.) Then holy-cow-how-is-it-Advent-already? Then Adam’s gone for a week for a work conference. Then Christmas, followed by New Years. And all that stuff? That’s the EVERY YEAR stuff. (Well, except the wedding this weekend.) There are always exceptional and unusual events added into that mix. Zoom! No wonder I feel like my schedule is picking up speed.

I find it funny that this month, of all months, I would decide to start a big new project ( that requires consistent attention. I think I do this every year. It takes me a few months after that ride to get my breath – and my courage back. But then my lizard-brain notices a pattern of several months of under utilization! Obviously circumstances have changed and I now have more disposable time! Let’s come up with some new ideas we want to try, ok? Great idea. My lizard brain has not figured out the pattern that my mammal brain lays out here.

Still, maybe this is the year that, uh, somehow that schedule is not jam packed? Maybe my new writing time plan (on the bus on the way home on a teeny netbook) will somehow mean I actually DO have more disposable time for my new blog? Even if not, in the most hectic days of October I will be able to remind myself that come January it won’t be quite so crazy.

Does your adult life have a consistent seasonal pattern? How much does it line up – or do you make it line up – with that old academic calendar? When are your busy times and your free times, or is it more consistent for you?