It’s our third consecutive ride on the Holiday World carousel.
The third go-round with the same calliope version of “Over the Waves” (yes, that song has a name) burning into my brain.
The same dizzying circular route with “look-at-me” parents waving to their kids in hopes of scoring an Instagrammable photo.
The only thing that differs this time from the last two is that my grandson E (not his real name) opted to bypass the handsome zebra, the brightly colored dragon, the fierce tiger, and the rest of the menagerie and instead … plopped himself down, definitively, on the bench.
The carousel bench? Unarguably the most boring spot on arguably the most boring ride in any amusement park?
A generation ago when I was dealing with my own kids at amusement parks, I may have been outraged. Excuse me, sir, but it’s a carousel. You have a wide range of beasts to choose from, and they go up and down. Do you hear me? Up and down. Besides, do you know how much time, effort, and cash goes into an amusement park trip? And you want to spend a chunk of that precious time on … a bench bolted to the floor of this ride?
That was then, though. Today, I’m actually good with E’s choice. In part, that’s because this kid is wonderful and can do no wrong in my eyes. He is, after all, my grandson, and he gives great running hugs.
But it’s also because, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m kinda dizzy and kinda tired. And it’s only 1 p.m.
My stamina was certainly greater with my kids back in the day. There was the time I, solo, took three of them (including one still in diapers) on a spontaneous trip to Universal Studios Florida, driving straight through to avoid extra hotel costs. In my prime, I could do the early entrance at Disney World and still be fully functioning by the time the late-night fireworks ended.
This excursion is different, though. This trek to Holiday World is the first time I’m visiting an amusement park with a grandchild—the first time I’ve had a generational buffer (aka, Katie, my daughter/his mom) between me and the kid I’m chasing from ride to ride.
While my vigor isn’t quite what it used to be, there are some distinct advantages to grandfathering in amusement park land.
First of all, this little guy is too young to even think about roller coasters. (I’ve never been a fan but took a few nauseating rides for the team when my kids were of age.)
Second, it’s certainly a little easier on the wallet when the kid can be steered away from gift shops, arcades, and alleged games of skill just by picking him up and parking him on my shoulders. And the dude hasn’t reached the “I want this/I want that” stage of park hunger. Prepacked snacks do just fine until we’re ready to actually sit and eat lunch. Plus, when we do indulge in bonuses like a soft pretzel, Pops gets to eat what the kid doesn’t.
That’s me. Pops. He calls me “Pops.”
Rather than roller coasters and pop-a-shots, the little guy is more excited to give a high five to Holidog (spoiler: It’s someone in a character costume).
And his desire for getting wet is fairly easy to divert to manageable areas. Today, we’re dodging the whole Splashin’ Safari Water Park side and, instead, are satisfying his aquatic wishes in the simpler Magic Waters spray jets in Holidog’s FunTown. And, lucky for me (and my knees), his mom is willing to make the climb to keep a hand on the damp darling as he ventures to the top of the neighboring Holidog’s Treehouse. My job is to wait for him at the bottom of the slide and try to shoo away other people’s kids who try to climb up the slide. I can handle that.
As for actual rides, beyond the carousel, there’s little or no waiting—even on a busy Saturday—for excursions on such 54-inch-and-under attractions as Dasher’s Seahorses, Dancer’s Fish, and the concerningly named Tippecanoes.
The toughest thing for me is coming to grips with the reality that this day is an oasis. As much as I’d like to, I won’t be taking him home with me after we leave the park. While I’ll be heading back to Indy, he and his mom will be going due south.
As we traverse the park, I’m trying to avoid thinking about the limited time we have. Not just in the day, but in the big picture. He’ll get older, and so will I, and those two factors will soon put an end to my ability to carry him on my shoulders.
He probably won’t remember this specific trip to this specific amusement park. But I hope when he is the age I am now, he will remember that he had a Pops who would go as many rounds on the merry-go-round as he wanted.