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.
Bad dad? NO! This would be the definition of a GREAT dad who helps and understands HIS kids! It does suck that a daddy/daughter moment is sort of ruined because some ride op thinks she knows your kid better then you. I remember my first big roller coaster ride with my dad and had a similar situation, I will write about that later.
This is a stupid policy that cedar fair has. The same exact thing happened to me at cp when i took my kids 20yrs ago. My daughter was crying when we were getting on iron dragon and we were not able to ride. My kids had been going to parks for a few years and rode boulder dash many times. I knew that once she rode it she would want to do it again. Imo no park should try to parent someones kids who they dont even know unless they are putting them in danger and surely theres nothing dangerous on a tame coaster like Iron dragon.
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The response from the op was bad- but that policy comes from a good place. Kids have done unsafe things to try and defeat safety restraints when they panic.
What a story! You must be my long-lost brother, because I'm in a very similar situation, in that I also have two girls, aged 8 and 5, and my older daughter, Allison, has shown more courage than I ever did at her age. Like Hayden, going upside down on Corkscrew this year was a big deal for Allison. She hit 48" last year, and I was able to get us into media day for Mystic Timbers. That was her first big coaster, and as she sat next to me laughing and screaming and wanting more, all I could think about was myself as a 7-year-old, whining and crying and saying, "Never again!"
Unfortunately, that was the only coaster riding opportunity we had last year, so Allison had to wait another full year before she could conquer Cedar Point's lineup. We visited the weekend before the 4th, and once again her bravery was amazing. Even big, bad Millennium Force was no problem. I mean, there was some trepidation, but she pushed through, loved it, and declared it her new favorite. Well, that was before the ride robbed her of her innocence, which I'll get to in a second.
Allison also really liked Corkscrew, so much so that it vaulted to second place in her ranking. Again, 8-year-old me going upside down? No thanks. Eight-year-old Allison? Bring it on! We let her buy a button key chain for every big coaster she rode, and we made a little game out of lining them up in order, from best to worst. Her rankings were frankly embarrassing -- she correctly had Millennium at #1, but after that it was a mess (the aforementioned Corkscrew at #2, Magnum dead last ?!?) -- so I told her I was withholding her coaster enthusiast card until she got it right.
Okay, about the Millennium incident. Allison's fourth time riding, first night ride. Little bit different beast than during the daytime, but she was ready. She and my wife Amy were going to ride first, and I was going to wait behind with our younger daughter, Ava, and then use Parent Swap to get me ride once they were done. Once I knew they were in the station about to board, I made my way with Ava up the exit ramp to await their return and do the swap. There were two trains running at the time. One train came back and was unloaded. I wasn't paying much attention at first, but after a few minutes of no activity, I realized that the train was still sitting in the unload station and that the other train was unaccounted for. I surmised that it must've been stuck on the lift, even though I couldn't see it because my view of it was obstructed by the station building. Great. So I tried to keep Ava entertained while we waited for things to get running again. A few more minutes passed, and as some people either left or started to sit down in the loading station, I was able to get a better look at the crowd. No sign of Amy or Allison.
I made my way to the loading platform to confirm that they weren't there and thus had to be on the train that was MIA. I then moved to the front and peaked up at the lift hill, and there it was: the blue train, stranded in the darkness about a third of the way up. Thirty six (give or take) helpless souls, hanging precariously 100 feet in the air. Abandoned. Forgotten. Lost forever.
I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to turn to Ava and tell her that daddy had to rescue his girls, and that he may not make it back. I could scale the tower, bust the lap bars with an ax, and then repel down the side with a fire hose, my wife and daughter on my back, just before the train exploded. Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard.
I could wait until maintenance figured it out. The train was stuck for around 30 minutes, and I watched as a few guys rode up in the elevator cart to talk to riders and look at the train. Finally, it restarted, to the cheers of everyone in the station. Allison had tears streaming down her face as they came back to the station. They were both pretty shaken up, but eventually everyone's nerves were calmed, and Allison forgave Millennium Force for her mischief.
As far as your experience goes, of course you're not a bad daddy, and of course that ride host was way over the line. I get that they need to be on the lookout for people that could potentially panic, and I can even see where some parents might try to squeeze more out of their kids than they are ready for, but I don't see anything wrong with your situation. The social worker's reaction was over the top, plain and simple.
I think it's probably a good idea for ride operators to watch out for signs of forced riding, but it seems pretty clear that some adjustments are needed. Maybe they can hire an outside consultant to help with those changes. Perhaps a psychologist who is an expert in helping people conquer their fear of roller coasters. Know anyone? 😀
Walt Schmidt - Co-Publisher, PointBuzz
I'll leave my card with the next ride host. ;)
If it's any consolation Bakeman, Hayden's top coaster lineup (I just asked her) looks like this:
1. Twisted Timbers
3. Backlot Stunt Coaster
3. Anaconda (Kings Dominion)
4. Pipe Scream (Stop it, she's allowed to call it a coaster)
5. Apple Zapple
Can you tell we just got back from a trip to Kings Dominion? Ah yes, Twisted Timbers...that's where Part 2 of this story takes place. I'll have time to type it out in a bit.
And yes, I totally understand that this policy is in place for a reason. We probably all cringe when we see a parent trying to drag a screaming/crying kid on to a ride, but that was not what was happening. The thing is, the ride-op almost seemed proud that she "caught me" in an act of....torture. Like she had just saved Hayden from a cruel reality, showing her that there are people that care...
Promoter of fog.
I thought with this title that there would be something pornographic here, so what a relief. :)
What a strange encounter. I've been having moments like this for the last few years, as Simon has struggled with first ride anxiety a number of times. The truth is that parents generally know their kid best, and encouragement is definitely what they need. We had this situation a few weeks ago for Expedition Everest, and an outside observer may not have appreciated what was going on. The backwards part of the ride is what he was unsure about, so when they assigned us to the last car, where in his mind it went "faster" backwards, he flipped out hard. Simply asking to ride in the front, which they accommodated (because Disney) instantly solved the problem. And of course, he loved it.
So yeah, you did everything right, of course.
That's asinine. I'd be livid if a ride op suggested I was torturing my kid and held up the ride because of it. Sorry, that's completely out of line, policy or not.
I think it's a good idea to check and see if everything is okay if you hear a child (or adult) screaming bloody murder prior to dispatching a ride vehicle. At Disney we were always trained to verbally communicate with anyone who seemed to be in distress prior to beginning a ride. 99 times out of 100 it was fine, and we generally went with the parent. But, on a few occasions, we would remove a rider prior to dispatching. Typically it was an adult who would go into panic attack mode. Occasionally it would be a child, who we would then try and talk to and get them on the next vehicle if we could get them to conquer their fear.
Policy is at least somewhat understandable. But execution is the key. And if you run quickly to "you are torturing your kid" the execution is likely to be poor.
I guess I’m lucky because my kid that struggles with anxiety waits until the ride is over to melt down.
Its amazing to me how some people lack skill in how to approach a customer in an awkward situation.
I’ve also seen kids crying their eyes out because they “don’t want to go” and I’ve in turn see parents bawl them out and literally twist their arms. “You’re gonna go and you’ll like it. Don’t be a baby.” There’s all kinda of wrong in that not the least of which is feeling like I’m on some episode of What Would You Do?
I think that policy is pretty out of line. I could understand asking the kid whether they actually want to ride but assuming that in a 1.5 second interaction you already know what the kid wants more than a) the kid themselves or b) the parent sitting next to them is completely ridiculous.
Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."
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. Like Bakeman mentioned above, there is no way 6-year old Kevin (that’s me) would be even thinking about riding a ride like this.
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.
I used to have big time coaster anxiety and then love it as I got off the ride. I'm sure glad no ride op ever accused my best friend of torturing me while I conquered my fears. I purposely put my kids on coasters as soon as they hit the magical height so they wouldn't have time to develop an anxiety over it. The first one was kinda clueless when I put him on Big Dipper. He just knew his cousins were riding whatever it was and that was good enough for him. He was doing every coaster he could by the end of the day. My younger one was a bit hesitant about upside down.
This actually pissed me off reading this! She used the exact same words as the other ride op at a different park? Sounds like Cedar Fair needs some sort of wrist band for little kids who may be scared but get clearance from their parents to an adult manager. I understand if a kid is wailing or hyper ventilating and the ride op says no. Tears in her eyes? Thats just piss poor training on Cedar Fairs side.
I want to visit a CF park and start crying and insisting I don't want to ride and have my wife pull me on to the train and see if they accuse her of torturing me.
Seriously though, "torture" is a very specific and odd word to use. Then to have it used at two separate parks?
I can't imagine that's a new policy/training piece coming from nowhere. I wonder what the story behind it really is.
Right? Had it not been for the utterance of that word....again...my reaction would be slightly different. Two parks, two months apart, using the same language? Could it be a coincidence? I suppose, but my assumption is that it is based on a training somewhere up the chain.
Promoter of fog.
I remember when I was 7 and my parents brought me to Hersheypark. I was terrified and crying when we boarded Sooperdooperlooper because it was the first inverting coaster I'd been on. I was all smiles at the end just like your daughter. I wouldnt blame the ride op too much, a child crying in public is a little alarming these days for a lot of reasons. Don't take it personally
I wouldnt let her ride alone though dude, what was your thought process there? Shes 6, if it was my daughter I wouldnt let her out of my sight. Plus Corkscrew is fun and I wouldnt mind repeat riding it with my adorable daughter.
"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025
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