Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Blast of Anxiety

As a parent, how do you know how much you should push your child to go beyond their comfort zone? When do you know that you have gone too far?

Sometimes you learn the hard way.

This year, we did not have a big birthday party for Kai. Instead, we decided to go to Wisconsin Dells.

Wisconsin Dells bills itself as the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” and driving along the main strip, it seems a bit like a children’s version of Las Vegas with its many mini golf courses, amusement parks, and boat rides along with all the numerous waterparks. Being winter, most of these attractions were closed, but we stayed at one of the largest indoor waterparks.

With Kai’s recital on Saturday, we left home on Sunday morning and arrived at the waterpark early in the afternoon. The three-day weekend meant that we could still enjoy more than a full day and night there.

We have now gone to several waterparks with Kai and the experience is usually pretty similar. He starts out being very nervous and wants to do the lazy river first as it is not at all scary to him. After that, it takes a lot of cajoling to get him to go down a waterslide. If we are lucky, he will go down the slide, have fun, and want to do it over and over.

This time was not much different. We started with the lazy river, and then did three tube slides. I was a bit disappointed that he did not want to do more. Perhaps all the waiting in line for the slides dampened Kai’s enthusiasm. And he probably just really wanted to go to the indoor theme park that was in another part of the resort.

As this trip was his birthday present, I went along with his wishes. But I told him that we would come back to the waterpark the next morning to do the last tube slide that we had not yet tried.

The rest of the afternoon we played mini golf, rode go-karts, and played in the arcade. Not surprisingly, Kai later said that the mini golf was the favorite part of the weekend.

We brought dinner back to our room, then went to the resort’s bowling alley and bowled one game before calling it a night.

The next morning, we had time to go to the waterpark for about an hour before returning to our room to shower and check out.

My wife and I decided that we would get to the waterpark right as it opened. We wanted to try the one tube slide we had not yet done. Master Blaster is described as an uphill roller coaster waterslide. The lines for it the day before had been long, so we thought it would be smart to go there first to avoid the crowd.

When we entered the waterpark, my wife walked quickly toward the ride. Kai did not walk so fast.

He kept saying, “I’m scared!”

I held his hand and tried to reassure him that it was not scary. Although the concept of a water roller coaster sounds frightening, I really did not think that it would be scarier than the other slides we had done.

“I want to do a relaxing ride first.”

I explained how we would do this ride first and then we would do the lazy river.

As we finally got to the slide, Kai grew even more anxious. He climbed the stairs very slowly.

I told him that he would have fun and pulled him along.

As we neared the top, we caught up with Mom, who was waiting for us.

Kai said, “I feel sick.”

Kai often says that when he wants to get out of doing something.

I was getting a little irritated that he was resisting so much.

As I was about to tell him that he would be fine, it happened.

He threw up.

A lot.

In that moment, Master Blaster had taken on a whole different meaning as Kai blasted his vomit out all over the platform.

I notified a nearby employee about what my son did, and then we rushed Kai down the stairs and found the nearest bathroom.

He did not vomit any more. I cleaned him up. He said he felt fine.

He said he wanted to do a relaxing ride.

We told him that we could just sit for a while, but he really wanted to do the lazy river. This time, we listened to him.

As a parent, I find it difficult sometimes, to judge how hard to push your child.

In Kai’s case, he has anxiety about so many things. I want him to get over his anxieties, and one way to do that, I think, is by having him experience things he wouldn’t choose to do on his own. The theory being that if he could go beyond his comfort zone, perhaps he will eventually get less anxious about those things.

In hindsight, in this case, we should have done the “relaxing ride” first. Then maybe he would have reduced his anxiety just enough to try the new slide.

Live and learn, I know.

I'm sure I will push him to do more again, but hopefully I’ll remember the Master Blaster and back off before he literally blasts out his anxiety.


  1. Oh dear...but there was no way to know! And you wanted to avoid the long line. I probably would have pushed like you...he's loved the scary water slides after trying them in the past. Oh well...you can always laugh later, but during these things it's stressful! Sigh!

    1. It's a fine line sometimes. I think I have to learn to trust his feelings a little better and back off and try again a different way when he gets anxious.

  2. Wow...it sounds like that amusement park is a lot of fun. Many things to do. Poor Kai...Poor you...poor employees who had to clean up :) You were right in pushing the limit. You were also right to reassess the situation and adapt. Kai now has something to conquer in his future. It is the most scary situations which have the most potential for growth once it has been conquered. It is also the most fondly remembered once it has been. Please tell Kai that I, too, had many things which scared me so much that I felt nauseated when I was his age. However, when I finally tried it, I felt freedom from that fear forever. It sometimes took me years before I could try it...and finally conquer it...but it was worth it.

    1. The place was huge! The waterpark had many body slides, a wave pool, and a surfing area in addition to the tube slides. The theme park had several things Kai did not want to do including a large ferris wheel, ropes course, and lazer course among other things.

      It is good to get the perspective of someone who once felt the same as my son does. I will try to be persistent, and patient, with my efforts with Kai.


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