Whenever my husband and I do date night and see a PG-13+ movie, the number of parents that bring toddlers along always surprises me. Why not just wait for it to come out on Blu-ray or DVD? Is it worth traumatizing your toddler with violent special effects or terrifying sequences to see The Avengers or Paranormal Activity 3? Okay, The Avengers was pretty great, but where are their priorities, I used to think. It’s borderline child abuse, I used to think.
That was all until I put those parents to shame. We went to the Animal Kingdom in Disney World last week and discovered the ride, Dinosaur. I pictured a boat ride, traveling through prehistoric times with someone like Sam O’Neill dispersing dinosaur facts along the way. I pictured a prehistoric It’s a Small World or maybe a revolving theater that reviewed dinosaur types with Richard Attenborough. My daughter loves dinosaurs, so it was right up her alley. I love Jurassic Park, so I share her sentiment and love for the giant carnivores and herbivores, just the same.
When we passed by the entrance there was a sign with a warning about how the ride is dark, jerky and can be scary or something. I skimmed it, so I obviously can’t quote it. I figured the height restriction meant it would be safe for her.
Was this just a bad assumption or did I ignore the warning sign because I wanted to go on the ride and didn’t want to contemplate the harm it could do? Honestly, I’m not sure, but boy did I feel like the worst mother ever, when we walked out of there. I will remind you that Babyface is terrified of the dark. She sleeps with her princess chandelier on dim every night.
There was no boat, but a Jurassic Park-type car. No biggie, we wouldn’t get wet, I thought. The operator asked if we wanted to sit in the front and I enthusiastically said, “yes!” I think the outdoor sauna that we were walking in all day must have fried my brain.
The ride started off a bit bumpy, but friendly dinosaurs only greeted us. I thought, we’ll both hold her hand and the dark won’t do a thing. Besides, there were neon lights, here and there, so it wasn’t completely pitch black. The ride started to speed up and jerk from side to side. Her hand fell to my lap, so I gripped it from the top. My other hand was clasping the side of the car pretty tight to keep us both secure.
Dinosaurs popped out and growled. Dinosaurs popped out and tried to bite us. Dinosaurs tried to jump on our car. With the most terrified voice I have ever heard from her, my daughter screamed, “I don’t like this!”
The ride actually scared me. I found myself closing my eyes from time to time. And, this is something I decided to take my toddler to? I felt worse than all of the parents I see do dumb things with their kids combined. I was worse than the parents that I always judged.
She was clawing my leg so tight, I wished that we had cut her nails. I wondered if she would draw blood. I wondered if she would be scared of something she loved only minutes before, all because of my stupidity.
When we exited the ride, my husband had to carry her. She was still terrified and kept saying, “I don’t like dinosaurs.” My heart broke. I felt like I flunked out of being a parent. I felt like I pretty much flunked out of life.
Of course, as several rides in these parks do, there was a souvenir shop at the exit of the ride. This is where I made the exception of only buying one souvenir per trip. I held her hand and helped her find a really cool, stuffed dinosaur to take home. She held it for the rest of the day and started to say, “I don’t like mean dinosaurs. I only like nice ones.” Those words produced some relief, but my poor and selfish decision still haunts me.
I thought about buying the picture the ride camera took. You know, the ones they display on the screens after you exit. My husband and I were both looking at her in the picture. She had the MOST TERRIFIED look on her face. Maybe it would be a reminder of how I pretty much fed her to the raptors, I thought. I decided against it, because we just spent $11.95 on a stuffed dinosaur and the picture was another $20. My memory will suffice, I’m sure. Her expression was one I will never forget.
Next up, Pirates of the Caribbean. Did I mention that Babyface likes pirates too?