Thursday, June 16, 2011

Round Two: Fighting Fear

I hate roller coasters. I always have. This has been a bone of contention between Jeremy and I for the past 8 years. I never made any pretense about my feelings. He just chooses to ignore them. It’s caused some major fights. Jeremy is a pusher. And I, well, I hate being pushed. Pushing me generally results in the exact opposite of your original goal happening. Over the years Jeremy’s come to accept that I am not a thrill seeker. That’s something about me he’ll never be able to change. However, I’ve tried to meet him halfway and last year I even rode a few rides at Disney. And again this year. Yay me!

Ashton has inherited my... cautionary nature, I’ll say. Jeremy calls it something different, but it’s not exactly complimentary. I like to attribute it to our intellect. We’re just too smart to take chances. Ashton thinks through a scenario, and imagines every possible outcome. As a result, he is sometimes overly cautious, to the point of fear. He doesn’t like to try new things. Too many things could go wrong.

Chloe is our adventurer. She’ll be the one going skydiving, rock climbing, and- dare I say it?- riding roller coasters.

From the very beginning of planning our vacation, Jeremy’s goal was too get Ashton to ride the rides. He spent weeks checking and rechecking the height requirements, showing Ashton videos of the coasters so he wouldn’t be taken by surprise. Since I’ve been such a theme park disappointment to him, Jeremy was determined to have thrill seeking children. I warned him- I tried to, anyway- about Ashton. I know my son. And I, of all people, can understand his thinking. I knew what pushing him would do.

Well. The first two days at Disney were miserable for Ashton. And for Jeremy. And consequently, for me. Jeremy kept pushing Ashton to ride the rides (and I did a little, too, if I’m being honest. I hated to see Ashton missing out on even the simple rides like Pirates of the Caribbean or the 3D shows), and Ashton kept pushing back, refusing.

But then he surprised me. They both did. Jeremy decided to give up. He stopped asking Ashton to ride them, telling him it was his own decision, and he was old enough to make up his mind. I could see Ashton wavering. He told me he had to keep fighting with his brain. Ashton’s never been good at making decisions, even simple ones like what to eat or which toy to pick (DO NOT give him gift cards. If you do, YOU’RE the one taking him to Toys R Us and standing there for an hour until he’s reduced to the point of tears trying to decide between Indiana Jones or Star Wars toys). I finally said to him, “Ashton. YOU are in charge of your mind. That’s what making a decision is. You tell yourself, ‘I’m going to ride this ride’, or, ‘I’m not going to ride this ride’, and you leave it at that. It’s that simple, I promise.”

When we all decided to go on the Dinosaur ride, Ashton decided to stay behind. My lecture kind of backfired, because he said, “I’ve decided. I’m not going. That’s my decision.” So, instead of pushing him, we left him (with his grandmother, not by himself). We’d only just turned the corner when I heard him calling me, chasing after us. He’d changed his mind. He faced his fears and rode the ride. It made my day. And it made Jeremy’s whole week. I’ve never seen his face lit up like that. That was a turning point for Ashton. After that, he didn’t let his fear control him. He rode almost every ride. Even Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, which I have yet to ride (I’m hoping to keep avoiding them- I’m still working on my own fear issues).

So I guess it turns out I was wrong about Ashton. He may have my analytical nature, but he is working on not letting it control him. At the age of 7, he’s already on his way to becoming a better person than I am. I know to some, this seems like an insignificant thing to write about. Maybe it is. But it isn’t to Ashton. I’ve never seen him so proud of himself as when he came off that ride. He had battled fear and won. Not a bad lesson to learn on a family vacation.


  1. I'm also not a 'thrill seeker.' I'm not sure what part of the family we take after - your mom & grandmother both have like roller coaster rides. Just leave me on the ground with everybody's stuff, I'll be fine. You still have time to change your mind about roller coasters, me? not going to happen. I'm glad Ashton overcame his fear. Auntie

  2. That's so awesome, good for Ashton! And Mary, good advice for anyone in any walk of life