You can be scared and brave. Or you can just be scared.
The kidlets, the Most Amazing Man, my brother Uncle Grog, and I went to Luna Park last weekend, in honour of the Bumpy girl’s birthday. Sydney’s Luna Park is one of my favourite places on the planet. Melbourne Luna Park doesn’t have quite the same vibe- it’s missing the tragic deaths and the element of being a ghost carnival for a few sad, lonely years.
Not that it matters. It’s still crap-tastic kitschy fun. It brings out the big kid in me (not that it takes much to do that, really) and my children adore it.
The Bump, tall for her age, is still a tiny, slight little thing. She never likes to be left out. Which is how, despite only meeting the height requirement by a centimetre or two, she ended up in line with the rest of us for the Scenic Railway roller coaster and the Ghost Train. That roller coaster is over a hundred years old and you feel its age every time it rickets around the fenceline of the park, bumping, and nearly bucking off it’s tracks.
Holding my tiny girl child tightly with one arm as the coaster careened around was slightly terrifying. She thought it was fabulous. “Let’s go again!!” she screams as we alight from the car.
A physical rush for my budding adrenaline junkie is one thing. I was guessing the psychological terror of the Ghost Train might be a different experience altogether.
The Bump is timid and hesitant with ‘scary things’. Unexpected noises distress her. She is terrified of the dark. earthworms, centipedes and anything else deemed ‘gross’ provoke genuine tears of shock and horror.
Despite all of that, she still wanted to go on the freaking Ghost Train. And I found myself in one of those parenting quandaries that come up every now and then, when you least expect it. One of those moments in life that will, quite possibly, dictate how things proceed, for you and them, from here on in.
Do I let her on the ride, even though I’m sure it will scare her absolutely stupid? Or do I say “No, it is too scary, you will not like it. Let’s have a go on the carousel instead?”
It’s always easier to ride the carousel. And sure, carousels are fun. They’re simple and wholesome and they play pretty music. The Ghost Train is dark and unknown. It sounds scary from outside. And- despite being the lamest thrill on the planet to an adult- I can only imagine that for a just-turned-four-year-old, the swinging doors, flashing lights and bad robotronics would be pretty horrifying.
(Truth be known, the scariest part of riding Melbourne’s Ghost Train as an adult is knowing that, in Sydney, seven people died in a ride just like this; trapped and scared in the pitch dark, having left their burning coaster cars and tried to make it out on foot. A father was found huddled with his children, burned to death by the flames before the smoke even got to suffocate them.)
This is what I can teach her, here. To not do things at all, because you might be scared. Or to be scared, but brave. To be afraid and do things anyway.
So I let her ride on the Ghost Train. I give her a hundred chances to change her mind as we wait the fifteen minutes in line, surrounded by excited kids and the smell of fairy floss, the Ghost Train’s tinned growls and shrieks suddenly very loud over the rush of other rides behind it.
My cranky ballerina, she stands firm, her cherubic lower lip set in steadfast determination. “No. I am okay, Mummy, I am fine. I want to ride the Ghost Train.”
I am proud of her. I’m proud of her as she climbs on board a coaster car with her Uncle Grog, who she has chosen to ride with her, and snuggles in tight next to him. I’m even prouder when she emerges into the sunlight again. Her blue eyes are big and wide with shock. But she’s not the screaming, tearful mess I half expected. In fact, as she sees me she breaks into a cheeky, sparkly lollipop grin.
“Mummy!!” she cries. “That was awesome!!”
Indeed, my princess. That most certainly was.