A couple of weeks ago, sort of as a last hurrah to summer, the boys and I met up with a friend and her kids and we took our collective children to an amusement park.
Then, just a couple days later, we met up with a different friend with different kids and went to a different amusement park.
Yep, it was insane, I know.
The first trip wasn't terrible. Although it was ridiculously hot, the lines were short, the park wasn't crowded, and the kids got to ride whatever they wanted pretty much without waiting. Although there was an unfortunate foot-blistering incident from walking on the too-hot pavement (only the adults, though. The kids were all smart enough to keep their shoes on) everyone walked away relatively unscathed, with nothing more than a few second degree burns on the bottoms of our feet.
All in all, a pretty good day.
The second trip, um... not so much.
It was a much bigger place. It was 100 degrees. It was Saturday.
None of these things was in our favor.
When we got there, the kids immediately saw a ride they wanted to get on, so into the line they went. And they waited. And waited. And waited. And that set the tone for the entire rest of the day.
Pretty much every single ride had a 45 minute to one hour wait time. So did the line for "FREE SOFT DRINKS!" So did the line to rent a locker so we could ditch our stuff and go to the water park.
At one point my friend looked at me and said "These places are so much more fun in theory, aren't they?"
And she totally nailed it.
See, I have this sense of wanting the my boys to look back on their childhood fondly, to be able to say "Oh, we were always going fun places and doing fun things when I was a kid" or whatever. But for some reason, the IDEA of these fun places is always so much better than the actual execution.
Basically, we paid somewhere in the realm of $300 to drag our kids around a blistering hot park so they could spend seven hours waiting in line for stuff and about 30 minutes actually having fun. Every single person in our group of seven (two adults, five kids) had at least one major meltdown sometime during the day, and most of us had several. In addition, despite the fact that we stopped at every single "FREE SOFT DRINKS!" spot and that we slathered on sunscreen multiple times throughout the day, we all left there dehydrated, sunburnt, and exhausted beyond what could possibly be considered healthy.
All so someday our kids could look back and possibly have a vague sense of doing fun things, memories that I am sure will be warped and wilted and faded by time, so that they either seem really ever so much better than the real thing, or possibly ever so much more terrible. But see? they look kinda happy in the pictures. I have PICTURES TO PROVE THEY HAD FUN, DAMMIT!
Either way, it seems stupid when you lay it all out like that.
Pretty late in the day as we were slowly, ever so slowly, making our way toward the exit, I started really looking at all the other people there. Before I had just been dodging them as potential trip hazards, but then I started to really LOOK. And guess what? No one, not one single person that I really looked at seemed to be having a very good time either. Everyone looked how I felt - hot, bedraggled, miserable, and wanting it to all be over with.
So why were there 800 billion people in the amusement park that day, if not a single solitary one of them was having a good time? And even though I wasn't there the next day (blessings!!!) or the next or the next, I can only imagine the scenario was much the same - lots of hot, exhausted people paying too much money to wait too long and to be miserable for long stretches of time.
And why is it that even as I sit here with it fresh in my mind, I can't say for absolute certain that we will never go back?
Because I'm pretty sure when next summer rolls around, or maybe the one after, I'll be back in line shelling out a week's worth of pay for the privilege of going inside to stand in new lines, feeling hot, miserable, and vaguely sick to my stomach all day.
But it won't be on a Saturday.
Never again on a Saturday.
At least I learned something here.