“Just hold on, sweetie,” I shouted. Even in that inky blackness, Jellybean’s blonde hair was a beacon. “It’ll all be over soon.” To allow my tiny, sweet 6-year-old daughter to sit inside such a near-death mobile under the promise of fun was sure to put me up for Worst Father in the World behind Jeremy Bieber and the Balloon Boy’s dad.
I’d worried this might be a bad idea, but I wanted to have fun, too. Besides, we’d asked Jellybean if she “really wanted to do this?”
We were all standing in line beside a sign warning “anyone with a heart condition, fear of the dark or confined spaces, gets motion sickness, has back pain, becomes easily panicked” or simply does not enjoy having the holy hell scared out of them should not get on this ride, and she said “yes.” Granted, the rest of the family was grinning like lunatics and Jellybean had been raised to believe that her family would never intentionally lie to her or otherwise knowingly put her in harm’s way — but she still said “yes … now stop asking me.”
So I waited for her to scream. But the silence was worse. Instead of terrified, she was stupefied, paralyzed, catatonic, frozen with fear. Perhaps she’d had a heart attack. Her tiny body simply couldn’t take the shock.
That’s when I heard it — not screams of mind-numbing horror, but squeals of joy and excitement. Jellybean was screaming her head off and loving every second of it.
When the ride finally stopped and we all tried to catch our breath, Jellybean hopped out of the cramped, three-person car, her face pink and wind-whipped and started to giggle. “That was awesome! Can we do it again?”
And that’s when I knew this was going to be the trip of a lifetime because my little Jellybean had just ridden Disney World’s infamous Space Mountain and came down begging for more, thus earning the weeklong nickname “The Daredevil Boss.”
In less than 90 seconds, I’d gone from World’s Worst Dad to a hero in my daughter’s eyes. And this was just the second day.
The Buckner brood recently spent four exhausting days at a combination of Universal Studios and Disney World and I can say without a hint of hyperbole that it was probably the most memorable moment of my life — right up there with the birth of my child, my wedding day and Auburn’s perfect season.
For four days, we braved rides great (everything in the Magical World of Harry Potter), small (the spinning tea cups) and ghastly (Expedition Everest), and Jellybean rode everything her tiny stature would allow. It’s rare, even as a parent, to be in the midst of one of those moments that you know you’ll always think back on and smile, but that’s exactly what we got.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing. There were a few tears, hurt feelings, disappointments, epic temper tantrums and a showdown at Cracker Barrel that’ll live in Buckner lore for generations, but overall it was a blast. Now I can check one more thing off my Daddy-Must-Do bucket list.
And in this case, memories truly were worth the price of admission ... as long as it’s at least five more years before I hear, “Can we do that again?”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.