A major goal of this trip was to get the JackMan on some roller coasters. The reasons for this were three-fold:
1. It’s important to teach your children to face their fears. It’s more important to teach them that you will lie to them for their benefit.
2. There comes an age in every boy’s life when it’s time to put down the Goofy’s Barnstormer of toddlerdom and embrace the Rockin’ Roller Coaster of Boyhood, so that eventually you can graduate to the Six Flags Over Georgia of Adolescence.
3. I WILL NOT. RIDE THE STUPID SLOW KID-FRIENDLY RACECARS. ANYMORE.
So we did it, even though Macy nearly ruined the whole thing when she let it slip to Jack that “the loops aren’t even that bad” without realizing that I, having “forgotten about them,” had assured him that there were, in fact, no loops on this roller coaster.
In the end, I sold him by a) pointing out that he would, technically, be braver than Macy if he went through with it (since she chickened out on her first attempt), and b) telling him I would buy him things.
Of course, 1.2 picoseconds into the amazing takeoff, he is loving it, as I predicted he would.
So we emerge, victorious, from Rockin’ Roller Coaster. JackMan is jubilant–he is high-fiving total strangers, recounting the splendor of the moment to lightposts, etc. And as we round the corner to Laura, thinking we are about to narrate the highlight of the trip, she explodes off the bench:
This was unexpected. So we put JackMan’s victory dance on hold, so Laura can recount the following story:
[You first must understand that Laura and I are the most judgmental parents in a group setting that you can imagine. We place a premium on civility and generally not allowing your child to be an idiot. In a world of hyper-protective parents wringing their hands over vaccinations, self-esteem and OH GOD WALTON DON’T TOUCH THAT QUICK DRINK THIS PUR-EL TO SAVE YOU FROM THE GERMS we pretty much feast on mocking the ridiculous whiny caveman behavior of their germ-free organic wheat flax hypoallergenic children.]
So in that context, envision: Laura is sitting with Ellie, passing the time with popcorn while we ride the coaster. Up wander two Spanish-speaking children, unattended by any sort of parental unit. The girl, who appeared around five, picked up a stack of maps. She began saying “Mapas! Mapas!”
At that point, the little girl wandered over by Laura, who was beginning to wonder where the parents of this pair were, since we were in a theme park of approximately forty floojillion strangers, and most parents are at least moderately protective of their children in that circumstance. I’m a pretty laid-back parent, but even I grasp that Disney World is basically child molester eBay. If they didn’t show soon, Laura was prepared to assume disciplinary and protective parental duties in their absence. [I wish I had time here to tell you about the time she nearly decapitated a small child on our honeymoon. Standing 18 inches from his parents. Before we boarded the first plane.]
However, intervention proved to be unnecessary. The girl asked Laura and Ellie “espanol?” They responded in the negative. She responded “Oh. English.” At which point she evidently decided to punish Ellie for her abject and ludicrous failure to not master bilingual education by age four. Her chosen method was to smack Ellie with the stack of maps while shouting “Mapas! Mapas!” repeatedly. (Thank God there wasn’t a stack of martillos around.)
My wife entered a brief period of shock, during which I assume her brain was trying to make sense of the small parentless foreign terrorist performing cartographic assault and battery on her youngest child. However, after processing this descent into bizarro world, she sprang swiftly into Mother Bear Mode, only to be halted by Ellie sticking up for herself with a sentence that will be repeated in our family until some of us are ashes:
“HEY! LITTLE GIRL! DON’T YOU MAKE ME SAY ‘UNO DOS TRES COCKROACH!!’ “
To properly comprehend the delivery, you’ll need to picture my daughter, popcorn clinging to her lip, one hand firmly wrapped around Elsa (or Anna? Olaf? I don’t know.), leaning halfway out of her stroller, veritably shaking with toddler rage, stubby little finger one inch from the tiny Spanish eyes of her assailant. Like a princess John Barrymore in a Barbie wheelchair chewing out a small female Hispanic Jimmy Stewart in the weirdest-ever production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
And, as we tell our children, sticking up for yourself usually does the job. The girl and her older brother fled into the night like baby banditos, and I have a new catchphrase, which I intend to use at the earliest opportunity on children, students, strangers…
DON’T YOU MAKE ME SAY UNO, DOS, TRES, COCKROACH!