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Sometimes when you have high hopes for something, you end up falling flat on your face.
That’s exactly what happened when I planned a weekend trip to Holiday World recently with my 5-year-old son, my best friend and his 5-year-old son.
The stage was set for a marvelous time, a boys’ weekend featuring father-son bonding, catch-up time with my friend and a fun amusement/water park.
Boy, was I wrong.
We left early on a Saturday morning in anticipation of meeting my friend and his son at the park in Santa Claus, Ind.
They were coming from Nashville so the timing would be perfect since it was about a three-hour drive for both of us.
I must preface this story by explaining that last year my lovely wife and I took our eldest son, Austin, to Holiday World and he had the best time.
Many of the rides were perfect for his age and being able to get in the water to cool down from the sun was refreshing.
The only hiccup was a gigantic meltdown he had as we were heading home because he did not want to be in the car.
This meltdown occurred before we even reached the Interstate so I was afraid that a similar explosion might happen again, but this time without my wife’s help in keeping me from losing my mind.
Fortunately, the drive was almost perfect, there and back.
It was everything in between that I wish I could hit a reset button on.
For starters, the drive there was going smoothly as we breezed to Louisville and started into Indiana.
Then all of a sudden, a sea of red lights forced our car to a halt.
Traffic at a standstill.
The kind where you see people getting out of their vehicles, talking to others and generally not looking like they are going anywhere anytime soon.
Of course, I had planned to get off the next exit to refuel and stretch our legs before the traffic hit.
So now I was sitting still in a line of cars, running low on gas with what I envisioned as a ticking time bomb sitting in the back seat.
Thank God for portable DVD players.
As I mapped out in my head exactly how I was going to push my vehicle to the emergency lane (which people were turning around in and going back the opposite direction on the Interstate) when the inevitable happened, the wheels of the truck in front of me began to move.
We were saved!
Little did I know that was not even in the top three worst things that would happen that day.
When we finally get to the park and meet up with my friend and his son, the ultimate weekend trip appears to be back on.
At first, my friend’s son was either tired or grumpy or both because he did not seem excited to ride any rides.
I immediately thought of a solution.
We could all ride a rapids ride that would be sure to be fun for the boys plus get them a little wet.
This particular ride is one that we rode on the previous year five times and my son loved.
Parents, do I even have to type the next sentence?
Yes, Austin whined and cried for 20 straight minutes in line about how he did not want to get on the ride because he was scared.
Frustration was already beginning to set in even though he eventually rode the ride and loved it once again!
When it was time to switch to the water park, I thought the day was going to really start getting good for the boys.
My friend’s son wanted to start with the Lazy River to, pun intended, get his feet wet.
For those who do not know, the Lazy River simply is a “ride” where you sit on an inflatable tube while gently floating around in a circle of water, relaxing.
I have even seen people fall asleep while enjoying this break from the slides and wave pool.
For some reason, my son was not having any of it.
As I tracked down a float in the shallow water, he was crying and screaming in disapproval.
Is it child abuse to make your kid go on the Lazy River?
I didn’t think so, but instead of taking a chance I let go of the tube, got my son out of the water and watched as my friend and his son went happily downstream.
The wave pool caused my son to melt down again even though I held him tightly and most of the water he could stand in.
When we ate lunch, the cashier told me that my credit card had been declined repeatedly.
Apparently, the bank had sent me a new card for some reason and it hadn’t made it to my wallet.
The frustration level was steadily increasing, but my cup was about to runneth over.
After threats of leaving the park and heading to the hotel, we agreed to go to the water playground at the park.
We would meet our companions there after they finished the Lazy River.
Well, not even 90 seconds after our arrival at the playground, my son informs me he has to use the bathroom, which is not terribly close.
Not wanting to deal with any kind of unfortunate accident, we rush to the bathroom to wait in the long line of people at the stalls.
Relieved, I followed my son into the stall just in the nick of time.
Once I believe he has done his business, I get ready to walk out of the stall with him when he says he feels like he “is not done.”
Let me just list the range of emotions that went through my body next: frustration, helplessness, anger, bewilderment, guilt and ultimately relief.
We were in that stall for, no exaggeration, nearly 90 minutes as he dealt with tummy troubles.
Knowing that my friend was likely searching the park for us, I did not know what to do.
We did not have our cell phones because they were locked up when we changed into our swim trunks.
I could not leave my equally frustrated son there by himself.
My only recourse was to try to convince my son that we had to get out of the bathroom, find my friend and let him know that we were going to have to leave because he did not feel well.
Convincing him of that took all 90 minutes.
Anytime I tried to get him to go, he would cry, whine and even occasionally scream ‘No, no, no.’
How a passerby did not call security to haul me away I’ll never know.
Eventually, we did leave the bathroom and I carried my son through the park.
We made it to the hotel, but not without taking a wrong turn and briefly getting lost.
When it rains, it pours, I guess.
The day had been a bust.
We drove three hours and rode only a handful of rides and a couple water slides.
The only solace I had was that we had bought tickets for the following day as well.
We had a chance for redemption where we could salvage our boys’ weekend.
Not so much...
When we got up the next day, my son, still not feeling quite himself, said he did not want to go to the park.
Money wasted and the trip a bust, I was almost glad to be headed back home from the previously emotionally draining 24 hours.
As we got near our exit, my son said words that could not be truer.
“Daddy, that was not a good vacation.”
Maybe, next time.