You are 8 years old. Is there anything more frightening than that? Ok, 16 will be terrifying but I refuse to think that far ahead. 8 is a huge number although I feel this way with every passing birthday. You are the oldest in your class and I’m still very happy with that decision. You love school, you’re confident in your ability to learn new tasks and you seem emotionally capable to handle the onslaught of tests and demands that second grade thrusts upon you. From what little I remember from my own second grade experience, I remember just learning to read. Now in second grade, you’re pretty much expected to already know how to read and to read well. I was an anxious child and I was one of the youngest in my class. I suffered from anxiety when presented with tests and work in school. I didn’t realize it then but when a project or an activity was given to me that I deemed too difficult or confusing, I began to hyperventilate and eventually I would begin to cry. Kids would loudly announce, Jennifer is crying again! I even remember on a few occasions, teachers looking obviously annoyed that I was in tears yet again and they would walk over and say, why are we crying this time? Not exactly a nurturing environment to learn in. I don’t know if my age played a factor into this or whether my lack of preschool contributed or perhaps none of these things mattered. Perhaps I was just an anxious kid. I’m happy to see that you’re the exact opposite when it comes to school and learning.
For your eighth birthday, I stayed true to my word and did not throw you a birthday party. Your Dad and I decided last July that we would surprise you and Miles with a trip to Disneyland to celebrate both of your birthdays in lieu of a party. We chose not to tell you until the morning we departed for Anaheim but since we weren’t going until the Friday after your birthday, we still had to do something to make it look like we cared and we’re not just assholes who were trying to ignore your special day. We let you pick the activity and the birthday meal. You selected Rockin’ Jump where your Dad happily connected to wifi and watched football as you and Miles spent 2 hours jumping like crazy fools. I used this time to purchase your helium balloon which has become a tradition. On the morning of your birthday, you come downstairs to find a giant helium balloon tied to the back of your kitchen chair with some signage and other birthday decor. It’s not much but you and your brother have come to look forward to this.
For your birthday dinner, you requested cheesesteaks much to your Dad’s surprise. Since your birthday fell on a Monday, we tried to keep the birthday dinner celebration small. G.G. and Papa joined us for cheesesteaks, curly fries, and chocolate cake. Since that wasn’t enough, you also politely asked if you could enjoy a Sprite as well. Sure, let’s go crazy. It was a pleasant evening and you seemed to thoroughly enjoy yourself. That is until you awoke in the middle of the night and threw up. I guess you can’t handle that much party.
The night before we departed for Disneyland, I was able to pack up the car with suitcases, snacks and any other items you might find entertaining for the drive down. You awoke the morning of and came downstairs like you normally do. Actually, your brother woke up first and came into my room to tell me his throat hurt because a trip to Disneyland isn’t complete without some kind of virus or ailment. I went downstairs and made breakfast like I normally do and Dad called you and your brother over to show you two a cool picture he came across of someone at the Magic Kingdom. You both looked at it and just kind of shrugged like you normally do when we try to show you interesting things on the internet. Dad then asked you, we should be there. Do you guys want to go to Disneyland? I want to go to Disneyland. Let’s go to Disneyland. You both just stared at us with half smiles because you know that Dad and I tease you often. Was this just another one of those moments? You both began to giggle and nodded in your own approval. Dad said, ok, eat your breakfast and then we’ll go. You don’t have to go to school today. Again, you two just looked at Dad and then to me totally confused as to what this sick game is we were playing with you. I confirmed Dad’s statement and said, we’re going to Disneyland! When I still didn’t get the reaction I was looking for I asked you both to follow me out to the car so I could show you that the car was already packed and ready to go. I opened the trunk and upon seeing the suitcases, you both immediately squealed and threw your hands in the air screaming, WE’RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!!! That’s the reaction I was looking for.
I had also planned ahead of time to stop at the California Science Center on the way down to Anaheim to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour because knowing how much you love space, this seemed like a necessary stop. I was also dying to see it as well. It’s an incredible exhibit and the Endeavour in person is amazing. You were awestruck and watching how excited you were to see it, made it worthwhile. We paid extra for the Imax movie that was a 3D movie about the National Parks and with a few bags of popcorn, we rounded out our afternoon with a pretty awesome stop. We didn’t get to see every exhibit at the California Science Center and unfortunately, we had just missed the Pixar exhibit that was opening just a few days after our visit but I would love to return some day. The center itself is free which is also an amazing perk. Can’t recommend it enough.
We arrived at our hotel just around dinnertime and decided to grab a bite in Downtown Disney. Per your request, we ate at the Rainforest Cafe. Not my first choice but hey, I’ll oblige because you two have put up with plenty of our personal choices. We were having an enjoyable dinner, talking about all the rides we were looking forward to when I mentioned the Tower of Terror. Suddenly, as if some vacuum had just sucked all of the joy from your being, you looked at me with a blank stare and defiantly announced that you would not be riding that ride and why would anyone like that ride and why would I even suggest such a thing. Damn girl! I was just talking – relax. Obviously you remembered how I dragged you on to the ride 3 years before and traumatized you to this day. Touchy subject – I get it. You were pretty much pissy from that point on for the rest of the night and began to talk back and get sassy. Perhaps you were tired or perhaps you had worked yourself into a ball of anxiety over the mere thought of having to endure that ride again despite me saying you didn’t have to. It didn’t matter, you already had the seed planted and nothing we could say or do would change your mind. You went to bed early that night while Dad and Miles enjoyed the swimming pool.
In all honesty, I was secretly hoping that since it had been 3 years since our last trip, that whatever fear or ride anxiety you were experiencing then would have been suppressed or let go at this point. Watching you freak out over Tower of Terror only gave me stress that perhaps you weren’t entirely over your fears just yet. Fortunately for me and Dad, Miles is finally tall enough to ride most rides and being the little thrill seeker he is, I knew I was finally going to get the opportunity to ride rollercoasters again.
I kept my promise and didn’t make you go on Tower of Terror again even though deep down I was hoping you would change your mind. Your brother was terrified but he didn’t want you to know he was so he lied and said it wasn’t a big deal (it was a big deal). You were secretly hoping your brother would emerge from the ride sharing the same sentiment as you. No dice this time, lady. We were excited to finally get you two on Soarin’ because we knew you would love it. You cried and closed your eyes for most of the ride because you thought it was real. After much comforting and explaining it was only on the screen, you were determined to give it a try a second time. Once you were aware of what was actually happening and yes, it’s only a screen, you smiled and squealed with delight for the duration of the ride. Upon exiting the park that day, you proclaimed it as your favorite ride.
The second day was spent in the Magic Kingdom since we spent the first day in California Adventure. I was determined to hit every ride because it’s all about getting a return on your investment, right? You two are pros at walking so I was pretty confident we could do this. I forgot how busy it gets on Saturdays and not to mention the added crowds because it was Gay Days at Disneyland. The park was packed and the lines showed it. Dad and I took advantage of Fast Passes and came up with a game plan in every land we ended up in. We started the day in Tomorrowland because I really really wanted to go to Space Mountain, my personal favorite. I knew if I had any chance of getting you on that ride, we had to do it early before you turned moody and defiant. I remembered that the ride was extra terrifying because it’s Halloween and for some reason, Disneyland throws a fire monster in there. I knew you wouldn’t like any part of it but wanted you to at least try it. You did and you were terrified. In fact, you were actually shaking upon exiting the ride. I wasn’t hoping for that reaction but I wasn’t exactly surprised either.
I know my actions can be deemed as cruel and unnecessary but all I ask is that you try. If you choose to never do it again, that’s fine but I also know what an amazing imagination you have as well and what terrifying vision you would conjure up on your own without even giving it a go. Well, it was that terrifying but at least you can now say you did it. I used it to our advantage because after we explained it was the scariest ride in the park and all the other rollercoasters didn’t even come close in the realm of terror, you seemed to be believe us and for the rest of the day, you didn’t falter and gave every other ride a try. You didn’t love every ride but you gave it the ol’ college try and I’m quite proud of you.
It was a very enjoyable trip unlike the past trips to Disneyland that were riddled with tears and meltdowns. I actually walked away still loving my family and appreciating the time spent together. You and Miles quickly pleaded with me and Dad to forego the parties next you so we can make a return trip. Given the trip we experienced, I would be perfectly ok with that.
Your moody defiant ways still appear from time to time but you seem to be managing it a bit better. I think it helps you’re distracted with school homework and piano practice but nonetheless, it helps that we’re not dealing with sass every waking moment of the day. The lack of girls in our neighborhood still drives you crazy and after an incident I witnessed of a male neighbor making fun of your clothing in front of the other boys, I can say that I’m not entirely thrilled with the situation as well but I can’t force families to move into our neighborhood with daughters. I can, however, encourage you to make the most of your time with your girlfriends when you are at school and to meet as many kids as possible when you’re engaging in extracurricular activities. I don’t like the boy and girl segregation because I truly feel the two sides can be friends and in fact, you regularly play with a boy in your class who doesn’t like to play with other boys because “they’re too rough.” I don’t want you to think that all boys only want to play aggressively or that aggressive behavior is normal. At the end of the day, kids should still be respectful of each other regardless of sex. Whether they’re boys or girls shouldn’t matter. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and who treat you with kindness and respect despite whom they’re with. It’s a struggle that you’ll deal with until you’re well in to your old age but if you build the confidence now and remain open to the possibility of meeting new people, you’ll be amazed how many good people are out there, happy to be your friend. And if they’re not nice, I’ll embarrass the shit out of them.