Taking a Toddler to the Fair

Our visit to a county fair this weekend illustrated the difference for us between a 2-year-old and 3-year-old’s ability to derive fun from risk taking.

Check out these two photos.

Photo of children in a dragon-themed toddler-sized roller coaster. My daughter is seen leaning forward to barely reach hand grips as the coaster rolls down a slight embankment. All of the kids are smiling and having a good time. The photo is captioned, 'Barely holding on for dear life.'

In 2006, our 2-year-old daughter (sitting next to the blond boy in the blue shirt) rode the above dragon-themed roller coaster with a good dose of fear and trepidation. She needed her 5-year-old friend with her for reassurance. I captured her smiling in the photo, but the ride was quite emotional. Her facial expressions vacillated between great joy and great fear, even between laps at the same points in the ride. One trip on the dragon was enough for her.

The roller coaster is quite small, with an oval track that has one rise and fall, with five or six laps over two minutes. Afterward, we took two rides on a carousel and gave up on amusements. Now look at a photo of her from this year.

Photo of my daughter taken in 2007 when she is 3-years-old. She is sitting in a dragon-themed roller coaster smiling with her arms held high in the air as the coaster rolls down a slight embankment. A child behind her looks terrorized and another child looks bored. The photo is captioned, 'Letting go, having the time of her life.'

The above photo was originally captioned, "I’ve got to get one of these for my backyard!," but my wife’s caption preference won out.

In 2007, our 3-year-old daughter went on the same coaster by herself three times without looking back. She would have made more trips, but she was busy running between all of the amusement rides, wanting to go on as many as possible as quick as possible. She even eagerly went on a Ferris wheel and a 2-story slide. We had expected her to need some coaxing, but each time she jumped on a ride, it seemed to heighten her excitement for trying another, bigger ride.

I have no great insights to share. I found the age perspective interesting and a good excuse to share photos…

Photo of my daughter sitting in the cockpit of an biplane amusement ride. The plane is elevated 8 feet in the air as it moves in a circle along with other planes.

This plane ride gives each child a cockpit stick that really raises and lowers the planes. My daughter pushed her stick wildly back and forth, causing her plane to make all sorts of gear-banging metallic noises as the plane lurched up and down. It frustrated the carnie who kept yelling instructions to our daughter (that she would never understand) each time she passed by. On her third time on the ride she finally figured out how to fly.

Photo of my daughter riding a red convertible around in a circle in a car amusement ride where the vehicles are in fixed positions and the floor revolves. She is smiling and turning the steering wheel as if steering had some effect on her direction. A cartoon character known as Dingo Dog from Richard Scarry children's books has been digitally added to the photo, jumping over my daughter's head. Dingo is a cowboy dog who rides a red convertible similar to the one my daughter is driving.

I was going to write something about knowing you’ve become a seasoned parent when you begin seeing Richard Scarry characters in real life. But then I looked at this photo again and am worried I’ll be scrapbooking by age 4. Go Dingo Dog! Officer Flossy is on your tail!

Three photos of a yellow amusement ride called Super Slide. The first photo shows the full height of the slide, about 2 stories tall, accessible via a staircase. A close-up photo shows my daughter sliding down alone on a potato sack with her arms up and a big smile on her face. A third photo shows her smiling at the bottom of the slide.

Step 1: Go down slide on Mom’s lap atop a potato sack.

Step 2: Go down slide, next to Mom in the adjoining lane.

Step 3: Climb up the stairs and go down the slide alone. Give your parents coronaries as they realize as you stand at the top of the slide that you’re still only 3-years-old and might try sliding face first or do something else stupid.

Of course, she was fine, but we’ll accompany her in the future. As she climbed the stairs to the slide, Mom kept cautioning her, "Hold onto the rail," and my daughter kept yelling, "No, I need to go faster." In other words, holding the railing might slow her down as she dashed up the stairs.

I hear parents of older kids say that parenting gets tougher year by year. I can’t speculate, but I do know that the third year beats the first two years hands down for sheer fun.

I’ve said before that I think we decided to have kids 10 years late. For the amount of energy and range of activities kids have, it would be nice to be doing this in my twenties and thirties instead of thirties and forties. I repeat that here now because I need a good segue into my last observation.

You know you’re getting old when you spend a sunny day at the fair and the one thing that gets sunburned is your scalp. I still have hair, or at least I thought I did.


5 Responses to “Taking a Toddler to the Fair”

  1. GeekMan says:

    I’ve got my first on the way and like yourself, I’ll be raising her while I’m in my late 30s – early 40s, but unlike how you seem, I’m scared poopless. I can only hope that I learn how to raise my daughter as well as you are raising yours.

    August 20th, 2007 at 7:09 am

  2. NerDad says:

    Our kids are roughly the same age because my son and I did the fair this weekend and experienced the same night/day difference. Last year we couldn’t even coax him onto the simplest car-goes-in-circle ride. This year he would have spent the entire day on the rides if we could have.

    @GeekMan: if you’re worried about doing a good parenting job (and you’re reading websites like this), then you’ll probably do just fine. I was the same way before my first and I liked it so much I agreed to have another.

    August 20th, 2007 at 9:38 am

  3. AJ says:

    GeekMan, anxiety in the first year is normal. A lot of it levels off after the first month when you realize you have a handle on the basics.

    The thing to remember is that life doesn’t happen all at once. You have time to meet all of the challenges ahead. Well, the one exception is preschool. If you want a good one, you may need to get on a waiting list by the first birthday. Aside from that, have fun!

    August 20th, 2007 at 11:13 am

  4. GeekMan says:

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Thanks for giving me ANOTHER thing to worry about! :)

    August 20th, 2007 at 12:27 pm

  5. adrienne says:

    Hi guys-

    AJ: Thanks for the idea of similar action shots across multiple years. Lots of baby books recommend the same posed shots, but those tell so much less about the child than the ones you offer here. The timing couldn’t be better as we’re about to take newly 2 year old Ranger to a local amusement park.

    GeekMan et al: I live in community where most people give birth in their mid twenties. We’re definitely in the freakish category for having our first after 30, It’s scary, not because we’re older, but because we’ve all taken time to contemplate the whole “with kids” experience.

    And that makes us more introspective, less reactionary parents. On the whole, we already know who we are which gives our children more stability and room for independence.

    Read Mellor’s “Three Martini Playdate” and get a copy of the great reference book “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5″ by the American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.amazon.com/Caring-Your-Baby-Young-Child/dp/0553379623/ref=sr_1_2/002-6921486-7797608?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187875733&sr=8-2

    Welcome to 30s parenting! Revisit the roller coaster photos above as an apt metaphor for the next few decades.

    August 23rd, 2007 at 6:36 am

Post a comment

(will not be published)