There are certain places in town that serve as measuring sticks for the growth of your child. If you’ve been here long enough, if you keep doing the same thing year-after -year then these places chart the changes and the maturity.
One such spot is Jungle Rapids.
Remember those days when a visit to the area’s only water park would end when it became obvious that someone needed a nap? Back then you were confined to the splash zones and your child wore “swimmies” and water proofed diapers.
A few summers later they’re ready to conquer the wave pool, the lazy river and some of the smaller slides, but only if dad comes along. They needed dad there. But that doesn’t last. Because the next rights of passage has them running off with older siblings or with friends and taking on the challenge without parental supervision.
Eventually they get tall enough to drive a go-kart, strong enough climb the rock wall and courageous enough to take on the half-pipe. Oh yes, the half-pipe! It’s the ultimate test of bravery and independence.
It’s technically called the “Sidewinder,” but no one refers to it as that. The half-pipe towers over the park. It measures 4 stories high, with a drop off that appears straight down. Riders can reach speeds between 20 and 30 miles-per-hour.
In recent years, I’ve seen kids younger than my own son take the plunge. Heights are not his favorite thing. But this year, at 12 years-old, and egged on by some friends, he crabs an inner tube and climbs the stairs.
Parents can stand on a platform and watch. It does look scary from up there! Thoughts fly through a dad’s head; what if something goes wrong? What if he breaks an arm? What if he falls off the edge? What if he dies…. What will I do with his room?
Of course none of that happened. Instead he launches down, screams a little, and then goes up the other side and then back and forth until he runs out of momentum and stops at the bottom. His skin is white, and it looks like the wind has been knocked out of him. But after a deep breath he looks at his friends and says “Let’s do that again.”
Who knows next summer he’ll probably ask to just be dropped off and picked up later. And then soon after he’ll stop going for the rides, and instead come to Jungle Rapids to meet girls
There are so many ways to measure the progress of our kids; by percentiles, report cards, notches on a door frame This weekend using another measuring stick I can tell you my son has gotten a little bigger. He graduated to the half-pipe.