If you want to know what it looks like when a six year old is momentarily paralyzed by overloaded synapses, tell him you just bought passes for unlimited visits to all the major amusement parks in England for an entire year. After he recovers you'll be told you're the best person in the universe despite the fact that an hour ago you were the meanest.
Legoland is about fourty minutes from St Albans. Z and I have been a few times, or at least that's my impression. It could be we've been just once but it felt like an eternity, like Groundhog Day, especially after sitting through Angry Birds 4D for the forth time. 4D is popular over here, despite the fact it means you're going to be squirted with water, blasted by wind, smoked out and your seat is going to come to life. The first time it's rather fun. The second third and fourth times the only fun you derive from it is knowing when to protect yourself while watching everyone else jump when a swarm of bees attack their ankles in the form of rotating rubber strings spinning under the seats.
Recently my friend S and I decided to take our boys to Chessington World of Adventure. Her new baby M was along for the ride and content on the outward journey. The boys were emeshed in a video game and S and I were laughing about our poor parenting moments when I realized I was feeling nauseous. I'm not going to blame S's driving. I'm going to blame her tight suspension and the other drivers who triggered her lightening fast reflexes in response to their every move. About the time I told her I couldn't talk anymore and closed my eyes, her son piped up to say he was going to be sick. From out of thin air I watched S produce a plastic grocery sack and throw it to the back into which N puked and dry heaved for about five minutes. Z held his nose and whined that N was ruining his video game. The sour smell of vomit filled the car, the baby started crying and the car kept jerking as S whipped her head front to back, making sure N held the bag closed. By the time we arrived, the idea of getting into anything spinning or moving for that matter had all the appeal of walking barefoot across hot coals. And here I was at an amusement park.
Generally, at the age of six, boys are pretty keen on their moms, but pair them up and plop them in front of roller coasters and you had better hope you remembered to Sharpie your phone number along their forearms. Which is exactly what we did after we found them.
S is an amusement park professional and her strategy was to go immediately to the most popular rides on the assumption the wait would only grown longer as the day progressed. So we hightailed it to Dragon's Fury where I insisted I watch the baby and let my stomach settle. S excels where I fail as a mom so it's really convenient to know her so my son thinks at least my friends are cool. She went on every ride with the boys no matter how spinny, flippy or wet, whereas I tried to convince Baby M that naps were preferable to another performance by The Penguins of Madagascar. I did take the boys on the safari ride where nothing flipped over and the live animals wandered around the bare earth savanna as though they were on qualudes. If only Africa had been this barren and the animals so close, my photos would have been much better.
We ping ponged around the park, overreacting to the digital reader boards that displayed the wait times at major rides. In a sinister method of extracting ever more money from the child-laden working class, the park would sell you an advanced timed ticket or fast track ticket to most of the big rides bringing the sum total of your day's excursion to about the equivalent of a week at an all-inclusive resort with much worse food. I have to give S most of the credit for the day, though. The hardest part was waiting in line with two six year olds who insisted on practicing their super ninja spins and karate chops regardless of their proximity to other people.
But perhaps the biggest misadventure of the day was our return to the north from the south. This requires a journey on the M25, aka The Ring Road, aka the five o'clock parking lot that surrounds London. After two years of getting around mostly on trains, sitting on an eight lane motorway on a Friday afternoon reminds you of just how utterly packed with humanity is southwest England. Baby M, despite her well rested day, was in no mood for the stop and go traffic so big brother was commanded to sing If You're Happy and You Know It... over and over and louder and louder until we could no longer hear her crying. By the time we pulled into St Albans the tune had become an ear worm in my head and I wasn't sure I could ever see S again without experiencing waves of nausea and the kalidescopic sound of baby music. As usual, Z wailed that his play dates were never long enough despite having just spent nine hours with N. Be careful what you wish for, kid. S and I are starting to save for a deposit on their first flat together, where they can continue their bro-mance. But it might be a few years. We keep borrowing from it to support our wine habit.