Are we having any fun yet … no really

As a parent, most of the time you’re simply trying to survive and maintain your sanity. Many businesses capitalize on sleep-deprived parents’ lack of mental acuity, which explains amusement parks.

When my cousin suggested a family reunion at an amusement park, I had an alternate suggestion.

“How about we do something less expensive, like pay back America’s national debt or something less painful, like having camels chew on our faces?”

I thought they were appropriate alternatives.

Theme parks are designed so you pay half of your yearly salary in exchange for standing for hours in lines in miserable heat with winy children and having the opportunity to FINALLY pay for all the other stuff inside the park your kids determine is necessary to HAVE FUN.

The only “amusement” here comes from park owners sitting back and watching parents try and survive. We’re like gladiators in their colorful, cartoon-character-filled arena and we scurry about for their profit and entertainment. It’s like they’re saying:

“What’s this? You want a seat on my magical horse? Well you must first pay for that privilege. But that’s not all. Then you must burn yourself and prove to me your dedication by standing in this hour-long winding line with all the miserable peasants. Then and only then might I allow you to be mildly elevated atop a cartoon stallion. But you can’t get off until I permit it, then you must exit and do it all over.”

When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, wandering the desert for 40 years, I’m pretty sure they were just in line for the Egyptian log ride. If you added up the time actually spent on a ride compared to the time you spend in line, you’d likely never get out of the attraction you would call “Daddy’s Liquor Ride” which consists of a bench and two boot flasks full of gin.

To keep your kids occupied in line, tell them “fun facts” that are clearly not true. Facts such as:

“Hey kids, did you know that peanut butter was invented by former Super Bowl-winning head coach of the Oakland Raiders John Madden?”

“Dragons still exist today but only in the small European town of Drnstein.”

“There’s a type of mushroom that, when eaten, makes you 50 percent bigger until a turtle touches you.”

OK, that last one might be a point in the Mario games, but they probably won’t realize it. Kids will believe anything, especially when they have heat stroke. Try to get them to believe one of these “facts” all the way into high school.

“Aren’t you having fun, honey?” I asked my daughter after 45 minutes waiting for a ride that goes in a circle. Most of the rides go in a circle. The only difference is the shape and color of the basket the child sits in. Airplane circle rides are approximately two feet higher than motorcycle circle rides. Apparently circles are, scientifically, the most fun shape.

“What ride are we going to go on again?” she asked.

“I honestly have no idea,” I replied as the line moved forward at the pace and mood of a chain gang. We lethargically stepped over the bodies of the fallen and pressed on, determine to HAVE FUN.

If I could sell beer to people standing in line, I’d make enough to retire in one afternoon. And I would be the most popular attraction at the entire park.

Below were rides I begrudgingly took my daughter on and my evaluation of their fun quotient.

The Frog

“I have an idea, let’s just raise them up about six feet and kind of shake them a little? They’ll like that, right? We can say that’s a ride.” Engineers of “The Frog”

As far as I can see it’s called “The Frog” only because they painted a frog on it. They could’ve also called it The Salamander, The Bush, Levitra or The Old Woman just by painting a different thing on the sign. Instead of raising the passengers up and dropping them down in the standard “thrilling” manner, this terrifying ride pretends to drop children approximately 16 times, causing delightful panicked squeals and whiplash. I suppose it’s supposed to resemble a frog’s hop, but would succeed only if frogs routinely bungee jumped or placed into the hands of a toddler.

The Underground

Half of this ride consists of standing in line, which might be the best part. This ride combines the fun of darkness, the joy of a movable walkway and the delightful feeling of a dog sneezing in your face. There’s some story of a bandit told by a mumbled, illegible, lantern-holding cowboy (or prospector), but nobody cares.

The Carousel

Ride Designer: “I got it. For this ride we’ll have them ride horses.”

Ride Designer Boss: “How is this any different than all the other rides that go in circles?”

Ride Designer: “Ah! I’m glad you asked. In addition to going in a circle and we know how much kids love going in circles they also go about four inches up and down!”

Another problem – the heat and walking has a tendency to tire kids out before you feel they’ve experienced the appropriate amount of fun.

“No, honey, you cannot fall asleep right now,” you’ll say to your child. “You haven’t had $80 worth of fun yet. I only see about a $26 smile on your face. Actually, right now it’s about a 40-cent smile, or the equivalent smile that your mom usually gives me after I make a hilarious joke she doesn’t get. Look right now … she’s doing it!”

Somehow we always forget how much work it is to have all of the fun. Then, partly due to extreme fatigue and amusement park exit arch Magic Amnesia Spell of Forgetfulness, we do it all again the next week.

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Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at vandkel@hotmail.com or via Twitter @pancake_bunny.