Thursday, July 9, 2015

I'm a Man Now!

Taking the kids to Kennywood, a really cool and very manageable amusement park not too far from our area has become sort of a yearly tradition for my sister in law and me. So, even though summer weather in this neck of the woods has been almost nonexistent due to incessant rain…[insert disgust, impatience, eye rolling and grunts]…we were able to venture this past Monday. It did rain, but after, say, 2pm it kind of cleared up and we actually had a great time! Anyway…

This was Dylan’s first year being a boy over 52 inches, the minimum height requirement at the park to be able to ride whatever he wants. Since he was highly impressed last year by his big brother riding on the “Phantom,” one of the tallest rides in the park, as soon as he heard we were going to Kennywood, he made sure to announce that he was going to ride on it too this time…if he was tall enough…which he made sure he was by constantly having me measure him every day of the week leading up to the trip (or at least that’s how it felt like to me).

Once at the park, the moment came for the first ride which was a mixture of a linear induction-high, speed take off, straight up climbing unto a straight down weightless descend and what seemed like an endless succession of cork screw twits, gravity defying turns, and stomach churning zigzags. Dylan and I survived the ride and that totally encouraged him to imagine himself on the “Phantom”…but not yet…before, we rode, IN THE RAIN, mind you, on any imaginable sort of concoction that no soon-to-be-forty-seven-year-old person should be riding on.

Finally, we walked by the “Phantom” and I told Grant that if he wanted to ride on it, he should NOW since the line was very thin and the rain had given us a break. Dylan looked at the thing…said nothing…I looked at him…said nothing…Grant walked into the path to the ride…Dylan went to ride the swings with his cousins.

The day went by and Grant decided to ride the ridiculously scary and insane ride called “Black Widow”…I thought it should be more appropriately named “Mom’s Worst Nightmare” since every Mom standing behind watching their kids go on it stood there in terror, trembling-hand holding the camera while trying to fight back tears…anyway…Grant went on it while Dylan and I watched through the rain, holding our breath.

When Grant got off that thing, he expressed a mix of delight, panic and exhilaration that was rather contagious. So that motivated Dylan to request another go at the Phantom. Grant was game for it…so after a while, I finally said, OK. I couldn’t tell if Dylan was excited or just plain terrified that he was actually going to do this so I told him he didn’t have to go on it. As we were walking toward the ride he said: “I probably will cry, but I am going to do it anyway. I’m going to be a man.” I said, “you are probably going to grow chest hair if you ride it!” He looked at me and smiled in wonder.

The boys went on the roller coaster while I waited in anticipation of seeing Dylan’s reaction after riding it. I kept an eye on every coaster that climbed the metal mount trying to spot them, when finally, on the third one, I saw a tall, skinny kid sitting next to a speck of spikey black hair. My hands were sweating and my heart was pounding as I saw them speed downhill, swing by the curve next to me to then get lost into the unknown…

After they were done, I hurried to the photo booth to see their picture…and there it was, the two of them, mouths opened in fear and thrill. I waited for them and as soon as he saw me, Dylan came to me and said: “I’m a man!”

Yeah…what do you say to that?

I just hugged him and laughed.

I have been thinking about this whole thing and about the road to becoming a man…a man of God. It is not an easy road. It is filled with steps. It is filled with ups and downs. My two boys will soon find out how difficult it is to be a man in today’s world…how difficult it is to be a Godly man. Dylan will discover that being a man takes more than summoning up the courage to get on a scary roller coaster ride. But he will also realize that the roller coaster analogy is a rather accurate one for the job. He will see how sometimes he’ll find himself up on the top of the mountain, to then go deep down into the gutter. He’ll see that there are many turns and twists, and that sometimes he’ll even find himself up-side-down, but that it all constitutes the making of a man as long as he keeps holding onto His hand.

I also thought how my little boy is growing up…and of course, that thought squeezed my heart with the sting of “no-mores…”

As the day came to a close that evening, Dylan walked proudly and perhaps even a bit taller. He said again, “I’m a man!” Then I said to him, “yes, you are…so now you need to get yourself a job!” He looked at me puzzled, so I said, “that’s what real men have to do. They have to go to work.” After thinking about it for a second, he replied, “well, I just want to be a man, but stay like I am, like a kid.” I laughed and said, “I see, you just want to be a man to have fun, but you don’t want the responsibilities of being a man, huh?” To that, he said a relieved “yes” and skipped his way to join the other kids. I walked behind, relieved that my little boy is still, indeed, just a little boy...I also thought, O boy! There’s a lot of work still to do ahead. But in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy my boy/man and rejoice in his accomplishments and in his presence…for as long as I have it.

BTW, Dylan ended up riding the “Black Widow” too!

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