We’ve been taking our Youth Group to Hershey Park for years and years. Which means that we’ve been taking our own two kids to Hershey park for years and years as well. And it always seems that as a parent, I learn all kinds of things, while hanging out with teens and walking around what is affectionately known as “The Sweetest Place on Earth.”
There was the year that I learned that it was probably not the greatest idea to have high expectations when you take your four year old son and two year old daughter on a Youth Group camping trip. Ellee did okay, but Christian threw a monster tantrum that year at the end of the trip. I was mortified because John Albano, one of our church elders was there helping to chaperone that year. With my child screaming in the background, he kindly told me that he could remember those years with his kids and his grace and non-judgement would bless my heart for years to come (By the way, his strong-willed son would grow to up to accomplish and achieve great things, which was a forever encouragement as well).
I learned through those years that I never minded walking around with our kids. I didn’t need the thrill of big coasters anymore. I just loved seeing their faces as they had fun on their little rides.
Oh, and for full transparency, there was also the year that I learned that it’s possible to lose your kids twice when you let them go into a crazy, though contained water park like this. Even when you have three other youth group kids helping you. Yeah, I did that. I also learned that when the big buzzer goes off, that huge bucket at the top will dump hundreds of gallons of water on you and if you’re standing right under it looking for your lost kids, it will take you off guard and it will hurt.
Some years, I learned things that I didn’t even know I was learning at the time. Like how to cherish times spent with those you love because you never know how things will change.
And all of that brings us to this year. In some ways, it was a pretty tiring weekend. Because we took this trip right after having one of our biggest VBS Kids Camps to date. I went into the weekend tired, but also excited to get away with our family and a great group of teens. Christian went off with the big kids this year. Because with him going into 7th Grade this fall, he’s kind of one of them now.
But I still had our Ellee Girl. So we did the rides that she loved. Our first night there, we waited forever for the bumper cars, because she was finally tall enough to drive on her own and she was absolutely delighted.
Afterwards, we found the little log ride and she found her brave face. Since it was night time and most people don’t do the water rides at night, there was virtually no lines at all. So we rode it about ten times.
We caught up with others from out group. And so we rode it with them too. It was nice to see Christian who randomly came by with another friend. He took a bit of a break to hang with his mom and sister before heading out for other rides.
And overall, I just loved the time that I had with our kids, but especially with Ellee. Seeing Christian go off with friends, I realized that these days are just flying by so quickly.
And this thought would amplify by the very next night. Because the night before, Ellee had been a little nervous to do the little log ride with me. She quickly conquered her fear and I was proud of her. So you can imagine my surprise, when within 24 hours, by the encouragement of her brother and our friend Zach, she decided that she would try Tidal Wave, with it’s 100 foot drop. And she sat up in the very front. And after riding it, she decided that she loved it and rode it two more times.
I watched her with pride, but also with a little sadness. Because really, it seems like that is just how quickly things are changing with our kids these days. Don’t get me wrong. I love that they are growing up and learning things and gaining new experiences. And truth be told, sometimes these days with kids who are not so little, but not yet so big are kind of hard. But the lesson that I took from this trip, is that these days are fleeting, and I want to make the most of them. I want to be willing to ride the bumper cars fifteen times in a row, because it makes our Ellee giggle with delight. I want to take time to listen to her play by play of her driving strategies. I want to remember how her hand feels in mine as we walked through the park together because some day, she’ll be off with her friends and these times will be finished.
So Hershey Park 2016 trip, thanks for the sweet memories. Thanks for the opportunities to learn and to be brave. Thanks for the water rides and for the Dippin Dots, because they will always be my favorite. And finally, thanks for the reminders that time is flying by and that the best thing we can do is to find ways to be thankful and grateful for these hard and wonderful days.