Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thrill-seeking's in the Blood

When I was young, my dad used to do some crazy stuff. I have memories of standing on the beach, watching my dad swim away from shore with his face mask and flippers on. He'd swim so far out beyond the waves that I'd no longer be able to see him. I think that's the point at which I'd start crying, thinking that he'd never come back. I also remember outings that involved descending into old mines that I'm sure have been closed off by now as safety hazards.

Well, I wasn't too old when I started to manifest my own thrill-seeking nature by climbing dangerously high into trees, eating live bugs and jumping off of all kinds of things. As a kid, I never felt any need to psychoanalyze it, I just had lots and lots of fun. The thrill of jumping off the roof of our garage just never got old, EVER!

But now I have an almost-3-year-old. Everything that I do is lodged into my son's memory. If I say it, he might say it. If I do it, he might do it. I'm almost to the point where I believe that if I think it, he'll think it. Needless to say, as a parent, you have to be cautious about what you do. That, combined with the fact that my knees are 35 years old—25 years older than at peak roof-jumping time—and I don't find myself jumping off of too many things anymore. If Dietrich doesn't see his daddy jump off of stuff, maybe he won't feel the need to jump off of stuff.

Wrong-O, buddy bean! Dietrich jumps off of everything. Everything that we'll let him jump from, that is. It proved to be solidly part of his daily routine about 6 months ago and there isn't much that we can do about it, except mildly monitor and, when it's not too out of control, enjoy it. Oh, and there's one more thing that we (read, "I") can do. I can join in the fun! As noted, my knees aren't what they used to be, but I can out-jump Dietrich, for now. So, here's me and him indulging at a park while visiting the younger Martins in Camas, WA, in April:

On that same trip, Dietrich did had a lot of fun with Nels and Willem. One of their thrill-seekingest moments was this tire swing at another of Camas' great little parks:

The fun continued once we were settled back in Morgan Hill, CA, at Josie's parents' place. A short-lived joy was cruising down the driveway—driveways are quite long on a 3-acre farm—on daddy's 1967 Honda CT-90, named Vanguard. Dietrich thinks that Vanguard's motor is a little too loud, so he didn't want to get anywhere near it while it was running. But he loved to sit on it while it wasn't. And, as it turns out, he loved coasting down the driveway on Vanguard with daddy holding him. Here's 2 great shots of that fun:

But notice that a lot of the verbs in the previous paragraph are in the past tense. Dietrich "loved," not "Dietrich loves." That's because there is a flip side to the thrill-seeking lifestyle. The danger is accompanied by the pain of accidents. And the accidents can be traumatic enough to keep us from retravelling some avenues of thrill-seeking. On what would prove to be our final ride, a car was coming up the driveway as we were coming down. I put on the brakes and the combo of only having one hand on the handlebars—the other hand being on Dietrich—and being on a particularly gravelly part of the driveway resulted in us tipping over. Dietrich got a nice scrape on his ankle but was fine otherwise, physically. Psychologically however, he's done with the motorcycle or, as he calls it, "da muh-kah-duh." In retrospect, he's much too young to go on actual motorcycle rides with the engine running so, maybe this incident was meant to keep him from wanting to move from the engine-off stage of riding to the engine-on stage. We wouldn't have stepped it up to that level and much frustration would have ensued. Still, the powerful memory of that accident lingers as a reminder that thrill-seeking has potentially painful consequences.

But the incident at the Splash Zone of Gilroy Gardens was the topper. We discovered Gilroy Gardens in early June and, since Dietrich loved it and it's only a 20-minute drive away, we upgraded our one-day admission to a membership and have been back about 10 times since. About 4 of the first 5 of those visits involved a trip to the Splash Zone. What a great way for a kid to spend part of his day! I remember when all I had available were the sprinklers in the front yard. Here's Dietrich busting through a geyser, an action that causes him to scream with delight:

But then it happened. On what would prove to be his final visit to the Splash Zone, Dietrich was running full speed at the same geyser pictured above while a kid not much older than him—but twice his size—came running full speed from the opposite direction. Right on top of the geyser, the 2 of them collided, sending Dietrich falling backwards right onto the back of his head. "Smack!" You could tell it was gonna be a doozy and it was. We had to keep a close eye on him for the rest of the day and it seemed like it took a few days before he was his fearless, thrill-seeking self again. But, due to the memory of shock, pain and disappointment, Dietrich has closed this avenue of excitement for himself. The only time he's ever seemed interested in returning to the Splash Zone was when I offhandedly commented that he needed a Splash Zone helmet. Unfortunately, there's no such thing and I'm afraid that all I did was add to the disappointment by mentioning the mere possibility.

So, Dietrich certainly is an adventurous little tike. It's fun to watch him have a blast discovering new ways to exhilarate himself and to occasionally join in the fun. But he's had some hard lessons in the last few weeks about the downside to thrill-seeking. It's hard to watch the tears fall when the living out of the Oldenburg nature leads to the accidents that accompany that nature.

1 comment:

fong said...

I love the photo of him charging into the water!!