As far as social stereo types go, I would not have classed myself as an embarrassing aunty. I have never been cool, unless you are aged under 10; to the children in my life, my job title is Director of Fun, and that is very cool, just call me Ice-Man (woman). To other adults, I am just loud, it is often commented that my voice is heard above all others even at the mayhem that is Jungle Jims, I have been witnessed rolling down the hills in unsuitable clothing at the local park and regularly make a fool of myself on days out, all under the guise of ‘playing with the children’. But this weekend I unfortunately crossed the line.
For my nieces sixth birthday, we visited the Drayton Manor theme park. I went with my sister, her husband and three of her children. As Director of Fun, my role includes accompanying the children on thrill rides, particularly the ones parents don’t wont to go on. I would consider myself fearless when it comes to scary rides. Well, I did, before this weekend.
We warmed up on the runaway train. We practised our ‘hands in the air’ pose for the photos. We smiled delightedly at each other in the carriages, we shouted “here we go” in faux American accents. The train set off. We duly let go of the handle bars and screamed for fun all the way round the roller-coaster tracks. So far so good.
Then my nephew spotted the Pirate Ship. You know the sort, a great, big ship that moves as if it’s a giant swing and makes your stomach feel like it will never catch you up again when you leave it behind at the height of the drop. The first issue was my niece was not tall enough to go on the ride. She was about 10cm too short, not a chance. Cue tears. The second issue was brought up by my sister; although my nephew was tall enough to go on the ride, she had concerns that he was too thin, he might slip out from under the safety bars, she said. What?! Yes, my nephew is tiny, his whole frame is petite, but it did not occur to me for even a second that he would be allowed on the ride if there was a chance of him falling out. I dismissed my sisters concerns as those of an over-cautious parent.
So I escorted my nephew through the non-existent queue and climbed aboard. The very back row was full (thank goodness), so we were third row from the back. I did not notice as we chose our seats that there was a fat man a little way along from us. When the safety bar came down across our legs, I realised the significance of having a large person share our bench, the bar only came down as far as his legs would allow. This was ok for me, but with mounting horror, I began to think about what my sister had said regarding my nephews slim body; OMG, he could actually slip out! Before I could become hysterical, the ride began to move. My nephew beamed in delight, “don’t let go of the bars” I said, in a very serious voice, “I’m worried you will fall out”. His skinny legs did not reach the floor or the foot rests in front, he had nothing to brace himself on. I gripped my nephew hard, I felt the full weight of responsibility for this little person, all resting on me. What a silly idea it was to go on this ride.
The first swing wasn’t so bad, my stomach flipped a little, but the next swing was horrific. I felt my nephew slipping as the boat climbed higher and I screamed my head off. Not a fun, theme-park-acceptable scream, but a full, blood-curdling scream that started at the top of the swing and reached a crescendo as we passed the mid way point. I looked down to the ground where my sister stood, laughing her head off and pointing; I suspect a little bit of wee came out, she was laughing so hard. I did not care that everyone on the ship was probably vastly entertained by me, all reason had gone out of the window. I was in hell as far as I was concerned and the ride seemed endless.
My nephew on the other hand was not amused. He fought to prise my vice-like grip from his arms. “Let go” he shouted at me “I want to do a camera shot” meaning he wanted to hold both his hands in the air for the down swing. Not a chance in hell, no way Jose. I was now convinced he would plummet instantly to his death, all because of me, if I let go. I screamed and screamed, and am ashamed to admit, I started crying. My nephew was disgusted. “You’re embarrassing Aunty Miche” he said, “whats the matter with you? Why are you being a wimp?” I had gone sharply down in his estimations.
Finally the ride stopped. I had to be helped off, I was shaking from head to toe. My nephew did not want to be seen exiting the ride with such a let down, I saw him give a sideways glance at me then exchange pitying looks with the other passengers. Not cool. I was definitely not cool.
Later, I was persuaded on to the big wheel, I don’t know what possessed me, peer pressure I guess. It should be a gentle, fun, pleasant experience. I spent the whole ride gripping the sides, shouting at the children to sit still and stay away from the gate. I was actually the Fun Police and once again I cried. That is the last ferris wheel I will go on, ever.
So, I think that officially makes me The Embarrassing Aunt!