Theme parks: hell on Earth?

Joseph Kelly, EB Blogger
Joseph Kelly, EB Blogger 

There are a lot of very crazy things that people do for love. Emperor Shah Jahan built the monumental Taj Mahal for his favourite wife as a symbol of his love and devotion. Johnny Depp had ‘Winona Forever’ tattooed on his buttock. Tom Cruise stomped on any credibility he had left by stomping on Oprah’s couch to declare his love for Katie Holmes. And I, most crazily of all, proved my love for my daughters by taking them to Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.

Susie, as the part-time worker in our outfit, is traditionally the parent on duty during school holidays. This means that I have taken on the role of the supportive husband who, safely hidden away behind my desk at work, calls home at about 3.30pm when Susie is ready to tear her hair out. I usually say something wonderfully encouraging, offer some priceless advice and then hang-up congratulating myself on being such a caring husband and father.

But this year, I was told by Susie, this wouldn’t cut it. With my work place offering flexible work arrangements such as a program to purchase leave and the option of part-time work for parents, my days of “remote parenting” were marked. So these school holidays it was decided we would both take time off to enjoy the exhilaration of 14 extremely long and consecutive days with our trinity of cherubs. And to add to the excitement we decided to take them away from their network of friends and structured home routine and instead take them up to Queensland to meet their Northern relos.

Before kids, I always enjoyed holidaying in Queensland. If it was raining, you had the perfect excuse to stay indoors and read a book and if it was sunny you had the perfect excuse to lie in the sun and read a book. But, as any parent will know, reading a book when you have kids is a bit like running when you have broken legs – possible but painful. This holiday was all about the kids and keeping them active and engaged. Enter Dreamworld. It is impossible to move around Queensland without the kids spotting a poster, billboard or TV ad for a theme park. And, as any parent will know, once kids see something they want in an ad, trying to get them to forget about it is a bit like trying to do a handstand with broken arms – extremely painful and not at all possible.

On the drive along the Pacific Highway it suddenly struck me that the girls’ idea of a “dream world” would be completely different to mine. In my dream world a flock of nannies would spirit the kids away, while my very own PA would escort me to my 10am massage appointment before leading me to a brunch meeting with Gillard’s front bench so I could sort out the ETS, the mining tax and immigration. I would then retire to a sea-side balcony with a scotch and a cigar and reluctantly agree to Martin Scorsese’s pleas that I star next to Scarlett Johansson in his next movie. The kids’ dream world involves hot chips, an unending stream of lollies and enough adrenaline fuelling stimulants to make the average person’s head spin. Dreamworld on the Gold Coast only catered to one type of dream.

Dreamworld, much like Dante’s version of hell, is split into different themes. There’s the World of Wiggles, World of Wildlife, World of Thrill Rides, World of Nickelodeon and World of Family Fun. And the girls’ were determined to travel the entire universe, including the unlisted World of Endless Queues. No sooner had we got off one mind-spinning ride than we found ourselves mindlessly queuing for the next. Whizzing rides, whirling rides, rocking and rolling rides, water rides and “$5 for an ice-cream! Man, am I being taken for a ride” rides.

After five hours inside a world designed to cater for the dreams of holidaying children, I’m happy to report it wasn’t the nightmare I thought it might be. Maisie and I got to enjoy some great rides together, while seeing Frances frantically waving to me and Susie from her spinning tea cup was a particular highlight. And, for the cost of a small land holding on the NSW coast, we were able to buy a couple of buckets of chips and a round of ice-creams. Now who said dreams couldn’t come true?

What have you done with the kids these holidays? What is your idea of a ‘dream world’?
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The kids’ dream world involves hot chips, an unending stream of lollies and enough adrenaline fuelling stimulants to make the average person’s head spin