The bell rang, the music started, and we began moving slowly. The expression on his face changed almost immediately, and in that moment, I knew I had made a huge mistake. His horse’s face was frozen in a contorted expression of distress that matched the rider. I hopped off my horse and attempted to calm him, but as he went up and down and round and round faster, his fear only grew. He clung to me with a death grip. I managed to peel the man-child off his horse when at its lowest and sit him in the seat behind him. By then, the operator, realizing there was a problem, had brought the ride to a stop and was standing at the top of the stairs. When he saw that Sam was safely planted on the bench, he gave me a thumbs-up and started the ride again. I climbed on the nearest horse and continued to reassure him from a distance.
In hindsight, I should have sat beside him, but I wasn’t thinking clearly. He kept saying “Stop!” and I kept saying “You’re okay!” A two-story merry-go-round from his perspective, I now realize, is terrifying. I felt bad for having only seen it from my perspective. I knew what to expect, having much more experience on such contraptions. He did not. If he had been a 2-year-old on a merry-go-round for the first time, I would have anticipated trepidation and would have been reassuring and kept a hand on him. Because he’s a full-grown man, I did not. And I feel horrible.
In an effort to afford him the same opportunities that everyone else has, and to treat him like the adult that he is, I failed to take into account his considerable lack of experience with such things. Yes, I realize it was just a merry-go-round ride that lasted for three minutes, no big deal. But at that moment, as his world seemed to be too loud, too fast, and too scary, and me being unable to make it stop, I realized how little control I actually have. How much I want to protect him from everything, and how powerless I am to actually do so.