When my children compile their summer bucket list, I know they will include one outing that gives me a nervous twitch. They always want to go to the water park.
I’ll be honest. Swimming in a huge germ pool that has ginormous amounts of chlorine pumped through it in the hopes that everything will come out even in the end is not at the top of my list.
Nevertheless, every summer it’s only love for my children, Gracie, 8, and Andrew, 11, that makes me grab a beach bag and head to the water park where I’ll start my day in – no, not a plush recliner sipping a caramel macchiato ¬ but in the lazy river, bobbing behind a slippery inner tube I’ve never quite mastered the hang of getting into.
Don’t be fooled. The lazy river is not the meandering stream with lots of personal space its name suggests. Envision instead, crowding equal to that of a salmon run during spawning season. Imagine getting elbowed and kicked by a swarm of kids (and sometimes adults) and jostled by their inner tubes. Visualize ending up in the crossfire of a pre-pubescent splash war that you want no part of.
It’s not the lazy river. It’s the crazy river.
After turning into giant prunes in the crazy river, we stand in long lines for rides that involve inner tubes spinning at dizzying speeds as they’re propelled through torrential gushing water into pitch-black tunnels. Oh, and there is also very loud screaming. Screaming so loud, in fact, that I have to apologize to my children for embarrassing them.
Did I mention the torrential gushing water? I’m talking water so forceful it has taken my toenail polish off. Wiped my nails cleaner than I could with acetone and a cotton ball. I learned the hard way that’s not the only thing gushing water removes.
Once my tube shot out of a slide and hit the surface of the water so hard that it pulled my bathing suit bottoms down. I can’t believe I’m writing this next part, but luckily the huge tube was large enough to cover my derriere, allowing me to snatch up my bottoms before I mooned the other park guests. When I reached my children at the side of the pool I chided, “A good home. For this, one day when I’m old and senile, you must put me in a good home.” The water park is the place where my children hear this guilt trip special request most often.
We always hit the bathrooms right before we leave. For years, I was excited that each stall had its own hand sanitizer pump, one of the few things I liked about the water park. The hand sanitizer was amazing, with a floral fragrance that really stayed with me through the drive home. I thought this was so gracious of the water park proprietors – until the day I finally used a stall that had a bottle with a label that hadn’t rubbed off. I read the neat, block letters clearly: TOILET SEAT CLEANER.
I’d wondered why my hands had been so dry all summer.
I know. I know. Why do I soldier on through all of this?
There are good moments, too. One day a previously non-swimming Gracie stopped clinging to me and dog paddled across the crazy river and told everyone nearby, “I learned to swim all by myself!” Another time Andrew was so happy, he hugged me tight in the middle of a crowd, despite reminding me repeatedly that he has outgrown public hugs.
I’m not crazy about the crazy river or pedicure ruination, and I’ll never know what, exactly, are the ingredients in toilet seat cleaner. But I love my kids and they love the water park. When they’re grown and I’m gray, I won’t regret our summer days there. Maybe even one day, when I’ve gone to the old folks’ home, they’ll visit and we’ll get a good laugh about “Mom’s bathing suit malfunction on the water slide.”
One thing is certain. It’s going to take me that long to recover.
Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist and mother of two. When school is in session, she is an elementary teacher.