Yes, it’s true. I managed to exist for nearly 37 years without ever visiting a major water park. It just somehow kept slipping off my radar screen. My growing-up years were spent in a small rural town where our idea of sophisticated aquatic recreation involved a rope swing and a creek. As an adult, having all these babies in rapid succession led me to deduce the following:
Four young children + only two parents + large crowds + deep water + tall ladders = not a good idea.
And so, even though we spent plenty of time at our normal neighborhood pool, we just never made it to a water park. Until last weekend rolled around, and we realized it was probably time for our family to experience this summertime rite of passage -- our three older kids are finally at an age where they can have more independence in settings like this.
I had no idea what to expect, but my husband, an experienced water-park veteran from his youth, filled me in. We packed up and arrived on a glaringly hot afternoon, weighed down with towels, water bottles and other necessary paraphernalia. We joined a throng of people so massive I wondered that there could be anyone left outside the park walls. My sons and my husband quickly disappeared in search of Something Scary to Ride, while my daughter and I found a shallow wave pool. The waves bumped us left and right into the sides of other people trying, like us, to escape the heat. In a curious flashback to tenth-grade history, I thought to myself that this must be what the ancient Roman baths were like -- hordes of sweaty people in search of way to cool off. (Though I think the ancient Romans had the good sense not to pay four dollars for a snow cone. And I also think that some of the swimsuits I saw would have looked a lot more appropriate with Roman togas thrown over them, but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.)
I watched my daughter play; she was astounded at the vastness of the kiddy pool and the sheer number of large plastic statues that sprayed her with water. “THIS IS THE BEST PLACE EVER IN THE WHOLE WORLD,” she told me, in a delightful dose of hyperbole that only a four year old can deliver. She wandered over to me only occasionally. Mostly, she was content to run through all the sprinklers and take an occasional attempt at the smaller slides (anyone who wonders about the true nature of humanity should really spend a few minutes watching the chaos that unfolds in the lines for the preschool slide at a water park -- it’s like something on Animal Planet). I thought to myself, as I sat there in the very warm water that sitting in a kiddy pool is a lot like eating a hot dog -- very enjoyable, as long as long as you don’t give it too much thought.
My sons and husband reappeared occasionally, water-logged, happy, and (despite my best sunscreen efforts) slightly pinkish. After a few hours, the sun dipped lower, the crowds thinned, and the evening wind appeared, the best part of a hot Oklahoma day. We found a grove of trees and ate a dinner of chili-cheese fries and (of course) hot dogs, while I listened to the day’s war stories. The boys’ eyes couldn’t hide their amazement that their dad was the only one with the nerve to ride the park’s biggest and steepest slide, the Mega Wedgie. Yes, that’s really the name, and it was an appropriate one, Hubs reported.
We stayed until the park closed. By the time we left, our shoulders were pink and our feet were wrinkly. We had lost only one child, and only for a few minutes. We had learned that when you put a life-jacketed, 40-pound girl in a “Lazy River,” she turns into a bullet. We had been filled to the gills with overly-priced junk food. And we learned that if you leave a water park with good memories (and the same number of children, towels and flip-flops you entered with), then you can consider it a very successful day.