Saturday, August 6, 2011

The water slide of youth

If there is ever a time to forget the fact that your hair is graying, that your knees pop, and that there are a stack of bills sitting on your kitchen counter, it’s a day at a water park. Because really, one whiff of chlorine and the drowning sound of the water rushing down a giant tube, and it’s nearly impossible to act your age.

The whole act of it screams for youth, mostly because no grown person can physically manage a day of that much fun without channeling the energy of a ten year old. So fighting every urge I had to be an adult on a recent trip, I had to try to lock it all away in the tiny locker, which despite its small size can hold an incredible amount of flip flops and dry changes of clothes.

There we stood, all with our matching wristbands, and stared at the glory of the water slides, pools, etc. with wild anticipation. The children made a beeline for the very first water attraction. Still attempting to act like the responsible mother that I am, I made a beeline for the first open lounge chair and tried really hard not to fall asleep while the warm summer sun beat down on us. I managed to do the right thing and look alert each time they came down a small water slide, gave them a thumbs up and a loving wave.

But as things go, the smallish slide gets, well, small, and eventually I had to give up my space in the lounge chair and my husband and I had to accompany the kids on the larger stuff. If you’ve ever been to one of these new fancy water parks, the play areas for children are fantastic. Levels of slides and walkways to climb around seem to stretch in every direction, and no matter which level or walkway you’re on, there is something spraying you. I’m not sure at what point in your life you stop enjoying water being dumped on your head at random times, none of which are your choosing, but I know I’ve already hit that point. So as we stood in line for the four second water slides and a bucket of water hit our heads, they laughed. I used my kid’s swim shirt to wipe the makeup that run from my eyes all the way down my cheeks.

These are the things we do for our kids, because seeing them through my chlorine blurred and makeup smeared eyes, they are blissfully happy and having the time of their lives, running through water and surrounded by odd people in bathing suits. We wonder how they do it, the endless energy and the ability to power through everything for the thrill of sitting in an inner tube and floating under a waterfall while Jimmy Buffett is blasted in the background. We wonder how they run constantly from the bottom of the slide right back to the line without stopping over and over again. We wonder how they do all of this without slamming an energy drink or curling up and taking a nap in the sunshine on an open lounge chair.

But then, before long, the medium sized slides turn into smallish slides, and we start to accompany our children to a larger set, the ones that the kids are just tall enough to do and that scare responsible adults just enough.

Climbing the Empire State Building equivalent of staircases and waiting for an eternity, we finally get to the top and peer down at the tube that lies ahead. Surely someone has worked on the physics of this puppy, and even though we’re positive we’ll survive, there’s that voice in the back of our heads saying, “hang on.”

The whistle blows, and you feel the rush of speeding through darkness on water while your kid screams in joyfulness next to, and before you know it you’re at the bottom in the exit pool.

Call me a thrill junkie, but I know the look in my eye. My maturity is officially packed away with those flip flops in the locker, and my feet are dragging my kids back to the top of the stair case again because really, you’re never too old to be a kid.

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