Friday, July 2, 2010

Chlorinated Sacrifice

Being a parent means making sacrifices. Having the title of "mom" or "dad" means you often do things you really don't want to do, from letting your son eat the last bit of your secret stash of ice cream to giving up the job promotion that would take the family overseas. I recently made the biggest sacrifice in my parenting life to date--I went to a water park.

Water parks are gross. No amount of chlorinated water can make up for the perpetually wet bathroom floors that reek of more than pool chemicals, or the lounge chairs where thousands of almost-naked bums have perched.

And then there are the bodies. All shapes, all sizes, all wearing close to nothing. I saw a few modest men who kept their shirts on (and even one with socks?!), but for the most part, people let it all hang out. I never thought going to a water park would be an ego boost for me, but there were plenty of "mom bods" in far worse shape than mine, as evidenced by the stretched-out tattoos no longer quite in their original locations.

My family does not spend much time at pools, so the kids are not used to seeing so many unclothed bodies. Alex wasn't fazed by it, but Lauren had some choice comments. What do you do when your 3-year-old points and laughs at one man's rather large belly? She had already told her dad she thought his belly looked funny. Glad I wore a tankini instead of a bikini. I probably spared myself the scorn of my appearance-conscious daughter.

As if the general skeeve factor were not enough, at water parks there is the added problem of what to do with your stuff. We saw many teenagers entering with just a towel around their necks and flip flops on their feet. There were cubbies near many of the slides where you could leave your shoes and towels, and it seemed like people were generally respectful of other people's stuff. But parents need to lug around towels, snacks, money, car keys, change of clothes, LOTS of antibacterial wipes, et cetera. The park we visited had lockers to rent, but they were tiny. Fortunately the skimpy hotel towels we "borrowed" did not take up too much space.

So I spent an entire day in a bathing suit, walked through a public bathroom with no shoes on (OMG, I still can't believe I did that), saw lots of not-so-heavenly bodies and ... I still had fun. Unlike amusement parks, where Brian and Lauren often go off on their own to ride the rides (yes, Brian and Lauren--Alex hates to ride, just like his mom), we did most of the water park activities together. There was minimal squabbling between the kids, and they had a great time playing in the fountain areas. We all enjoyed the lazy river and bobbing up and down in the wave pool. The kids wore life vests the entire time, which cut down on my nervousness (Alex is still learning to swim and Lauren just started lessons).

We got to the park around 10:30 a.m. and I was looking at my watch by 11:30. At that point, I realized I just had to relax. And then I started to have fun. The kids had a blast, and I know they will remember their water park visit for a long time to come. I will remember their smiles--and the scalding hot shower I took as soon as we got back to the hotel.

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