LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED AT AN INDOOR WATER PARK

I'm a little behind on my blogging lately. Life has gotten in the way and even as I write this I have crippling anxiety about the state of the bathroom and the five hampers full of clean laundry I have been meaning to fold for a solid week. Three weeks of holiday travel followed immediately by my son's third birthday party and the baby's baptism have brought me to my knees. 

On both the way to and from this previously mentioned holiday travel, I stopped with the kids to stay a the Great Wolf Lodge in the regionally famous Wisconsin Dells. If you haven't been to the Dells, I'll try and paint you a mental picture. Imagine a Midwest Myrtle Beach; complete with a board walk, Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum and an excessive number of arcades, but instead of overcrowded beaches they have overcrowded water parks. In fact, it is the self-proclaimed water park capital of the world. Some are outdoor, but the main attractions are the indoor parks, feats of modern engineering that all the chlorine in the world could not make clean.

I went to the Dells as a kid, and again as a teenager a few times with friends. I was reintroduced to the magic of the wave pool as an adult during an ironic bachelorette party trip that turned into a non-ironic good time. Since the Dells also happens to be exactly halfway between Minneapolis and my hometown in Illinois, and since the baby screams at all times in the car when awake, I decided we would break up the trip with a quick stay.

As a pale, doughy Northerner who also recently birthed a baby, I was not looking forward to strutting around in a swimsuit for an entire day. To appease my shattered ego, I packed what I lovingly refer to as my swim burqa, a black long sleeve, hooded swim dress from Athleta that could only be improved if it was offered as a maxi. I thought of all the times I felt self conscious in a swimsuit as a teen or in my early 20s and I mentally slap that unknowable, firm-skinned stranger.

The morning arrives when I must peel off my leggings (at this point they have partially melted into my skin), shimmy into an ill-fitting bikini and then cover it all with my beloved swim dress. But no amount of polyester-blend fabric can make me feel at ease and I resign myself to my fate. I reflect on the horrific sacrifices we mothers make for our children.

We walk barefoot through the hotel and stand outside the entrance to the water park because of course it isn’t even open yet. We stare desperately at the life guards through the glass, who avoid eye contact until they can unlock the doors. By this time my toddler has already asked more than 500 times when we can go on a boat ride (he does not quite understand the idea of water parks).

I immediately realize that I look like a complete weirdo in my full-coverage dress. No one gives a shit what I look like in a swimsuit. All the adults are just trying to make sure their children don’t drown. Most of the women have given birth multiple times and dad bods are ubiquitous. The teenagers running around probably think I’m 50 years old so they just expect me to look disgusting. I try getting in the wave pool wearing my swim dress and get lots of side eye. I’m pretty sure people think I’m a burn victim.

I decide I don’t really want to have wet fabric against my skin all day so I extract myself from the dress with much difficulty. People curiously check my skin for some sort of deformity, and finding nothing out of the ordinary proceed to ignore me. My confidence restored, I eat a soft pretzel with nacho cheese in a bikini and feel amazing.

My toddler loves the lazy river so I cram my ass into a raft and let him sit comfortably on my soft stomach, screaming with delight when we ram into other riders. I become enraged at all the no-chill kids race-swimming through the leisurely current. Then I have a flashback to aggressively shoving rafts and swimming under legs in a lazy river in the early 90s and I decide to suffer in silence.  After 45 minutes of this a nice grandpa discreetly helps me extract my ass when I realize I am stuck. He is wearing overalls and work boots at a swimming pool and I wish he was my friend. 

After the baby poops on me through his swim “diaper” (worthless, expensive pieces of crap that provide a false sense of security to parents and fellow swimmers alike) I decide to call it a day. Both kids are exhausted and happily watch cable in the hotel room for several hours before dinner. More importantly, everyone is too tired the next morning to do any serious screaming during the four-hour drive. The baby naps almost the entire way which is the longest stretch of sleep he’s ever completed, day or night (lucky me, I know). 

The relatively quiet drive gives me lots of time to reflect. Perhaps it was acute chlorine poisoning, but I decide indoor water parks are God’s gift to mothers and that I would have gone fully naked if it meant four solid hours of car peace (which is the most peaceful of the all the types of peace). 

All of these crazy things we do to entertain our children may seem altruistic, but really we just want to wear them out. Not just so they are tired at bed time, but so they are bone-crushingly tired for days, to the point where their brains cannot even imagine a game that requires us to sit on the floor. That is the ultimate goal of motherhood. And by some happy miracle it is also what is best for our kids. In my mind this, more than anything, proves the existence of a higher power. So thank you, Universe, for the existence of large holes filled with water that make children want to lay on the couch and leave us alone.