I woke up Saturday morning full of vague dread. Why would I dread the ocean? I probed inside my head and quickly found the source of my angst. I loathed the idea of spending the day at an indoor waterpark and that was exactly what I was about to do.
When my husband explained this weekend jaunt to me, I embraced the idea with enthusiasm. He’d go down Friday night, speak at the opening session, then I would bring the children on Saturday morning. As the retreat speaker, he’d be provided with two rooms for his family and meals. Did someone say “free”? I am all about free stuff.
We thought there’s be a pool at the hotel. Four days prior to the adventure, my daughter packed her suitcase and three backpacks. She couldn’t wait to swim at the pool.
And then he called me on Friday afternoon from the hotel. No pool. But, great news, he said, there’s an attached indoor waterpark!
Oh. Good. Right? The kids would love that, I thought. I decided on the spot that I would not wear a swimsuit, though, because floating in a pool is a far cry from walking around at an indoor waterpark. But the kids would have fun. And my husband would be there, thus getting swimsuit duty.
That Saturday morning dread surprised me a little. Then I realized that when I think ocean, I think walking on the shore, searching for shells, gazing up at the ocean on the horizon, listening to the crashing, foaming waves. I don’t think indoor waterpark. Nevertheless, I’d be spending my afternoon at one.
I am a kill-joy. I admit it freely. I try, I really do, but I am becoming an old fuddy-duddy.
When we left our house Saturday morning, we drove through foggy rain. By the time we arrived at Ocean Shores two hours later, the sun was brightening the clouds and in some spots, blue sky promised a pleasant afternoon. We had lunch, then the children switched into their swimsuits. With much joy and anticipation, my daughter hurried me down the hallway toward the waterpark.
She and her brothers walked up the stairs which pulsed with burbling water fountains, dodged the waterfalls, ducked the spraying jets and arrived at the top of the blue slide, which was one of three water slides. From where I sat, her body language communicated her fear to me, though the noise in the waterpark was deafening. My husband and I had to lean close and shout into the other’s ear to chat. I didn’t need to hear what Grace said, though. She rubbed her fist on her eye, tipped her face down and I knew that she’d return to me the long way, back down the treacherous stairs.
The boys had a great time. Slipping, sliding, yelling, laughing, rushing by sopping wet. Grace watched from the plastic chair next to mine. She asked, “Is the orange slide fast?” She traced the slide with a finger in the air, trying to calculate the speed and distance of each slide. She made several attempts, but couldn’t overcome her fear at the mouth of the blue slide. She’d go up, clutching someone’s hand and then return back down the stairs, informing me, “I am too scared.”
I sighed a lot, but tried to be encouraging and patient. I knew that if she rode the slide once, she’d love it and her fear would be forgotten. Then again, I knew that it took a whole summer at the pool before she finally got up the nerve to dip her face in the water.
At one point, my husband put on his swimsuit to accompany her down the slide. Even his presence did not give her enough courage to slide.
So he went back to the room to take a nap.
Then she decided to walk up the rope ladder, a gently sloping, impossible-to-fall-through rope walk-way, up to the slide. She took one step and hopped back off. She took two steps, a child came up behind her and she scurried back down. She wanted to take her time and she wanted to be alone on that walk-way, but other children kept appearing behind her, so she’d turn and make her way back down. Over and over this happened, maybe twenty times, until she was within three feet of the top. And she turned and scampered back down.
Her 10-year old brother noticed this and offered to hold her hand, to take her up to the orange slide. (We determined it was the “slowest” slide.) I thought if anyone could, he would be the one to convince her that she wouldn’t die sliding down the slide. I thought this would be the triumphant moment.
I walked around to watch, getting the hems of my jeans soaking wet. I studied them, deafened by the pounding water and echoing sounds of people at play, as she stood, then sat the top of the orange slide. Then I saw her polka-dotted swimsuit reappear. Zachary came down, told me Grace promised she’d follow him, but I could see her still standing at the top.
Three times he came down. Three times she chickened out. After a good twenty minutes of this, I told him to retrieve her.
All told, we were at the waterpark for two hours. Her swimsuit wasn’t even wet. Fear kept her from sliding down like all the other kids. She said, “I really want to, but I am too afraid.” Fear loomed, blocking her from the promise of great joy, thrills and chills.
And I understood because sometimes fear intimidates me, too, and I sit watching, too afraid to join in.
What I adore about my fraidy-cat daughter, though, is that she tries over and over again. She admits her feelings, unashamed. She takes her time and when the time is right, she’ll slide. Not a moment sooner, though, and you can’t make her do anything she doesn’t want to do.
I can respect that.