Why do mothers drink?
Because of places like water parks.
My best friend since forever and ever and I took four kids to Splashway Water Park in Sheridan, Texas. Everyone had raved about this park, and it was ideally located halfway between Austin, TX where she lives, and Bellville, where my parents live. Absolute winner for a summer day in Texas with four hot rambunctious kiddos. We had her two, aged 6 and 5, Austin age 6 and my niece, Lanie, just a month shy of 7. For the record, four kids outnumber two moms by a factor of about 89.
This park is known for being “family friendly” and I think this must have something to do with the contemporary christian music it has blaring loudly from speakers that must cover ever single inch of the park. It was far too loud to hold a conversation, so our idea of catching up while the kids swim was absolutely laughable.
The park had a good variety of pools, pads and slides for all ages and abilities. Thank god we had the foresight to strap all four into life jackets. New swimmers make for drowned rats in moving water. The kids had different interests and different tolerances for the water slides ranging from “never gonna do it” to “I don’t care if I’m not tall enough to go on the water vortex of death, I want to go FASTER!”
And if keeping up with competing kiddie priorities and blaring worship music wasn’t enough, there was one point when the whole park stopped (except for the young children) to observe the national anthem. Now, I’ve been gone from the US for a while, but this was odd. I had kids at the top of a slide and down in the pool, and the lifeguard was standing up facing a flagpole in the middle of the park, and ssshhhing me because the Star Spangled Banner was waving. I just looked at her and said “I don’t have time for this shit, I have kids in the pool” and walked away. It was a proper WTF moment.
After almost completely fraying our nerves in the first 45 minutes just trying to keep up with the kids, we found a large pool with a nice beach entry, that stayed fairly shallow for the length of the pool. It looked like it maybe was a wave pool, but didn’t have obvious signage, and several earlier passes by the pool didn’t indicate that the waves were operational even it it was.
So we two moms sat down in the shallow end to catch our breath while the kids waded farther and farther away from us. Just as they reached maximum distance away from the moms that a six year old can get, a seven foot wave (my assessment in the moment may have been off) swept down the length of the pool. There was no warm up wave, no siren or whistle, nor even a delighted wheal from the crowd. Just a big massive killer wave, followed by another and another. We looked up to see our minions joyfully cresting the next wave, approximately 400m away from us (okay maybe 100).
We hopped up immediately at a full sprint, hurdling powerful waves, and crashing into breakers trying to get to our kids. We were Baywatch in slow motion with less revealing bathing suits and significantly more panic.
Beverley shouted “we can’t lose Lanie!” Just as I spotted her being rescued by a nearby adult. Terror, misery and hatred were written all over her beautiful little face. Pure hatred for the situation and her Tia for putting her in it. I rushed her back to safer waters where she quite understandably didn’t want to let go of me. Beverley pressed on for the other three. We looked up just in time for the youngest of our crew get thrown over backwards while a tidal wave bashed into her from the front.
The two boys were still on the loose, and the pool was so long, one of us had to stay with the girls while the other pressed on to rescue the boys (who were having the time of their lives by the way) from certain wave pool death. By the time we had picked up each and every one of our charges and dragged them (perhaps kicking and screaming) back to safety, the wave cycle was over, and the pool of terror and tears was once again calm (save for the blasting music and general waterpark glee.) I wanted to vomit with relief.
We hauled those kids to the (wave free) 2 inch deep splash pad and stood on guard, ready for the next disaster to strike. We stayed that way for the rest of the day, soldier mommies protecting their children from hidden dangers through water slides, lazy rivers, and tantrums.
There was more drama at a particularly badly designed set of slides that shared a staircase, but shot off in opposite directions, linked only by the fast moving not so lazy river. When three kids are climbing up an obscured staircase, the only strategy is to stand guard and try to decide where the highest risk child is headed and collect them before going after the others.
After a couple of hours, we moms had as much as we could stand. We loaded up the kids, drove home, and fed the kids Dairy Queen while we steadied the last remains of our shredded nerves with an entire bottle of wine, which we downed in one huge gulp. It took another bottle just to laugh again, and perhaps a bit more after we got the kids off to sleep.
Mothers of the year, we are not. When I said thank god we had the foresight to put life jackets on them, I mean, thank Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and everyone else that music was on about. The kids loved it. We moms will never go back without a 3:1 adult to kid ratio — and a park that serves liquid anxiety antivenom.
My rating for family travel: It’s a decent water park, but the price tag is high, layout of the park a little chaotic, and the music – I don’t care what kind it is – is obnoxiously loud. Not sure I’d go back. There are other water parks to wear out the kids – and the moms!