It’s been a wonderful weekend - so great that I’ve barely spent any time on the computer. We all went to Kalahari water park on Saturday. We were all pretty excited - even Rodney had been talking about waterslides all week leading up to it. So expectations were high. I started to get pumped for it myself. We’d be watching a toddler, but maybe he would have so much fun that I’d get to do a few waterslides too.
Things started to get rough while we were checking in. Rodney wasn’t a fan of the plastic bracelet he had to wear, and threw a modest, miniature tantrum in the lobby. After regaining our composure and heading through the locker rooms, reality continued to set in. I think Rodney expected waterslides, but not a busy water park with kids and parents running around. So he was a little weireded out, and seemed hesitant to enjoy himself in front of everyone. Marissa and I did our best to kind of ease him into it, which culminated into a coerced ride on the lazy river. “Easy”, I thought - “we just kind of force him onto a tube and by the time the leisurely current carries us away, the child wonderment will take over and he’ll be cool with it.”
He was not cool with it. My kid is not really a shrieker - the kind that can command a whole waterpark with just one scream - but he just visibly looked anxious and upset, and every now and then he would loudly announce “OK ALL DONE, OK ALL DONE, NO MORE PLEASE”. Honestly, I’d rather be sitting in a tube with a screaming toddler that just wasn’t having it. Somehow I felt even guiltier sitting with a patient, but anxious toddler trying to diplomatically negotiate his release from this weird punishment based on water and fear.
We dried off and decided to eat some lunch. We needed some quiet time to regroup, and perhaps lower our expectations a bit. We found a booth in the food court and opened the PB&J’s, pringles, sliced bell peppers, and chocolate rice krispies I packed for us. I’m aware you’re not supposed to bring your own food into Kalahari, but it’s a matter of principal. I enjoy sticking it to these kinds of places in that way, but it also helps that nobody who works there actually cares. Plus, I probably looked like I was just waiting for a fight. I wouldn’t have said something to me either.
So we’re in the food court nibbling on food. Rodney was enjoying the quiet time away from the crowd, and Marissa and I were lowering our expectations about how much fun we were going to squeeze out of these fifty dollar tickets. “Maybe we just need to loosen up a bit,” I said. “We should treat ourselves to a drink from the bar.” It sounded like a good idea. Rodney wasn’t really digging the pool, and people were walking around with these really big colorful alcoholic slurpee things. We ordered two from the bartender while Rodney waited patiently by a little fountain. “We’ll take two of those fruit things,” I said. “The big one, right?” asked the bartender. “Ugh, sure that’s fine.”
The bartender had our drinks ready in about four seconds. It looked like a bucket of ice, a bunch of sugary syrup, and maybe a half shot of cheap vodka. He turned to me and said “sixteen”, asking for my card. I was relieved because the price for these silly drinks wasn’t posted anywhere, and I could barely hear the guy and was honestly expecting to pay ten bucks each. But eight bucks was just barely acceptable.
He took my card and produced a receipt. The total was sixty dollars. The drinks were thirty bucks each. We immediately flagged the guy down and asked for a refund. He was reluctant, and really tried to sell us on them. “You get to keep the cup”, he said. Marissa put her foot down - “we don’t want these and we want our money back. We didn’t know how expensive they were, sorry.” The bartender went to the register to revert the charge. Marissa quickly grabbed the drink and took several sips before they were confiscated.
At this point, we were feeling pretty defeated, and just decided to wander a little further into the park. We found a basketball hoop and a kiddie pool with about a foot of water. Rodney really likes basketball, so he got pretty into it and started shooting hoops with some other kids. Playing basketball got him excited about everything else, and all of the sudden he wanted to run into a little water jungle gym that had slides running out of it. He did a few slides, gained his confidence, and eventually climbed to the very top of the jungle gym. There were these really big slides coming out of the top. Rodney started saying “waterslide pleese”, and I was really surprised by that because we were about three floors up and the slides looked pretty big. I wasn’t even sure if he was big enough.
We walked up to the lifeguard sitting at the top and I asked “is he big enough to ride these”. The lifeguard nodded, then went back to staring off into space. I guess we were good to go. I made a quick plan with Marissa so she would meet me at the bottom. Rodney sat down at the top of the slide, and I knelt down to prepare him for it. I think I was more scared than he was, because half way into my briefing, he lunged forward and flung himself into the tube. I felt a mix of worry, pride, and amusement watching his little body spin, bounce, and splash all the way to the bottom. Marissa’s mouth was wide open when he hit the water - we were both in complete disbelief.
We went down every slide in the jungle gym. We even started to take shifts so either Marissa or I could take a break and do a bigger slide. My favorite was the screaming hyena. You stand in a tube, and the floor drops, sending you into a completely vertical slide that doesn’t even touch your body until halfway down. I talked Marissa into trying it (without telling her what to expect of course), and Rodney and I waited for her at the bottom.
So Kalahari was a success after all. Things were looking pretty dismal, hitting a lowpoint when we were almost conned into spending $60 on a slurpee. But the timeless magic of waterslides were there all along, and not even my son could resist. Waterslides were also a real lesson in letting go. I don’t think of myself as a helicopter parent, which is why I didn’t expect to feel fear as my son was climbing into a giant yellow water slide.
When we got home, Marissa and Rodney slept. I walked to the grocery store and picked up steaks, potatoes, and corn on the cob. I slowly roasted the potatoes on the grill, seared the steaks, then while everything rested I blistered the corn. It was a good day.