Up until last Sunday, I felt like I was the only parent in town who hadn't treated her kids to the glory of a certain giant, lodge-themed water park. I'd see photos of damp, happy families and read exclamation-mark-riddled status updates (WE'RE AT XXX XXX LODGE! #TOTAL FUN!! #SO BLESSED!!!) and my Mama guilt would start to tingle like a the beginning of a cold sore.
Spending more than two hours at any kind of park or event, wet or dry, in crowds of strangers and their offspring isn't really my jam. I loathed the day we spent at Disney two years ago. I can't bear to try our local Easter Egg Hunt with its herds of chocolate-addled children and over-caffeinated parents. I can only manage to march in the first half of any of Kincardine's weekly summer Pipe Band parades; I lure my children into the quiet Aztec theatre for ice cream at the half-time pause and lay low while the rest of the masses march past. And even though I adore the Ripley Fall Fair, I still feel the need to hide in the pie n'coffee social room at the arena every few hours to get a break from the crazy.
It took me three years of futile resistance before I gave in to water park madness. My sister-in-law found a 24 hour flash sale and the price seemed right for two nights and three days. We'd get the meal plan and I'd coax my other brother-in-law Carman - beloved uncle and all-purpose human trampoline - to come along and help me with the kids since D couldn't make it. I might not love water parks, I might shudder at the thought of crowds, but as my most favourite epithet goes, "It's not all about you." This one was not all about me. This one was for the children.
And you know what? Despite hours of planning and packing and a seemingly endless 3.5 hour drive, despite the tidal flow of people and a few Dylan related incidents, it was better than fine. Especially since one of the first things I encountered was a dimly lit coffee bar serving my absolute favourite brew, Kick-Ass Coffee. Clutching a large cup, my brother-in-law wheeled our mountain of crap to our rooms. When we opened the door and I saw delightful beds with fluffy white linen, real china mugs and a stainless steel coffeemaker, I knew the place wouldn't be so bad after all.
Considering the volume of people the lodge entertains, it was clean, well-organized and staff were surprisingly friendly. Anyone who has to deal with, not to mention clean-up after, a never-ending swarm of adults and children and still manages to smile and talk to my kidlets wins my admiration immediately. But the real test was the water park itself and the scary amount of people we'd have to navigate while there. My not-so-bikini body didn't add to my excitement, either.
We walked into the pool area and I immediately felt like someone had whapped me across the face with a warm, wet sponge. At least keeping my kids warm wasn't going to be a problem. We got fitted with bracelets (which Dylan and I hated) and were set loose to join the throng. After I got over the initial fear of losing my children, I sank into the semi-tropical water of the kiddie pool and watched my family have enormous fun. Around me seethed a mass of skin and hair and tattoos and feet...GAH, don't get me started on the feet. (I hate feet.)
As I people watched in between my kids' trips up and down the waterslides, I began to notice bodies of all shapes, sizes and skin colours. There was a wide range of ages, too, from the tiny baby who looked like it still had placenta behind the ears to the jolly-looking grandmother who plodded gamely along behind the excited toddler tugging on her hand.
I saw women in danger of revealing a bit too much butt-crack and four giggling Muslim women covered head to toe in black bathing costumes. There were men with six-packs and men with two-fours; men with long hair, women with buzzed heads. I glanced at tattoos, piercings, scars and birthmarks, heard tiny children lisping in languages I couldn't identify. The water park was glorious mash-up of humanity, something that my kids don't get enough exposure to in our sometimes-sheltered life in the Kink. Even though there was craft beer on tap in the restaurant, and creme brûlée at the buffet, I think the convergence of so many different types of people turned out to be my favourite part of the whole experience. Weird, huh?
On our final day at the park, as the minutes ticked down to the horrible moment when I'd have to haul the kids out of the warm water to change into dry clothes and get ready to face real life, I noticed Dylan floating on his back nearby, a happy little otter basking in the invisible rays of an imaginary sun. He flipped over, caught my eye and smiled before waddling to the stairs to hit the slides one more time. That's when I noticed the butt of his threadbare bathing suit had ripped clean open and his plump little rump was exposed for all the world to admire. He didn't care. No one else did either. His was just one more example of the unique homogeneity we'd been experiencing, where you let it all hang out, whatever your "it" is, and just enjoy the moment.