I had earned this moment. I was the one who was encouraging them to swim after all, and if it wasn't so that I could enjoy a lazy river water ride, then what was it all for, anyway?
Oh yea, I want them to avoid drowning too. This would be an excellent test of that skill, for certain.
By the time we made it to the water park area of Hersheypark, it was already late in the day and very warm. The line was long, but I was determined to take the kids on the lazy river and that they would enjoy it. I had explained that the water was just two and a half feet deep, and that on their scale of thrill rides, the lazy river was below the roller coaster they'd just been on.
We descended the ramp, and the water was really, really cold. I hadn't anticipated that, and Max started to freak out. Hannah was charging ahead, and I ended up scratching Max with one of my fingernails as he tried to flee the scene. There was no place else for him to go though--he had to get on. Hannah was already gliding away from us, and somehow both Max and I got on the inner tubes too.
I tried to keep Hannah in sight as Max adjusted to the ride. He didn't want to get wet, and was worried about his scratch. I quickly gave up trying to sit on my inner tube and instead began walking in the middle of the doughnut hole. I caught up to Hannah, steered Max to keep him away from the water sprays, and for one small moment, it was all going okay. Max was laughing. We decided to go around again.
I thought I could attempt getting on the inner tube again, but failed miserably, cart over apple. I opened my eyes under water, shocked I hadn't hit my head. I grasped for my sunglasses. When I emerged from the water, Max immediately yelled, "Mommy, your contact!" It, by some grace, had stuck to my cheek. Germs be damned, I somehow put it back on my eye. Moments later, Hannah fell off her inner tube. Max was shrieking that water sprays were about to get him, and I averted another crisis just in time. We were approaching the bridge where Marc stood, and though I felt so defeated, I smiled and had him take the photo above. I wanted to remember this moment, because even if it was the most highly-active lazy river ride in history, the kids did end up having fun.
They might not remember that part. They might instead remember the cold water, the shrieking, and the fear they felt at first. More so, they will remember that less than five minutes later, when they were back on solid ground running on the splash pad, Max careened into another child and gave himself a black eye.
If I wanted to keep everything rosy, the story should have ended with us leaving the lazy river ride, me getting a workout, but the kids ultimately having fun. Instead, it ends with this perhaps unexpected nugget from me.
Parenting is hard. I know I'm only a decade into it, but the moments like these can just take your breath away with the level of how much can go wrong, and frankly suck, on what is supposed to be a good day, a fun day, where everyone is healthy and plans have been made and hard-earned money is being spent. I know this. I feel like I try not to ask the universe for much because of it. I keep my expectations low, anticipate the breakdowns. But sometimes, it just stuns me how little good can come from a day, even when it ends with everyone mostly intact. Especially when it comes on one of those few days labeled as "vacation."
We are fine. I'm fine. I have no idea if I'll ever get to go on a lazy river ride again, but there are great moments that I'm sure I will still have to come. But tonight? Tonight I'm still recovering from the suck.