I have been blasted at work over the past few weeks. Mario and Ri have been killing me with their pleas to stay home with them one day (which tears me up on one level but on another I know they get over it minutes after I’m gone and they have their friends over). I noticed on Tuesday that I only had one meeting on Thursday afternoon so I canceled it and decided to take the afternoon off with the kids. It looked like possible thunderstorms so I found a discount coupon for Fort Rapids, called Patrick to make sure Alana and Gio could go, packed up swimsuits, told David to feed them and keep it a surprise, and cranked out some serious work Thursday morning.
I stepped in the door to the house at 12:30 and received a star’s welcome.
I hugged them both and told them the plans. Maria was ecstatic and kept saying “you are the best mom ever!” Mario retreated and said he didn’t want to go. He has been wanting alone time with me lately. But Maria quickly pepped him up talking about the slides and fountains at Fort Rapids.
We gathered our stuff and took off for Patrick’s house. I traded cars with Carrie and we were off down I-70. We walked into the hotel and the kids were in awe of the antlers on the walls and the high-heeled leopard shoe seats.
While I got tickets, Mario and Gio filled up on Jelly Bellies from the dispenser not understanding that they had to actually pay for them. Luckily, the cashier was a young high schooler who could care less. We got our passes and headed to the locker rooms to change. Mario hated the swim trunks I brought him so luckily I had a second pair. He adjusted those for five minutes but finally felt comfortable enough to head to the slides.
And the fun began! Mario and Gio played in the main area and Ri and Alana went to the lazy river and the big slides.
Gio joined us after a while but he found a friend in the main area that he ran around with for a majority of the time. Mario became addicted to the yellow slide and then witnessed the long line for the black slide and became intrigued. The black slide is the favorite slide among most Fort Rapids’ guests. It takes you into a black bowl where you go around and around until you shoot down a hole into a pool of water. Ri went down with me last year when we went to Fort Rapids for Zach’s party and she loved it. We were worried Alana wouldn’t be tall enough but she barely made it. Those two rode down at least twenty times.
Mario was not nearly tall enough for it but we were able to sneak him on with me a few times and he loved it! We both laughed so hard when we shot out into the pool. Then a young, militant girl put the smack down on him and refused, even after the most pitiful of pleas, to allow him to go down. He pouted and called her a jerk to me (which I promptly scolded him about but did express my appreciation that he didn’t call her that name in front of her- baby steps). But he soon found good times in the main area with me and Gio.
I got called by folks at work a few times and spent 45 minutes working out an “emergency.” I wavered on the edge of frustration and anger but did not tip over into the black hole. I kept my thinking positive – happy to be able to take the day away from the office and give my kids this treat. I knew I may be called away and I knew the kids would be just fine playing with their cousins amongst the slides and fountains. I find that so many of my days turn on that shift in thinking. I could easily have gotten angry and walked back in the park in a foul mood. Sulked at the table and not played with the kids. Thought about another job where they wouldn’t have bothered me. But what would have been the result? A day lost laughing with my kids. The experience of riding 15 miles an hour through a tube with my giggling son. The expression on Ri’s face when I told her I’d ride down the black slide with her?
Granted, there were times while we were there when I thought “I should just grab a coke and read something on the Internet.” But I kept running up and down those steps and sliding down those slides. First, to be in the moment with the kids. Second, to experience the joy and carefreeness they were experiencing. Third, to get some killer exercise (my calves are still killing me today!). I always have this unrealistic mindset that I will arrive at the water park or Kings Island or zoo, and I will spend the entire day enmeshed with the kids and the fun of the place. But the reality is that I do think about reading a book or checking my email when I’ve gone down a slide eight times in a row. And that’s ok. I am 41 years old. Even though I think “when can I do something else” sporadically during our adventures, I keep hanging on and sliding and splashing and in the end when the kids have finally tired out, I have the awesome recognition, if only self-recognition, that I participated fully in the day. I experienced the thrill of the slides, the exhilaration of the bucket of water on our heads; the nonsense of standing on a fountain spout and spraying the kids.
When we were leaving, a worker said “good-bye ma’am.” Maria looked up at me and laughed.
“You may be 41 mom but you act like a kid.” What a compliment. And with that, I joined them in the video arcade.