Yesterday I took the day off from work to spend a day with my family at the local water park. It's a fairly large park with plenty of water slides, large play areas for smaller children, and a "lazy" river in which to float around. We had a wonderful time, and came away with big smiles, a few injuries, a few sunburns, and some very good memories.
Myself, I ended up with a very painful sunburn on my back and shoulders. My wife has already chastised me several times for forgetting to re-apply the sunscreen. And my backside hurts pretty badly from the water slides (can't they make those things so they're a little more gentle?!). My youngest spent the day falling down in the toddler areas, so his knees and lower legs are pretty much thrashed. My daughter has scrapes in some unexpected places, but had a great day.
My oldest came away with his own fair share of scrapes and bruises, too, including chaffing in his groin from a wet swimming suit (which none of the rest of us got, oddly enough). As soon as we arrived, however, he and I were given the green light from my wife to take a walk by ourselves and go on some of the larger slides. We left my wife and two younger children, and headed straight for the biggest and baddest slide in the park -- a big black slide that drops nearly straight down for 20 or 30 feet. For me, this kind of a ride is just up my alley; I enjoy a safe freefall experience in pretty much any manner. For him, he looked at it in awe and practically sprinted up the stairs to the top of the ride.
There we were met by a very short line. Being a Wednesday, we knew the park would be less crowded, but we were still surprised to see the line as short as it was. I later concluded that it was a short line because it really was the biggest and baddest slide in the park.
In any case, he decided to go first. (Okay, I admit it, I sent him first to make sure he didn't chicken out and be stranded at the top of the water slide, like any good dad would.) Before going, I told him to follow the written directions precisely, namely that he needed to lay on his back with his ankles crossed and keep his arms tightly held across his chest. With a smile and an "Okay, Dad!" he bravely went to the slide where the attendant shook his head in disbelief and told him the same things. Seconds later, he was gone. He shot out of sight as he headed down the slide. The attendant looked back at me and said, "Sometimes the young kids don't keep their arms in, but he's ok." Okay, I thought, he's fine. So I quickly follow him down the slide (whoo! what a rush!) and found him at the bottom with a goofy grin on his face, cradling his left arm.
"So did you like it?" I asked.
"Yeah!" he said.
"What's wrong with your arm?"
"Nothing," he said.
Uh huh. So I took hold of his arm and tried to straighten it. Turns out he got spooked and basically had flung his arm out to the side as he took flight off the slide and completely scraped a layer of skin off most of his forearm. I knew immediately the poor kid was going to hurt for a very long time, but I put a brave face on and said, "You're all right, let's go."
The balance of the day, he cradled that arm, sometimes forgetting he was injured when he was sufficiently distracted. When we got home, it was quite late in the evening and naturally we all needed to take a shower to get cleaned up. The last thing we wanted was for his wound to get infected, so we had him shower, too, and told him to gently wash it. Soon he was in hysterics, suffering from quite a bit of pain as we attempted our best to wash it while touching it only minimally. The poor little boy. Finally, after we got him cleaned up and I was walking him to his room to put him down for the night, I put my arm around his shoulder and asked, "Did you have a good time today?"
Sniff. "Uh huh." Sniff.
"Was it worth the pain you're in now?" I asked.
"Uh huh," he said.
And I swear I saw a flicker of a smile. That's my boy.
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