This year the Tayler clan, Howard’s siblings and their children, all bought passes to the local water park. We declared that Friday mornings was the time when we’d try to meet up there on the theory that a water park is more fun when you have more people you know to play with. Not everybody can make every week. In fact this morning was the first time our branch of the clan has been there. We packed up and arrived just when a set of cousins did. I watched as Kiki and Link ran off together. Gleek buddied up with a same age cousin and Patch partnered with me. We went down slides and jumped in the wave pool.
Having a pass to the park makes all the difference for us. Our first time in a new place always feels stressful. I’m on high alert because no locations mean that kids will react or wander off in unpredictable ways. Until I learn which areas draw my kids, where I can expect them to be and whether I can trust them to return rather than being so excited that they are lost in the crowd, I always keep the kids close. When we first went to this park, it felt big, like they could get lost and I’d never find them again. Now we’ve been often enough that it just feels friendly. They do run off in pairs, but they always come back to our home base on the “beach” of the wave pool.
I’d hoped for more visiting time with my sisters-in-law, but the visits came in snatches as the needs of the kids pulled us in different directions. I watched one of them follow her toddler in and out of the shallows of the wave pool, trailing after a tiny being who was exploring her world. Kiki would gladly have taken over trailing duty, but this particular toddler spurns both Kiki and me, clinging to her mom and siblings instead. Kiki did get to play with other young cousins. Link got to ride his favorite slides until the lines got too long. Patch and Gleek played to their heart’s content.
A water park is not a peaceful experience. It is full of noise and motion. There are people everywhere and it only gets more crowded as the day continues, which is one reason why we try to arrive at opening and leave by lunchtime. Yet, despite the crowds and noise, there is a relaxation that I find there. It is a location that demands I be fully present. We pack very minimally when entering the park, because we don’t rent a locker. All our stuff just gets piled on the ground. So I only bring things that are required, passes, car keys, towels, shoes. Everything else is left outside and somehow that includes my business thoughts and my to do list. There are not very many places where that is true. My brain is almost always churning, but on family outings I can quiet the churn and just be.
“I like the real beach better.” Kiki said. I agree. It was less than a month ago that we spent a day on Sunset Beach in California. The ocean was huge and restful. It was not crowded and the wind whipped away all the noise so one could feel alone with the waves. Unfortunately that beach is a bit far for weekly visits. So we’ll spend time at the water park with cousins instead.