July 20, 2010
riding the waves
I think there comes a moment in every parent's journey with a child in which the child surprises the parent by doing something completely and totally unexpected. I think this probably happens rather often--maybe even every day--but there are those times in which the surprise is perhaps a little bigger than expected.
Recently, we took a family vacation to the Wisconsin Dells. If you haven't been, it's probably one of those places everyone should
have to get to experience once in a lifetime. I think it's best to approach the whole enterprise with an open mind, ready to embrace the campiness of a place that has 5 times more tourists than residents. Maybe my estimate is too low?
Although Wisconsin Dells is named for the beautiful rock formations in the Wisconsin River, it's much better known for its waterparks. There's Noah's Ark, the largest waterpark in the U.S., and Mt.Olympus, the largest waterpark/resort in the U.S. There's no end to the number of waterslides, roller coasters, lazy rivers to tube down, and various wave pools to bump around in.
I'm not sure how the location of the Wisconsin Dells got picked for a family vacation destination. This was one of those big family reunion get-togethers, and I think the location was sort of chosen by committee. At any rate, we were looking forward to some rest and relaxation more than we were looking for thrills and spills of the wet variety.
But it so happened that toward the end of our week in the Dells, J decided that he really really really wanted to go to a water park. There had been some discussion of this earlier in the week by others, and I think some people thought that there would be better ways to spend our money than to take a child who is generally rather timid to a place that is better suited to teenaged thrill seeking. But, since he was asking, we slathered on some sunscreen and went.
At first, for a few moments anyway, the naysayers might have had their moment in the sun. The long walk into the park past the Hades rollercoaster (partly named due to its drop down into a tunnel and coming out on the other side of the street) caused an immediate ear covering by the young lad. But eventually we found our way into the indoor portion of the water park. We started out in something more like a regular pool, but quickly found our way into a lazy river (which we LOVED!!). We might have done that all day, but then there were the indoor water slides (which we LOVED!!). Again, again! Again, again! And then there was the outdoor lazy river with a little more current. J ditched his innertube and had fun swimming along, being pushed by the current.
At one point he turned to us and said, "That sign says 'Strong swimmers only.' Am I a strong swimmer?" "Of course you are," was our reply. This, after he had already shown his strong swimming skills with all the things he had done. He jumped back in and wound his way around all the adults and teens in their inner tubes on the fast-moving lazy river.
We continued on to a tide pool/beach area. This one had waves that started every 10 minutes or so, and then the waves would last awhile, rocking you back and forth in a tube. J thought this was fun--he wanted to be right up at the rope, pressing the limit to make sure to get as much out of the wave as possible. Where did our timid boy go?!
Finally, we checked out Poseidon's Rage. This was a bigger tidal wave pool--the waves can crest as high as 9 ft, and it's pretty much a body-surfing free for all. We would still be there right now if J had his way!! I think this was his all-time favorite. What surprised me most was that he didn't need to have us in the pool. He managed alone, in spite of the chaos of the wave and the people everywhere. My boy is growing up!
Moments like these remind me it's good to take calculated risks, and to always be open for the moment when your kid will surprise you. This was a fun surprise. Seeing J beaming as he was recounting his adventures in the wave pool with his cousins that evening was the highlight of my trip.