Wave pools and alone time
A few weeks ago, my family and I went to a nearby amusement park that has one of man’s weirdest inventions – the wave pool.
To give a little history, I encountered my first wave pool at Wet’n Wild Emerald Pointe while visiting family who lived near Greensboro, N.C., when I was a young girl. According to the park’s website, the wave pool, “Thunder Bay,” is the “centerpiece attraction,” boasting two million gallons of water.
To be honest, I remember very little about actually being in the wave pool. What I do recall is seeing some of the behind-the-scenes equipment that makes the wave pool possible. I must’ve been standing in line for a water slide that had stairs, therefore putting me at a height and distance that allowed me to see the huge tanks needed to keep those two million gallons of water moving. It’s very difficult for me to explain, but looking at that creeped me out. I mean, it’s been 20-plus years, and that is still my most memorable recollection about that wave pool.
The only other things that give me that same creepy feeling are windmills and human chess games. I can’t explain. They just do. See, this is what happens when my inner monologue starts spewing itself into a blog. People are going to start making jokes that start with, “What do wave pools, windmills and human chess games have in common?” I have no idea what the punch line would be because I don’t do jokes. I don’t tell them and don’t get them. I stink at jokes.
Anyway, there is a reason I’m writing about wave pools. I think. I hope.
Given my very creepy, childhood experience with wave pools, it probably makes sense that I was hesitant to allow Elliot into this death-defying contraption. Because, let me tell you, when my very own flesh and blood decides he wants to swim in the wave pool, all this mama sees are knees dragging, arms thrashing and mouth gurgling.
Prior to this summer, Elliot had been to the aforementioned amusement park wave pool twice – once with both Daddy and me at age 4 and once with only Daddy at age 6. When he was 4, we tried the wave pool. It was short-lived because Elliot was not a good swimmer, and he was more interested in slides and other, more kid-friendly activities.
This year’s trip, however, was all-out, I-want-to-spend-the-entire-day-in-the-wave-pool craziness. Elliot is a pretty decent swimmer these days, but I fortified his thin frame with a life jacket anyway. This particular pool is fairly large. Not as huge as Emerald Pointe’s Thunder Bay. But still. The water gets deep, the waves are strong, and I am a nervous mama. That day, I became absolutely convinced that the person who invented the wave pool was not a mother. No way a mom would subject herself or any other human being to such stress and worry.
Following that trip, I told my dad about the wave pool creepiness I experienced as a child. His advice? “Think of it like a giant toilet.” Exactly what one wants to hear after her child has just spent hours in said pool, right? I gave my dad a chance to explain, though, and his words started to make sense.
There is water in the pool. When the tanks behind the pool are full, the “flush” can happen. This is when the siren sounds and alerts swimmers that the waves are a-comin’. A complex series of pipes and valves and pumps push the water out of the tanks to form waves. Catches along the sides and grates at the slanted, “beach” portion of the pool reroute as much water as possible. When the tanks are empty, the waves stop so the refill process can start.
Last week I took a Tuesday off work, so I could spend a summer day with just Elliot. There is a wave pool at a local park, and I knew Elliot would enjoy going there. Despite my feelings about wave pools, I decided to make that an option for our excursion. I gave Elliot three choices for our day together and was not at all surprised when he selected the wave pool.
Upon arriving, we found a spot in the grass for our blanket and towels and snacks. It was a super hot day – perfect for swimming. The pool was well attended but not crowded.
This particular wave pool offered, for a small rental fee, inner tubes. Elliot asked if we could get one, and I obliged. Very important to ride the waves in addition to jumping over them. My Elliot seems to carry with him never-ending bursts of energy. He will swim for hours.
It was such a lovely day. Just me and my firstborn. I put away my phone (except to take a few pictures as we were getting ready to leave). I said “Yes, yes, yes,” – even to candy from the concession stand – instead of the usual “No, no, no.” I stayed in the water with Elliot the whole time. I went down the water slide with him.
Of course I love spending time with both of my littles, but there is something to be said for alone time with each child. I see it as an investment and a rare occurrence for this work-outside-the-home mama.
Maybe it was because of the wave pool’s relatively smaller size or maybe it was because I didn’t have to chase around a 2-year-old while there, but I didn’t really worry that day. I just focused on Elliot. No life jacket. No schedule. I did whatever he wanted to do, even if it meant helping him get on that tube 268 times. Per hour.
Maybe I am calling a truce with wave pools. Or just this particular wave pool.
But windmills and human chess games? Forget it.