Photo taken by Jon Harper
I often struggle to find words that can adequately replicate an experience. In all honesty, I don’t think words can ever fully match the real thing. But I am going to try. Because yesterday was absolutely amazing! This piece contains no words of wisdom and no hidden message. My hope is that it makes you smile and allows you to experience at least a little bit of the joy that my son experienced yesterday. If I succeed in accomplishing that, then I think that will be enough.
Four year olds do not always behave in ways that we would expect. Here we were. Lined up to go the water park and my son was having a fit. It wasn’t even a long line. We arrived early just to avoid this. So why the whining and the fussing? I had no idea and I’ve learned not to dwell too long in times like these. And, for good reason.
Because they don’t last.
Once in the park, we split up. My wife and daughter went to ride the big kid rides and my son and I did not. He wanted something different and so did I. I get dizzy very easily, so following my son around was okay by me. I simply let him lead the way.
We began by wading through the baby pool and occasionally splashing each other. This was fun and within minutes his tears had dried and he was laughing and giggling. We could have stayed there all day and we both would have been happy.
A sunny day.
Top 40 hits playing on the loud-speakers.
And splashing around in a pool with my four-year old son.
That was all I needed. But the day was about to turn. Actually climb may be a better verb to use here because what was about to take place was just a better version of our first twenty minutes. Much better.
Whereas the first twenty minutes were fun, the next two hours were pure unfiltered joy as only a four-year old can experience. Lucky for me my son let me join him on this ride.
While in the baby pool, my son and I noticed an area to our right that appeared to have potential. We would have to get out of the baby pool and walk a short distance. But it looked worth it. My son, who I let guide our experience, finally decided that he wanted to see what this other area was all about. We could see that it was all by itself. A water park island, if you will.
Once we arrived, we allowed ourselves a minute to take it all in. And then…
Water was spouting up and down from multiple places in multiple ways. I could see my son’s imagination instantly come alive. Actually, I don’t think it ever goes to sleep. Once again, I waited and followed his lead. And lead he did! He became my tour guide into a world that few adults are allowed to enter. But on this day I was.
What I had originally thought were water spouts suddenly became bad guy lasers. And it was our job to attack them. For the next two hours my son and I became superheroes. We were amazing. You should have seen us. You should have seen him.
He was magnificent. Gliding effortlessly from spout to spout with the confidence that only an omnipotent video game character could match. He was not going to be defeated on this day. He was not even challenged.
At times he would tilt his head to the side and place his index finger on his ear. At first I was confused. Then I realized that was our way of communicating with each other. This was his phone. Once I understood, I suddenly had a phone too. Just us. No one else at the park could tap into our frequency. Their loss.
We eventually had to stop for lunch. Midway through lunch. Just when I was getting ready to take the best bite of my burger. The one with the perfect ratio of ketchup to mustard. He had to go the bathroom. Real bad.
I took his hand and weaved in and out among our fellow water-parkers. They were no match for us. We had been fighting bad guys with lasers all morning and therefore inner tubes and beach towels were not about to slow us down.
When we entered the bathroom, barefoot, I noticed that the stalls were not an option. Let’s just say they were messy and I’ll leave it at that. Urinal it was then. Only problem was he was too short to reach them. All the while remembering that he had to go real bad.
So I did what I had to do. I picked him up from behind and lifted him up so that he met the minimum height requirement for using the urinal. I felt as if his 90% accuracy rate was acceptable, considering the circumstances and his lack of experience.
We quickly finished our lunch and picked up where we left off. Considering how amazing we were before lunch, I was amazed that the bad guys showed up after lunch. But they did. And we continued to crush them, as only a four and forty-four year old can.
I noticed that the majority of the time my son and I were on the island, we were alone. Folks would walk over. Quickly size it up. And conclude that it wasn’t enough for them.
Clearly these were rookies that would have slowed us down anyway. Unfortunately, I knew that the one enemy that could defeat us was fast approaching. It was nearing our time to go. One does not just tell a four year that they have to leave a water park and expect immediate compliance. So we started with a pseudo ten minute warning that involved the promise of a frozen SpongeBob treat.
My wife and I devised what we thought was a good plan. I would ride a few slides with my daughter and she would take my son to get his treat. It was only fair that I spend some time with her. Although our time spent together was short, it was wonderful. Her smile is all it takes to brighten my day. And smile she did. Especially watching me come down the slide.
Looking over at my wife, I knew it was time to go. But as I approached I soon realized that my son had different plans. He had to go the bathroom real bad again. I knew this was not a stall tactic because I had observed how much water he had swallowed throughout the day.
No problem I thought. We did it before we could do it again. Only this time we had a more formidable obstacle than mere water-parkers could pose. This time we had to carry SpongeBob whilst dodging and weaving. I am not going to lie. I was concerned. We made it to the bathroom with minimal SpongeBob loss. It was 90°and I was licking as fast I could.
Once inside, I noticed that the urinals were now as messy as the stalls. And we were barefoot again! I decided we would try the stall. I would have to lift the seat and hope for the best. Everything worked out. His 80% accuracy was 10% better than I had expected and 20% above the person who had used the stall before us.
As we left the building I couldn’t help but notice that we were in jeopardy of losing SpongeBob. Not two seconds later, as if he had planned it all along, SpongeBob’s left eye fell out and rolled on the concrete. Knowing the five second rule applied here, I scooped it up and put it in my mouth. I’ll be damned if that little yellow sponge was going to win!
I had my son bite off the other eye and by then we noticed that the eyes were made of gum. What genius devised this evil plan? Now my son was enjoying chewing his gum and had no interest in eating SpongeBob. I continued to lick furiously and by the time we reached my wife and daughter, SpongeBob was a mere shell of his packaged self.
Unfortunately, my son suddenly wanted to hold SpongeBob. I knew this was not going to be a good idea. But what choice did I have? The instant the hand off occurred, SpongeBob began getting his revenge. He started dripping all over my son’s hand and I’m not certain, but I think he winked at me as if to say, “Who’s omnipotent now?”
My son must have seen him wink too. Because after screaming and crying for ten seconds, that felt like a thousand. He showed SpongeBob who was boss. And chunked him as far as he could. Part of me wanted to leave that evil yellow sponge on the pavement. To die a slow and painful death.
Lucky for him my wife took him out of his misery. She scooped him up and deposited him in the nearest trash can.
My son continued to cry and we did what any parent would do. We promised the kids we would stop by the candy store on the way back to our place. It wasn’t his fault that SpongeBob was such a…
It’s over now. I wouldn’t allow that little yellow sponge to rent any more space in my head. The candy store was a piece a cake. My son wanted a toy and I let him get some candy. I had promised him a toy and the candy was a no-brainer.
Much to my surprise and delight he chose a pink My Little Pony stuffed animal. He loves the show. Which makes me happy because I find it to be a nice, mild alternative to the traditional fight shows that he watches.
It was a great day!
Getting to vicariously experience my son’s joy today was intoxicating.
I am forever grateful to him for letting me assume the role of sidekick while we defeated the bad guy lasers. And watching him transition from defeating SpongeBob to choosing a pink My Little Pony stuffed animal was magnificent. There were other, more aggressive-looking stuffed animals to choose from. But he had had enough fighting for one day. It was time to be a four year old kid again. And that was just fine with me.