Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Survived Schlitterbahn!

The summer I turned twelve, my dad and uncle took a combined eight or so children to Disney World. My mom and aunt stayed home with the babies.

I was appalled. "Can't we afford Mom's ticket?" I asked, concerned. And "Mom, you are welcome to come. We can have fun even if you're there."

I was convinced that Mom was abstaining for some ridiculous purpose, preferring to play the martyr for obscure psychological reasons. After all, who would voluntarily stay at home with a toddler when she could be traipsing all around the Magic Kingdom?

My concern was entirely altruistic, since I figured we'd have more fun without Mom around. (My belated apologies.) For one thing, she walked slowly and we wouldn't have covered as much ground with her in tow. For another, Dad was much more likely to spend profligately on incidentals (like souvenirs and ice cream) without Mom protesting every expenditure. 

Mom assured me, repeatedly, that she honestly preferred it this way. "I'll talk to your aunt," she said, "Inside. Sitting down. In the air conditioning. We will discuss her recent trip to Germany." (The iron curtain had fallen a few months before.) "I believe I will find it very restful."

I gave up, finally convinced of her sincerity if not her sanity. "I guess I'll never understand," I thought.

You see where this is heading, of course.

Twenty years of perspective later, I think, "Who would voluntarily spend an entire day outside, in scorching 102-degree heat, either immersed in unsanitary, bug-infested river water or limping after hyperactive progeny, when she could be resting her pregnant, swollen feet, tending a single napping toddler, inside the air conditioned comforts of her own home?"

I want you to know, I was a good sport about it. I even had a reasonably good time.

This excursion was a benefit generously provided by Intel. We got three free (and one vastly reduced) passes to the Schlitterbahn waterpark in Braunfels, TX, with a catered lunch included. Further, their timing was excellent: early in June, as soon as school got out. A chance for employees and their families to relax, bond, and enjoy the outdoors. It's not their fault that Texas is in the middle of a drought and heat wave. Or that I'm pregnant, or that I hate swimming. I am, in fact, very grateful for Intel's kindness.

Last year I managed to get out of it on the grounds that I had a brand-new baby, only two months old. Next year, I expect I'll get out of it by pointing out I have two babies. Granted U will be about eight months old by then, but I can use that leverage for all it's worth.

This year, though, I was stuck.

The major issue was that last year, Eric wanted to try the more adventurous rides and Danny didn't, leaving single-parent Jon to negotiate unhappy compromises. This year, they all argued, I could go too, and take Danny to the calmer attractions whilst Dad and Eric tubed happily through choppier waters.

Alas, their point was extremely logical. In fact, it's what we ended up doing. (We got a babysitter for Sammy.)

Now, a note about parenting.

One of the problems with parenting is choosing good consequences. A good negative consequence should be simple, easily enforced, and inconvenient to the child, not the parent. It's also nice if you can make it fairly logical, like, "If you hit me, then I refuse to play with you," as opposed to "No, you can't have a pony because you haven't practiced the piano for a month."

Thus, the Schlitterbahn expedition provided me with an absolutely perfect bargaining chip, since I honestly would have been happier not to go.

I made the kids clean the day before. "We can't have Sammy running around the house with an inexperienced sitter and a bunch of hazards," I explained. Alas, they ran out of time and were sent to bed.

I got up promptly in the morning, made sure Eric took his Ritalin, and assigned them their last chore.

It took the kids two hours to do ten minutes of cleaning. (I wanted all the trash and laundry in the upstairs hall cleaned up.)

Now, if I had really cared about the trip to the water park, or if we had paid full ticket price, I might have tried something radical, like going upstairs, sitting in the hall, and supervising.

Instead I yawned, sat in the rocking chair, and chatted politely with the babysitter.

Various arguments, drifting downstairs, indicated they had picked up perhaps five pieces of trash.

I got myself some cereal.

Every twenty minutes or so, I bestirred myself enough to point out that if they didn't hurry, we wouldn't be able to stop at IHOP (or Dennys) for a leisurely breakfast. That if they didn't care about arriving early, they also presumably didn't care about leaving early. That their indifference to my agenda meant my indifference to their agenda in picking rides. That we were still paying the sitter for his time, even though he didn't have anything to do yet, and that fee might come out of their point jars. That I was delighted our house was so much more fun than an amusement park! I must be doing a superlative job as a Mom if they preferred performing gravitic experiments with coat hangers to the over-stimulation of a crowded Schlitterbahn. (This supports the theory that cardboard boxes are far superior to loud, obnoxious, flashing toys.)

Jon, after waiting for an hour, started getting cranky. "I'm hungry," he complained. I offered to get him a snack.

He declined, then reminded the kids that from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., the park would only be open to Intel employees, which meant virtually no lines on the most popular rides. I added that the later we arrived, the hotter it would be and the faster their dear, sweet Mama would wilt like a delicate flower in the hot, hot sun.

The babysitter played with Sammy and laughed at us. It was very pleasant, actually, that Sam had time to make friends with him. It meant there was less panic when we did eventually leave.

After ninety-plus minutes of listening to play punctuated by sporadic clean-up, I recommended that Jon impose a time limit. "Kids," he called upstairs, "If that hall does not pass inspection in the next five minutes--" (I waited breathlessly, hoping he would say "We won't go at all!") --"We won't get breakfast at all! You'll have to wait for lunch!"

Ah well.

Thirty seconds later, the kids announced they were done. (Miraculous. Predictable, though, which is why I didn't suggest the time limit earlier.) I inspected. I pointed out perhaps three items they'd overlooked, and then declared myself satisfied.

We decamped a few minutes later, a mere two hours behind schedule.

Between the late start, breakfast (at McDonald's), lunch, and my leverage to leave early, I spent a mere hour and a half at actual attractions. Plus a fair, but not excessive, amount of walking. I seized every reasonable opportunity to sit down in the shade. I kept my hand sanitizer close and dispensed it liberally.

I even unbent far enough to purchase a single memento: a cute little over-priced sand castle refrigerator magnet. I intend to display it prominently, as a trophy.

Despite the abbreviated adventure, the kids were both exhausted and fell asleep on the way home. Eric actually went to bed early.

The kids had fun, Jon got to spend some quality time with them, I got a clean house, Sammy did fine, and the babysitter got paid for eleven-odd hours of work, even if two of them involved sitting on the couch chatting and Sammy napped for a couple more.

Further, because of our liberal smearing of sunblock, nobody is even sporting a burn today.

The only drawback is that I don't have very many pictures, since there was no way we were taking our cellphones inner tubing on a river.

Overall, a definite success!

Still, I would rather have taken a nice, leisurely nap. I am remarkably sanguine about having joined the club of Old Geezers at the mere age of twenty-nine, v. 3.0. Do I hear an amen?

One final word of advice: Never, EVER, go shopping for swimwear while pregnant. Especially in the second trimester, when you're big enough to look fat, but not big enough to look pregnant. I was depressed for hours. In the end, I just wore opaque maternity clothes. (And, no, there are definitely no pictures of me.)