Today, at the water park at Morey’s Pier in Wildwood, your father thought it would be fun to take you on the big water slide. So you and he climbed up the 2 (or more, it looked like 3 to me) stories on a wooden staircase to ride a tube down twists and turns and tunnels and chutes to the bottom where you would shoot out into a small pool that was about 4 feet deep. I had been watching the people come out of the slide, into the pool and I had seen more than one little skinny kid slip right through the hole in the bottom of the tube right under the water as soon as the slide wasn’t under their little butts anymore. And that was fine for the 6 or 7 year old kids who, one, knew how to swim, and two, could stand up in the water once they got their footing. But I knew my 3 and a half year old – not quite 3 and a half foot tall little guy would have some problems. Age and height aside, you didn’t know how to swim and had refused, up until this point, to even put your face in the water. Needless to say, as I watched you and your dad climb up the steps, I was a little nervous.
I’m going to give you a little glimpse into my neuroses, and I hope this is illuminating in some way.
My first thought was to just get in the pool where the people were coming out of the slide. That way I would be there the second you hit the water, just in case. But I stopped myself. The lifeguards probably wouldn’t let me just stand there and I would have certainly gotten beaned by one of the many people on tubes, shooting out into the water. And if I was unconscious, there was no way I could save you. So I settled on waiting by the side of the pool.
Now, there was a little rope fence on the side of the pool, to keep people from falling in. I contemplated that fence for a while. It was low, but not low enough to jump over. (Or so I thought. I would be proved wrong shortly, but that’s coming up later.) I decided that if I had to rescue you, I’d have to zip around the rope fence. It was only a couple of feet, I’d jump into the water and be by your side in seconds.
Some people may think that having a plan on how to “save” your kid on the off chance that he slips through the hole in the inner tube at the bottom of a water slide that thousands of people slide down a day and is attended by several lifeguards as being a little crazy. But I’ve read tons of studies (OK, tons of articles about one or two studies) that say the people that survive stressful, panic inducing situations are the people that have a plan. They also say people who have been through the experience before or people who practice for the experience are more likely to survive too, and if I had thought I could get away with “practicing” my little rescue plan, I would have.
So I waited. And I waited. And I hoped your father was smart enough to put you on his lap so you wouldn’t slip through the double tube he had carried up the steps. *
Then, I saw you. Well, I only saw your swim trunks. I couldn’t see your face, and I’m kind of glad I couldn’t, because I know now that you were terrified. You see, you weren’t with daddy. And all that worrying I had done about you slipping through the tube was all for naught, because you weren’t even on a tube. You were just you. Barreling out of the 2 (or 3) story high-big-kid slide with twists and turns and dips and tunnels – BY YOURSELF. And as I saw your swim trunks (and you) shoot out of the slide and go under and get lost in the churn, I took off. Around the ropes (like I had planned) and into the water. And because I didn’t practice, I didn’t take the current from the waterslide into account and it took me longer to get to you than I thought it would and I almost lost it. Uncle Richie (who’s quick thinking I attribute to the fact that he’s an ex-Marine) JUMPED OVER THE ROPE and dove for you, too. By some miracle, I got a hold of you and pulled you out of the water. You were choking a little, but amazingly enough you hadn’t inhaled a couple of lung-fuls of water. And you want to hear the kicker? The lifeguards – the ones who practice this kind of thing? Barely even knew what happened.
What should you take away from this story? Besides the fact that you owe your life to your mother and that you should always be wary when daddy wants to do something “fun”? I’d like you to know that you can always take risks in your life. I’d prefer they’d not be life-threatening, daredevil kinds of risks, but nonetheless, you should know that your neurotic mother always has a plan to rescue you.
Oh, and the other thing you should take away from this? Please don’t get upset if you catch me hovering at soccer practice, ready to swoop you off the field if you skin your knee, or following you on your first date to make sure she doesn’t break your heart, or hanging around your college dorm freshman year. I’m just practicing.
*NOTE: What happens next wasn’t Mitch’s fault. The attendant at the top of the slide was “adjusting” the raft when Frankie SLIPPED THROUGH THE HOLE IN THE TUBE and began his descent. Mitch dove down the slide after him.