It was a hot, muggy day. The air was stifling and the sun beat down on my shoulders. I focused on the long, plastic landing strip a few yards from my feet. Even the mosquito buzzing near my ear was not enough to distract me. I wiped my brow and gathered my stance. Seconds passed, perhaps a minute. My heart fluttered and suddenly, I was transported back in time to a 9-year-old girl, intimidated by the task before her.
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"Go Mom, go!" The tiny voice rang out behind me. It was all I needed to shake the fear and sprint towards the cold water spraying lopsided out of the sprinkler. I hit hard, chest first, then hips. I was stretched out like a superhero in mid-flight. The water splashed in my face and over my torso as I slid faster than I expected, all the way to the end, where I was dumped into a soggy field of freshly cut grass. I took a moment to pause and absorb the experience; it was one I hadn't had in nearly 25 years. I had just conquered the Slip 'N Slid, again!
It wasn't something I would normally have done, not at 34 years old. I love swimming and splashing in the ocean, but Slip 'N Slides aren't my thing.
On this particular day, I had done it to show my hesitant and reserved 4-year-old that he too could do it, and enjoy it. It was a spontaneous decision at a friend's house; I had no swimsuit, no plan and no towel for myself, yet I stood there, soaked through, and smiling. And he was smiling too. The look of awe on his face was all I needed. It was followed immediately by hysterical laughter. He pointed to my wet shirt and grass covered arms. He doubled over in a fit of joy, thinking I was silly and begging me to do it again. I ran over to him, grabbed him up and said, "Now, it's your turn!"
It's a cliche we hear all the time, "Having kids make you feel like a kid again." But that's not always true. Having a baby doesn't make you feel like a kid again, and certainly chasing after a toddler doesn't make you feel young, if anything it makes you feel old and bitter. Babies cry, fuss and throw food on the floor. Toddlers have tantrums and mood swings that rival Dr. Jekyll. It's hard work. You play with baby toys and make funny faces but you can't really relate. I don't remember being a baby. I don't remember being 2 years old.
But then something happens. Your toddler gets a little older and suddenly you remember doing the things they are doing: learning to swim, riding a bike, building Legos, camping out in the backyard.
It's been 25 years since I last went down a Slip 'N Slide, and until I stood in front of it again, I had forgotten how scary the minute was before you throw your body onto the ground. I had forgotten how much fun it was to get wet by the sprinkler and splash at the end, only to jump up and do it again, and again and again. Those memories had become buried. Becoming a grown-up, getting a job, getting married, dealing with bills, life, babies, it clouds your memory and you forget how much fun it is just to be a kid.
And that moment comes when your child is standing in front of you, shifting his weight from leg to leg, holding the bottom hem of his swimsuit, wondering if he can do it. It only takes a second to know that, regardless of the dry and straight hair that took you 20 minutes to flatiron that morning, or the clean shirt and shorts you have on with no change of clothes in sight, that you will go down that Slip 'N Slid for your 4-year-old, and you will show them how much fun it can be. Because let me tell you, you will feel like a kid again.
Marissa Virtuoso lives in Charleston with her husband and two young sons. She does freelance writing and marketing work, and published her first novel last year.