I had never been to a spray park until recently. Oh sure, I’ve driven past them, but frankly they always seemed like some place I had best avoid. All the spraying “water” and frolicking children…they just looked like giant bacteria frappes.
But now that I’m home with my 2-year-old every day, it’s been over 90 degrees outside with high humidity for what seems like forever, and there just happens to be a spray park right at the end of my block, well…
I decided it was finally time to try the frappe for myself.
I started things off on the wrong foot though. This was because I had to put a bathing suit on my daughter. And I have never once put a bathing suit on my daughter. Seemed easy enough though, and it started out fine. I got her legs in the holes, I pulled it up over her belly, and…oh my god, what the @%$# is going on with these shoulder straps?
Many screams for help later, we were on our way.
Upon arriving at the spray park I was greeted with pretty much what I expected: tons of kids running around like damn lunatics. While this certainly gave me pause, it had the opposite effect on Audrey who greeted them with mucho gusto. Fantastic. She was happy and I could sit on the benches with all the other lazy parents on the sidelines. Easy. Except that…
She was afraid of the water.
This was a surprise. We have a sprinkler in our back yard, you see. She loves it. But the sprinkers at the spray park? Not so much. They’re big, powerful, and unpredictable. Three things that don’t go over so well on a young girl who’s just now starting to learn the meaning of fear. The Audrey of a year ago would have rushed into the fray. This Audrey, however, was digging her fingernails into my leg. It took about fifteen minutes to get her to enter the park proper, but even then she’d only get her feet wet, screaming each time a nearby nozzle produced a newfound geyser. For the next hour or so I spent every minute encouraging her to basically get wet and have fun.
As if that wasn’t enough, there were the other kids to contend with too. And they might has well have hailed from Thunderdome.
The first one I can vividly recall promptly ran into the park and spat onto the ground. Nice. Great work there, kid. First rate, really. Bravo. But the next one was even worse, adding some sugar and ADHD to the mix. He first introduced himself by running right up to Audrey and bleating “AH-looga la mooga ZTRAAYY!!! Phrrff BLAP perrr lappa ta lappa ta LAP!” All I could see was a manic blur of knees and elbows, and a head that lolled and bounced as if on a spring. In short, he was terrifying. Throughout the afternoon he would continue to run over to Audrey, do his “BLLUURP patta pa patta BLARK!” thing, and then run off to accost some other poor unsuspecting soul. Maybe some kids do need cages.
The next little monster liked to drink the frappe straight from the spigot and then spit it out. Sometimes he spat it out at the ground. Sometimes he spat it at other kids. And one time he spat it at Audrey. It didn’t strike her, but still: GRRRRRR… But while that is certainly gross, the worst thing of all at these darn spray parks is the great quantities of water guns on hand.
Hey look, that kid’s getting doused in the face. And look over there, that one has fallen to the ground in defeat and is still getting sprayed while down. Nice. And hey, what’s that cold sensation in my crotch? Oh hello, little unknown assailant. Thank you for spraying bacteria water at my bits. Oh! I see you’ve brought another little friend. And he’s got a gun too! How nice! And now you’re both spraying my manly bits. Fantastic. And now you’re all laughing. Great.
But while I don’t appreciate being sprayed in the crotch all that much, I really don’t appreciate the kid across the street bringing his super duper soaking M-16, saying “Hi Kevin!*” in a cheerful voice, blasting me straight in the face with what felt like a sandblaster, and laughing manically like a Chicago mobster with a tommy gun.
Seriously kid, I know where you live.
When I’m not cursing at children and trying to coax my daughter to actually run through the spray however, I do actually enjoy the spray park. Despite the spit and bacteria too. Why? Well, it’s a way to cool down on a hot summer’s day, it’s relatively easy on me as a parent, and my daughter ends up exhausted in the end. It’s also free and I don’t need to get in the car. How many activities can you say that about?
Staying at home with a toddler means constantly coming up with new activities; many of which are season dependent. In the winter it means snow angels and forts. In the summer, it’s staying cool and getting outside on the cheap. The spray park gets this done for me.
I just wish I could kick all the other kids out.
*My name’s not Kevin.