My husband took the above picture of my four-year-old daughter and me on the water slide Memorial Day Weekend.
I thought it was a great action shot and loved how happy I looked even though it was barely 70-degrees outside. I mean, the pool is heated, but man was it windy. Waiting, wet and dripping, at the top of slide was torture for me, even though my daughter—purple lips and all—was jubilant. “You are the best mommy ever!” she told me. “This is the best day ever!” she cried. “We are going to go down this slide 11 times!”
We did, actually. We raced down the slide with her waving to the other pool guests and screaming, “Hello world!” Then we splashed into the plunge pool at the bottom, hopped out, and jumped straight into the deep end where my daughter dog paddled over to the side, clambered up the ladder, stood in the freezing wind to wait for her turn on the diving board, and hurled herself into the 12-foot water. I waited, submerged to my shoulders, near the edge, swimming out when she splashed down to help guide her back to the wall. Then we popped out and shivered our way up the tall steps to the top of the slide. 11 times.
“It’s a pattern!” she screamed joyfully to me.
At the top of slide, I waved to my friends, who were gathered in a group near the five-foot water, where their children and my oldest 3 were playing. My daughter is almost the youngest kid in our group; most of the others are kindergarten or older. My friends have a different relationship to the pool than I do. They are dry, is the big difference. They can sit by the side, sipping a cold summer drink and looking beautiful in their coordinated cover-ups and artfully tousled hair.
And then there was me. Freezing at the top of the water slide, wet from my toes to the scraggly tendrils of hair escaping my topknot, no relaxing summer drink in sight.
When my daughter was finally so cold that she couldn’t stop shivering, she skipped into the locker room to take a hot shower, and we both wrapped ourselves in dry towels and sat in the sun, wincing every time the wind gusted. She sat on my lap like a half-defrosted turkey, and I could still smell her shampoo under all the chlorine.
The next day was even colder—a high of 65—and even windier. I took the kids back to the pool because kids in Wisconsin are crazy but told them very seriously that I was not getting in the water under any circumstances. But we all know I rarely mean what I say, so they were pretty sure I’d be swimming. Still, I meant it, and I didn’t even take off my pool cover up. In fact, I wrapped a towel around my shoulders because that’s how cold it was, even for a dry person.
When the pool manager turned on the water slide, I shot him a death glare across the shallow end.
My daughter begged me to go down with her, but then I had an idea born of desperate cold: “You know what, Dorothy?” I said. “You’re a really good swimmer. I bet you can go down by yourself.”
She thought about this for a minute—just one, tiny little minute—and then she turned on her heel and fled up the tall steps to the top of the slide.
She twisted down the slide, plunged into the pool, swam with the current, and climbed right out.
“I’ll be right back,” she told me seriously. “I have to do it 20 times.”
And she did. Just like that.
“She’s a slider!” the pool manager called to me, and I beamed.
But then I almost started to cry because he was right. She’s a slider. That picture my husband took of her on my lap going down the slide? Was actually a picture of the last time she’d ever go down the slide with me. Maybe the last time any baby would go down the slide with me.
Nobody tells you about those milestones, you know? And then, all of the sudden, they’ve already zoomed by.
And you have a big girl instead of a baby, one who washes her own hands and cracks eggs in the bowl without any shell. A big girl who can put on her own underwear and buckle her own shoes and will go to preschool every afternoon in the fall.
To tell you the truth, she doesn’t even need me to help her when she jumps off the diving board.
But let’s not tell her that.