Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I'm Finally That Guy

A big “Thank You” is going out to my youngest son this week. He has turned me into “That Guy.” Allow me to explain.

It’s really probably a common tale among parents. Before I had kids I would occasionally find myself at the mall or the grocery store in awe of some poor parent whose kid was melting down. The child would be yelling, screaming, and throwing a fit, and there would be the parent, doing one of two things:
1) Threatening the kid to within an inch of his life as they drug him out of the store.
2) Or, simply ignoring the kid and attempting to shop as if nothing was wrong.

Depending on the parent’s reaction I always had either a feeling of pity for them, or a mixture of pity and mild disgust.

No matter what the circumstance though, I always had the thought in the back of my mind that, “My kids won’t behave like that!”

Now, I am proud to report that at ages six, four and two, my boys have had very few public melt-downs. You will note I said “very few” and not “none.” I have unfortunately been “that guy” a few times in the last six years, and it quickly dispelled my theory that my kids were perfect as well as my hope that I would never be seen leaving a Target dragging a screaming three-year-old behind me.

It is not bad behavior, however, that I am writing about today. No, I am writing today about another kind of inevitable kid situation that provokes sympathetic, empathetic, and sometimes just pathetic looks from the other parents in the near vicinity. With the kind of situation I am talking about, I have given plenty of charitable “been there, buddy” looks to fellow dads, but last Wednesday, I really got a chance to be on the receiving end… big time.

I met my wife at the gym after work, where she was already splashing and playing with the three boys in the kids pool. Our gym has three pools; a kids pool with an adjacent water park, a lap pool, and a square, shallow, multi-purpose pool.

I had only been in and playing with the boys for about five minutes when the head lifeguard announced that everyone needed to get out of the kids pool and vacate the water park. He was sorry for the inconvenience, but we would need to remain out of the water for forty-five minutes. I asked my wife what was going on, and she said a little girl had thrown-up in the pool, and they were required to chlorinate and skim before they could let everyone back in. The water park is fed with the water from the kids pool, so that needed to be shut down as well. No more fun! Everyone out!

Now, every parent knows there is no way to predict when a child might throw up. They are a lot like coke bottles. Sometimes, they just blow. So, for the most part, I just shrugged my shoulders, and moved the kids out of the water. But somewhere in the back of my head, explicable only due to human nature, a little voice was saying, “Come on, dude! Why’s your kid chunking in the pool? Thanks a lot, man. Now I have to go to the annoying pool.”

The multi-purpose pool requires a much higher level of parental vigilance for us, because it has no gradual beach-entry shallow end like the kids pool. It starts at three feet deep, which is too deep for Boy Number Three, so I need to hold him, or keep him corralled on the steps. Holding him wouldn’t be so bad, as he is mostly calm and happy, but he is also intermittently scared to death of the water. It’s a lot like holding a koala bear that occasionally turns into a crazed spider monkey. If you’re not careful, he’ll rip your nostrils right out!

We spent some time in the multi-purpose pool, nostril incident-free, and then got out to have our dinner. My wife had packed the boys some foil-wrapped bean burritos, and we all spread out on the warm concrete deck to eat. My wife left us there and headed home, and the boys and I ate and watched the ensuing aqua-aerobics class that had taken over the multi-purpose pool. After we had finished our burritos and I had answered approximately six thousand questions about aqua-aerobics, the lifeguard announced that the kids pool was back open for business.

Yay! Back to the kids pool for some more fun, and then home for bed. We hit the water with gusto, and were soon surrounded by twenty or thirty other frolicking kids and parents. Everyone was very happy to have the fun pool and water park back after the shut down.

I was sitting in about two feet of water watching Boy Number One and Two swimming with their goggles on, diving for toys. Boy Number Three was behind me splashing water on my back, hollering and giggling. All was right with the world. Then I noticed it.

At first I didn’t know what to make of it. It looked like someone had dropped some Cheerios in the pool and they had started to disintegrate. The disintegrated Cheerios were suddenly floating all around me, coming from somewhere behind me. Just about the time I started to turn around to investigate, one of the lifeguards shouted, “Hey, what’s that?”

I turned around and sprang to my feet when I saw Boy Number Three standing at the epicenter of a two-foot radius “Cheerio spill.” I snatched him up and did the stomach-over-the-forearm-pull-up-the-back-of-the-shorts poop check, and sure enough! Number Three had gone number two.

The kids pool had been re-opened for a grand total of four minutes and my boy had shut it down again!

Apparently, today’s “swimmy diapers” can only do so much when you neglect to check them regularly.

One of the younger female lifeguards tried to make me fell better – probably after seeing the look of total disgust and shame on my face – by saying, “Don’t worry. It happens all the time.”

I just barely heard her, though, as I fireman-carried all three boys and our gear bag at a dead sprint toward the family bathroom.

The lifeguard haz-mat response team was on the case, and I was not necessarily interested in staying poolside to preside over the evacuation and acknowledge the looks of scorn or pitiful understanding that I was sure to receive from the other parents.

It may “happen all the time,” but I can assure you, when it’s your turn to be “That Guy,” you really don’t want to hang around to take credit.

See you soon,

Copyright © 2010 Marc Schmatjen

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