Adventures Of Fatherhood

A little family getaway last week to Great Wolf Lodge put our kids’ contrasting personalities on full display.

For weeks, Pam and I were looking forward to observing our kids in a new setting with a host of similar-aged little ones. We were curious to see how they liked staying in a hotel because it had been several years for them and how they took to the massive indoor water park and the multitude of other kid amenities.

Just to paint the picture of what this water park was like, its max capacity was listed at 1,800 people and at least half of those were kids. It was an overwhelming blow to the visual and auditory senses and only exacerbated by most parents consistently screaming out “no running” to their kids, who were oblivious to their cries amid their own shouts of delight at all they were experiencing.

Consistent with his live wire nature, Beckett was in all his glory. We knew he was going to have a ball at the water park and all the other activities, such as a small-scale bowling alley, virtual games, an arcade, dance party and nightly story time sessions. At one point, he said, “This is everything I have ever dreamed of.” That was a good parenting feeling that I will not soon forget.

In the enclosed water park, Beckett was a challenge to keep up with. That was no surprise. At one point, he was running so hard he ran squarely into a “no running” sign, which he quickly returned to its original resting place and scampered on his way. All the while, I was following behind in speed walking fashion, shouting, “No running, Beckett.” If I had eyes behind my head, I’m sure there were parents shaking their heads in disdain.

Early on, we had to sit Beckett out because we were losing him amid the sea of kids. There was never too much fear because we knew he was nearby, but it’s enough to cause a bit of internal panic when your 5-year-old is out of eyesight. Therefore, we had to set some clear rules.

As our excursion progressed, we gave him a little bit more leeway and went over all the to-dos in case he could not find us. A couple times, when he didn’t check in as he was supposed to, Pam or I would set out to look for him in his favorite slide area. Invariably, when we couldn’t immediately locate him, all we had to do was look for a group of kids huddled together because usually Beckett was in the middle orchestrating something. At one point, I came upon him giving orders to a group of boys standing around. It was something about, “you and I will go down the yellow one, you go to the green one and you guys climb the net. Then we will meet back here and go to obstacle course.” Only when they all went their separate directions and ignored his game plan did I intervene and let him know it was time for lunch.

On a normal day, if awake, Beckett is a kid who gets after just about anything presented to him. Whether it’s eating a sandwich, playing on a playground, drinking juice, playing soccer or reading a book, he’s got a motor, and I am constantly amazed at his energy and stamina levels.

Even for him, though, all day at a water park tired him out. By the end of each day we were there, he was asking to be carried up the multiple flights of steps to the slide. It was interesting as the days went on how my willingness to oblige steadily deteriorated. On the last half-day there, my 50-pound boy was continually asking to be carried up the steps. At one point, I said, “if you need to be carried so much, maybe it’s time to get on the road and hit home.” To my shock, he said, “okay you’re right.”

For his part, in his more subdued fashion, Carson’s excitement for the adventure was also barely containable.

Due to his height not meeting some of the larger slides’ minimum, his waterpark experience was contained somewhat, but he was as active as his little brother, just on a different scale.

Contrary to his adventurous older brother, who seemed to prefer to be left to roam on his own, Carson wanted at least one parent with him at all times. Consequently, Pam and I took turns and the experiences were quite vast.

On one hand, there was being with Carson, 4, and donning the protective parenting hat, and then there was Beckett, 5, and more of a prevent defense type of mode that involved containing his unbridled passion to safe levels.

However, it was a lot of fun to watch Carson in the waterpark. It was all new and exciting to him and he was easily entertained. It was great to see him interact in his non-verbal fashion while waiting in line with other kids. He gets a lot of enjoyment out of watching others have fun. For him, he was having as much fun watching the other kids slide into the pool as he did when it was his turn. That’s a special thing that I admire about him.

While they approached the few days away with different levels of vigor, our boys were both wiped out at the end of the day. As a parent, I am quite content when my kids are exhausted from a fun day, but I never could have imagined just how tired they would be.

Each night Carson fell asleep at the dinner table. More specifically, he either fell asleep with his head on the table or with his head in his mother’s lap.

While Beckett was able to stay awake, thanks to a nightly dance party in the lodge lobby and a character story time, he was too exhausted to walk to the room afterwards and had to be carried. He was not alone. On the last night we were there, I was in a single file line of dads walking down the hallway hauling their kids to bed.

It was a great feeling.