Tournament Trials – Pools and Parties – pt 3

monkeyImagine if you condensed the sound of screaming monkeys in a hothouse jungle and put that in a can, then, when you were sick with a cold, exhausted from a traumatic ferry ride, and pretty much ready for bed, you popped that can open right in your ear….

Well, that’s what the pool party was like.

Thank Christ we forgot the water bottle.

Because we forgot the water bottle, we had to go get one and by getting one, I managed to only have to endure an hour or so of the pool party.

Oddly enough, I remember thinking, hey, cool, the motel has an indoor pool. How awesome is that? It was, like -150 degrees outside and there would have been no way the boys could have played in an outdoor pool

poolHowever, the indoor pool was in a small space that seemed to amplify the noise by about a thousand times. And man, can little boys make some noise. Forget standing by a speaker in a Metallica concert or cheering for Seattle in the Century Link field, those places ain’t got nothin’ on a pool full of 16 nine to ten year-old boys.

But the boys had such fun, even if it looked like a piranha feeding frenzy sometimes. They tried to drown each other. They cannon-balled in the pool.They splashed water out of the pool like they were trying to empty it (in fact, given another hour in it, I think they would have had more water outside of it than in it.)

Such things are fun made of.

With a few other parents, we lifeguarded the pool as best we could, though, if I am truly honest, I mostly looked out for the Youngest since his swimming technique is to flail his arms in the water and slowly sink to the bottom like a submarine.

Luckily the pool wasn’t that deep and, to his credit, he didn’t push his limits too much.

When a huge rubber floatie was thrown in the pool, the boys all tried to do their best impression of refugees on a makeshift raft. I think they managed to get about 12 on the damn thing which was not much larger than a coffee table.

I gotta say, I was impressed. This bodes well if we ever get hit with an epic, biblical flood.

One-by-one, the boys began to disappear, though, taken back to their rooms by their parents to get ready for supper. The Youngest was one of the last to leave. If he could have slept in that room, I think he would have, but we needed to get him showered and ready for the pizza party.

It’s one thing I’ve noticed about Atom level hockey. We do a LOT more things together. And that’s cool. The Youngest has begun to make good friends on the team, and has a blast when doing stuff with them. The pizza party was just another way for the team to bond. The plan, play a little mini-hockey, then chow down, then, I dunno, play more mini-hockey while the parents drank until they could stop their eyes from twitching or their hands shaking.

We ordered a ton of pizza. About 4-5 large slices for every boy. That should be enough, right? Right? While we waited for it to arrive in our official party room in the basement of the motel, the boys played mini-hockey.

mini hockeyHonestly, it’s a game that eludes me. I mean, you play with tiny sticks, on your knees, and try to shoot a ball into a goal the size of a recycling box. Even The Youngest, who may be the smallest on the team, fills the entire net. It’s a goalie’s dream. Just stand there and take shots to the face.

As far as I can tell, the rules are pretty simple. Whack another kid with your stick, push them over then knee-race with the ball to the goal, shoot on the goalie who will – big surprise – save it, then have both teams descend on the goalie and whack at that ball until it goes under a table or between someone’s legs (in which case, you whack harder). No passing. No real skill needed. All that’s required is you be able to be able to run on your knees. And yell at lot.

But the kids love it. I mean, LOVE IT.

When the pizza turned up, we found we’d severely underestimated what they would eat.  They went through those boxes of pizza like they would never eat, again. I’m pretty sure someone even took a bite out of the grease-soaked cardboard protectors. I had one piece of pizza. A few of the parents had none.

These were large pizzas, too. HUGE ones with meat and cheese. As I watched them stuff slice after slice into their mouths, I wondered if we should have kept them out of the pool. And locked in a closet.

And feeding them made them even more hyper. Like hyenas, they roared out of the room and into the motel, wielding mini-hockey sticks and screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs.

I can’t say I wasn’t a little scared.

fathersAfter the whole ferry incident, I was loathe to let them just have the run of the place. So, I had to be the uncool parent and tell The Youngest he has to stay with the adults and practice his math.

Ha, just kidding. I told him he could only play in the hall outside our party room.

A half hour and two beers later, I took a look into the hall. I had heard nothing for 5 minutes so either they had all been killed by a weirdly ricocheting ball, or had gone off to do mischief.

Guess which turned out to be true.

Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Pools

Pool Time For 2

My best moment was still to come.

And it came, as these moments do, out of nowhere.

The rest of the tour bus tour was uneventful, except for the fact that the buses were so full that we had to wait for the next one to come and even then, the only reason we got on was the oldest used his one superpower to ensure there were exactly 4 seats on the bus for us.

We sped by all the other sites and we were returned to the old town. Intact. Not even sunburned (the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had giggled at how much suntan lotion I put on. She said it was like I was painting a wall white.)

However, it was not rest time.

We’d promised the youngest that he would get to play in the pool.

It was our last night here and even though I was exhausted from a full day of traveling, a promise is a promise. It’s something I desperately want the boys to understand. You say you’ll do something, you damn-well better find a way to getter-done (and, yes, I am turning in that parent, the getter-done guy.)

Anyway, the sun was still out, it wasn’t completely freezing cold so the youngest and I put on our swimming trunks and marched to the pool. One of us was super excited. One of us wished he could just sit and read a book or maybe do some writing while eating a plateful of free, warm cookies.

You guess which one wanted what.

As we reach the pool, I ask him how well he could swim? He says he can swim really, really well. He’s a great swimmer, he says. He’s had lessons, he says.

Ok, so that’s going to make things a bit easier, thought I. I’ll just float around on my back like a showboating beluga whale and relax.

I climb into the pool. It’s warm but not that warm. Things shrivel and I make some very unmanly sounds as I immerse myself up to my neck. The youngest, fearless, the best swimmer in the world, leaps in. Splash!

A big splash. About 6 inches from me.

He soaks me and the people on the 4th floor.

But as he comes up, I realize he can’t swim worth beans.

He dog paddles for a second, then goes under. It’s not pretty. I grab him and hold him up. He sputters and smiles and giggles and wants to go again.

I ask him to show me if he can dog paddle. He struggles for a second and goes under. It’s like he is made of stone. I lift him up, again. He’s still smiling. Still happy. Drowning does not seem to scare him.

So, we come to an arrangement. We practice swimming for a bit, me holding him up by the tummy. We practice the dog paddle, the front stroke, and floating on his back.  Then he can jump in. Big splash. But only in the part of the pool where he can stand up or only if I’m there to catch him.

He is utterly fearless in the water. When I let go of him to see if he can float and swim, he struggles, flails and goes under, but he’s completely undeterred. But it’s clear he can’t swim at all. So, we practice and splash some more, have a water fight and then, at his request, retire to the hot tub.

Oh, how glorious the hot-tub is. It eases all aches.

The youngest, though, wants to swim in it. He says he’s allowed. I say no. He pouts. He’s very good at pouting. But that only lasts for a moment.

Then something really odd happens.

I’m relaxing in the water. He’s pushing himself back and forth, not swimming, you know, just, kinda, moving. And he starts to talk about school and his dad and his grandma who is sick and do I like his mom and do I like being with them, and he kind of likes having me around and it’s kinda fun, most of the time, except when I yell at him, but he really liked legoland and wished it had been better weather cuz he wanted to go on the big water slide which was bigger than the one at Cultus Lake and, Joe, did you know that I went on the biggest one at Cultus Lake?

It was a moment!

My moment!!!

I told him I did like his mom. A lot. I said I love her and will until the day I die. I told him I love spending time with him and his brother. I told him I would rather spend time with them than eat ice cream, than play video games, than watch TV. I told him he was brave for going on the biggest water slide at Cultus Lake and how amazing it was that he wasn’t afraid of water. I told him, however, that he would have to take more lessons. He needed to learn to swim. So we could go boating. Or jetskiing. Or surfing.

We talked until I got all pruney, then we went back into the pool, goofed around a lot, did a bit more practice, then went back upstairs, wet and cold. I want to say I was all manly and stuff, but I kinda teared up in the elevator.

I had a moment. A connection.

It felt amazing.

And you know what?

That was the best part of that day. Not the Midway. Not the tour. Not the balancing girl.

My chat with the youngest.

How lucky am I?