Hanging out in the lobby

I am not the kind of mother who spontaneously takes her kids to a water park.

This is due in part to PTSD. For years, we vacationed in Rehoboth, and we always devoted an afternoon to Jungle Jim’s water park. Everyone loved it. Make that everyone else.

To me, this was an annual opportunity for a sloshy tour of hell. The place was always packed; my children were little. I’d lose track of them constantly, and, within an hour, had surrendered to hysteria: Clearly, we were one wave pool away from a Vacation Tragedy. My freakouts tended to invite a lot of rubbernecking, which put my husband in an awkward position. (He was trying to sneak the kids onto slides they were too small for.)

Also, I’m not, apparently, much fun. Last summer, for example, I suddenly piped up from the passenger’s seat, “Oh, look! A sign for Edith Wharton’s country house!” Everyone started talking at once, someone feigned arterial bleeding, and my husband pressed hard on the gas, leaving the Gilded Age and Lenox, Massachusetts, in our wake.

But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that when your children are happy, you are happy. And so I recently suggested a visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Va. We had to be in Williamsburg, anyway, the kids are old enough to run around on their own, and a friend highly recommended just sipping a drink and hanging out in the hot tub. (This spoke to me.)

My children cheered. My husband cheered. And then, the day before our departure, he announced that he had to go to Montana for a business meeting.

I chanted soothing mantras. I focused on the hot tub. I pointed the minivan south.

My son, beside himself with excitement, became a little nonplussed when we arrived.

“I was expecting something . . . . classier,” he said.

I wondered: Was it the giant plastic wolves adorning the entrance? The loud drum music blasting from speakers as we drove in?

“Hello? It’s a water park,” his teenage sister told him.

“It’s kind of like a Chuck E. Cheesified Disney,” he mused.

“It reminds me of something,” his twin sister added.

“It reminds you of America,” said the teenager.

We checked in. The clerk had to shout over the music in the lobby. Small, shrieking children, adorned with face paint and armed with balloon animals, were everywhere. Most were congregated under fake trees – complete with faces – in front of a vaguely animatronic and extremely disturbing Indian princess.

My husband texted me a photo of a beautiful mountain in Montana. I texted back a photo of a smiling tree.

But the room was comfortable and quiet. Things were looking up. We got changed and headed to the indoor water park. My children disappeared in two seconds. I searched for the hot tub.

I couldn’t find it. The horror.

I passed my son, who was standing under a bucket that, according to a sign, dumped 1,000 gallons of water every 5 minutes.

He looked at me and shouted, “This is epic!”

At least, that’s what I think he said. He was drowned out by 1,000 gallons of water and the piped-in howling of a giant wolf pack that suddenly reverberated through the room.

Meanwhile, things were getting desperate on the how-did-I-get-myself-into-this front. The noise, the smell of chlorine, the knowledge that I voluntarily donned a bathing suit in September – for a brief, melodramatic moment I thought of flinging myself beneath some floats in the La-Z River.

But, through the vapor, I noticed a snack bar. I bought a glass of wine. Then I spied it. The hot tub! I eased myself into the bubbling water.

My daughters ran by, grinning, on their way to a giant slide.

My kids were happy. I was happy.

To be honest — it was pretty epic.