Enter the local Aquatic Center. Clean, pristine, open to the public and a $2.00 entry fee with a library card. I've been taking Christian there a few times each summer on those insanely hot days to cool off for awhile. The only down side of this gorgeous pool-mecca, has been the presence of this large, looming, fun-tempting waterslide that exists at the pool. Every year has been met with disappointment or even tears, as Christian learns he is not old enough, nor tall enough to ride it.
This year...since on or about May 7th (Christian's 6th Birthday), he has announced, "This year I get to ride the waterslide, because THIS year I'm SIX." I can't quite remember all of the rules and figure his mind is like a steel trap about these kinds of things, so I've probably said Okay, then it will be really fun when the pool opens in June this year!
Let's skip ahead to June. Aquatic center opens. The days get hot and I say to Christian, "Daddy's home and can stay with Elijah while he's napping. What do you say to a quick getaway to the pool?" We pack up our sunblock and towels and head to the pool. On the ride over, Christian reminds me, "I'm SIX now, so I'm gonna be able to ride the waterslide." I say, "Are you sure, sweetie? Most of the other things at this pool have an age 7 requirement?" He says, emphatically, "I'm SURE. The guy last year told me." Okie Dokie...
We park and head to the pool entrance. There is a giant bulletin board at the entrance of the pool, which I stop to read, thinking that maybe we will take advantage of some of the swim lessons we did like last year, and there I see it....in big bold letters: MUST BE SEVEN YEARS OLD (and 48") TO RIDE THE WATERSLIDE. My heart sinks. I say to Christian, "Oh, no. Sweetie, look- it says here (and I point out the sign) that you must be 7 to ride the waterslide."
He crumples. Literally just crumples before my eyes. And this is it. The defining moment, right? Or maybe it's not...where I decide, do I tell him to lie or watch his heart break until next year. My mind flips through all of the possibilities while my child cries. I stoop to kneel in front of him and say softly, "Sweetie. Look at me. I know you're not seven, but you are tall enough to ride this waterslide. Maybe...just here...we could say you are seven." He stops crying, looks at me, and says, "Really?" I choose my words carefully and say, "Yes, really. We are lying by saying that, but the other rule is also that you need to be tall enough and you are. I know that you will be safe, which is why they have the rule." His eyes light up, "Okay. You are the best Mom ever." (Insert major feelings of guilt here.) We enter the building and I step up to the window to pay. The woman asks Christian, "How old are you?" And he freezes. I laugh and say, "He's seven." (cringe.) We enter the pool area and his eyes dance as we near the slide. "Can I go, Mom?!" I say, "Go! Have fun!"
He walks up to stand in line and the lifeguard says to him, "How old are you?" I think I hear, "Five! Um...I mean, SEVEN!! Seven." The lifeguard measures him against the 48" sign and allows him to climb the stairs to the slide. The sounds I hear next are those of pure joy, perhaps similar to what I will be hearing in the bowels of Hell where I will reside for encouraging my son to tell a lie...I hear giggles and ecstatic screams and then, there he is. Plunging out of the bottom of the slide with a giant grin and an energy he can't contain. Even the lifeguard smiles. Christian runs over to me, echoed by the sound of the lifeguard yelling, "No running!!" He says, "Mom!! That was the best thing EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I go again??!"
I'm a rule follower. I've stood by in my life watching others break "the rules" left and right and just cursed them for not following along. It was a moment for me. I know that my ethics and values and desire to "rule follow" will still be passed along to my kids. Maybe it wasn't "right", but for once, even though it was "wrong", it felt like the right thing to do. Let him play. He's tall enough. He's capable enough. And I believe him when he says that someone told him last year that you have to be six. (They were probably wrong, but I don't doubt he was told that.)
It's not a forever lie. It's a day at the waterslide. It's one day where I got to make my son's dreams come true. It's my hope that as the years pass, he won't be left with the lesson that I taught him to lie, but instead that when it was safe and it didn't hurt anybody else, I was the Mom who let him have his dream. I was the Mom who let him ride that waterslide, when know one else would have.
Yeah...I'm okay with that.
And I'll even be generous enough to assume that the two other kids who looked...um FOUR, and waaay shorter than 48"...had Moms with the same intentions...