The tallest water slides in Arizona are two miles from my house. In order to ride them, you have to be a guest at the pricey Arizona Grand Resort. When some friends got married there this summer, I jumped at the chance to get a room on the cheap.
The morning before the wedding, my wife was busy because always. But her parents were at our house early to watch the kids, leaving me with a couple free hours. I buzzed over to the resort, suited up and spent a solid hour trotting up four stories of stairs and plunging down the punishing Free Fall and Roadrunner water slides.
It left me tired and bruised. It’s also the best thing I did for my mental health all summer.
Why? Because deep down, I’m still a 12-year-old boy who has no regrets about breaking his nose in a water-slide collision with his brother. Because a part of me still believes George Carlin when he says, in the opening monologue of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, that the value of a civilization will be measured by its quantity of excellent water slides.
Now water slide boy faces a threat more dangerous than reckless horseplay. From the dark realm of mommy blogs comes a chilling mandate — Dear Pre-Mom Self: It’s time to let you go.
Like my illustration below? The 8-bit guy on the right is me at 21. He has shaggy hair with beachy highlights. He dresses like Kevin Smith. He loves keggers, burritos, NHL HITZ 20-03 on Xbox and his DVD collection. He has no idea what he’s going to do after graduation, but things are going well with his new girlfriend.
The guy on the left is me now (you might recognize him from the t-shirt). He’s borderline insulted by the friendly offer of a Bud Light. He doesn’t even have a lawn — just a bunch of rocks with a few plants here and there.
If this were a real video game, it would say “FINISH HIM!”, and modern me would have a few seconds to dispatch the other guy. I could rip out his spine or set him on fire.
I’m not going to “FINISH HIM!”, though. I’ll let him live to chug another day.
Deep down, the Pre-Mom Self letter is a celebration of a young mother’s newfound strength. Every parent should own that strength and take pride in it, especially when the kids push it to its limits.
Every parent also deserves a break, and the best breaks are the ones that activate one of your pre-parent selves. For this HuffPo author, it could be yoga or a long walk. For me, it’s water slides. It’s seeing Suicide Squad opening night. It’s enjoying a musician I’ve followed since I was 16, even if I have to go to the concert all by myself.
I get that there’s a gender gap here. Everyone expects dads to act like goofballs. On a biological level, we have an easier time than moms shutting off Parent Mode until it’s time to push the Dad Button again. Moms get a raw deal.
That’s why I’m calling on all parents, especially dads, to help their co-parents unleash their pre-parent selves. Because as much as this stay-at-home dad needs a silly break sometimes, an always-working mom needs one even more.