If you have a kid around Annie’s age you no doubt heard about the premiere of “Dora’s Rescue In Mermaid Kingdom.” Nickelodeon teased the special with endless commercials, toy store shelves were stocked with Dora Mermaid toys, and Annie wanted to see it the same way Heather wants to see “The Hunger Games.” Once this thirty minute opus finally aired Annie was obsessed with mermaids, and decided that she was going to be one herself.
As Heather wrote yesterday, we are on our annual trip to Arizona to soak up the sun and watch some spring training baseball. Our hotel room overlooks the pool, and the first thing Annie did was run onto the balcony and stare down at the people splish-splashing about. When I joined her she looked up at me, breathless, and said, “Dada? Annie Mermaid?”
“Yes, sweetie,” I replied. “Annie mermaid.”
Heather and I had, of course, made plans to go swimming while here, but the Dora mermaid special had sent Annie’s interest level in swimming through the roof. We started the long process of getting a toddler ready for the pool – applying sun screen, putting on a swim diaper, blowing up beach balls and inner tubes – and as we did I couldn’t help but feel a bit melancholy. Three years ago, when we were here with Maddie, I decided to play tennis with my father and brother-in-law instead of swimming with Heather and Maddie, and ever since I have cursed myself for missing the chance to watch my sweet Maddie Moo squeal with joy as she splashed about in the pool.
The water was a bit cold when Annie and I got in, but Annie didn’t mind. Even after her teeth started to chatter she still had no interest in getting out. She just wanted to keep playing Annie mermaid in her own little Mermaid Cove.
“Annie swimming, Dada!” she screamed.
“In the pool!”
We had a great time, so much so that when we finally did get out Annie lost it. Once back in the room we were able to calm Annie down, mainly by telling her we would swim again tomorrow.
The rest of the day was a blur – we went to dinner where I was dared to eat a lethally hot habanero burger, Annie and her cousins jumped around on the hotel room beds, and we fell asleep spent. After all of that I thought for sure Annie would forget about swimming.
But yesterday I woke to see Annie patiently standing in her crib. The minute we made eye contact she said, “Annie mermaid, dada?”
We had a packed schedule yesterday – breakfast plans, tickets to a game, dinner reservations – and if there was any chance of squeezing in a swim I was going to have get up right then and start the maddeningly protracted process of getting a toddler ready for the pool.
I was still pretty tired, and with such a busy day ahead it would have been easy for me to tell her we had no time for swimming. But then I remembered how much I regretted not swimming with Maddie. I swung my legs out of bed and said, “Yes, Sweetie. Annie mermaid.”
We had another great trip to Mermaid Cove, and thankfully this time Annie was fine with getting out of the pool when the time came (she was hungry).
As we headed to breakfast I thought about how Maddie’s passing has messed me up and made me a little less functional in so many aspects of my life, but if anything positive has come from what happened it’s that it has taught me to parent with no regrets.
And for that I am a better father to my little mermaid.