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Kid’s beach decathlon provides early Dad test

Think you have some extra energy, dear vacationer?

Get yourself a 7-year-old.

Though I like to consider myself a (relatively) fit and (moderately) active 46-year-old, it took little more than a four-night stay at the Tween Waters Inn this month to illustrate the error of my ways.

To a youngster, it was a waterside audition for American Ninja Warrior.

To an oldster, it was a compelling reason to look at supplemental medical coverage.

Though the wife, son and I arrived on a late Saturday afternoon, any illusion that our first few resort hours would simply include a meal and a relaxing stroll until sunset were put to rest at the precise moment our wide-eyed Little Man realized what was directly across the street from our screened-in patio.

C'mon, Dad, you can't be tired already
C’mon, Dad, you can’t be tired already

To say the vantage point from our third-floor room in the Sea Grape building was idyllic would be an understatement. High enough to not be blocked by the trees, low enough to still hear the waves.

In a setting like that, the Gulf to me represents contemplative majesty.

But to him, it was a chance to dive headlong into the area’s saltiest playground.

We started with a knee-deep jaunt that evening – I noticed he was decidedly unmoved by my “sharks feed at dusk” advisory – then fell asleep to waves from an open patio door, before hitting the sand again the following morning for a decathlon of castle building, barefoot sprinting and shallow water snorkeling.

Thankfully, our only daytime contact with watery wildlife came without teeth, though not without terror. Without going into full therapy detail, my challenge is this: If you can be in waist-deep Gulf water, have your hand brush against something that you turn to see is large, gray and swimming – and you can do so without shrieking like a middle-school girl at a One Direction show – you’re a better man than I.

Manatee. Shark. It made no difference to my central nervous system.

American Ninja Resort Guest.
American Ninja Resort Guest.

A trip back across the street provided a chance for shade, sustenance and a slow return to resting parental heart rate in the resort hot tub, while Little Man dipped and dived in the main water alongside. But while the 100-plus degree waters slowly sapped my initiative to do anything but sleep, immersion in cooler water for him was far more catalyst than calming.

And so it went for what felt like each of the 96 hours.

We hit the finish line Wednesday morning with a rousing send-off to our temporary home, in the form of a jumping contest from bed to bed that had him testing out various landing contortions – belly flop, kneeling, on his behind – while my only wish was to clear the three-foot gap without prematurely compromising fatherly street cred.

He didn’t burst out laughing then and hasn’t subsequently shunned me in favor of an alternate male role model, so that’s good. There’s plenty for time for that between here and college.

But yeah, if I come across another sea cow on our next trip… all bets are off.

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