Last week my family took a long-awaited “dinger.” The term was introduced to me by a good buddy who often takes his large family on shorter trips – “dingers” – which typically last just a night or two. If Disney for a week is a “vacation,” then a trip to a nearby theme park or the beach for two nights is a “dinger.”
We spent the first night of our dinger at Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Va. It’s a recipe for complete awesomeness. One part hotel, one part all-you-can-eat buffet and one part indoor water park with slides so scary even my older kids wouldn’t ride most of them.
Not wanting to waste a dime, or, more importantly, an opportunity to scream like a 10-year-old, I rode the bigger slides all by myself. Imagine the looks a 40-year-old man gets standing at the top of a tall tower carrying a raft and waiting his turn to ride “Alberta Falls.” The term “stranger danger” comes to mind.
The rest of my pack spent much of its day safely on the ground enjoying the wave pool. Every 10 minutes, motors beneath the five-foot deep end chug and churn waves up to three-feet high. It’s everything you want in a beach without the sand and jellyfish.
When I finally joined the gang in the wave pool, I couldn’t help but notice the lifeguards. As we swam and bobbed up and down in the water, young men and women walked the edges of the pool in a definitive pattern, rotating positions and seemingly checking trouble spots every few seconds.
They were, quite simply, the most vigilant lifeguards I’ve ever seen. Not a pint of water in the pool went unattended or unnoticed. Later, while enjoying the lazy river, I observed the same intense attention by a different crew. Lifeguards appeared to own 15 to 20 feet of responsibility on the winding river that twisted its way through the park. With eyes wide open, they paced their respective areas scanning the water, bending down to check blind spots on curves, then circling back again.
I asked my wife during lunch if she’d noticed the lifeguards’ incredible watchfulness. Her look said, “Really? I’m a mother. I noticed before anyone ever dipped a toe.” All afternoon and evening we commented back and forth on the professionalism of the young men and women tasked with keeping our children safe and accounted for.
The next day we drove on to Virginia Beach for another exciting dinger day, but my mind was still on the lifeguards at Great Wolf Lodge.
The final day of our journey took us to Richmond., Va., for a fun night at a modern, New York City studio apartment-style hotel. We had a great time, but I still couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d observed two days earlier.
As parents, we draw lines to protect our young ones from obvious danger. I remember well a neighbor years ago who painted a thick line at the bottom of her driveway and added above it in white spray paint: “Mom’s Line of Peril.” The implication was obvious.
We lock up guns and keep knives out of reach. We design and distribute medicine and cleaning bottles with childproof safety features. We bark at our loved ones to buckle up before we ever put the car in gear.
There we go, back and forth along the poolside of life, checking high-risk spots.
I was stunned and impressed by the lifeguards’ attention to the physical safety of my children. But what about their spiritual safety? Am I an equally vigilant spiritual lifeguard?
Do I scold them for playing with matches, but then invite them to the couch for a filthy television show that could inflict as much or more harm?
Do I insist they wear a helmet, but ignore the music they purchase for their iPods?
Do I encourage them to drink water instead of soda, or to eat more vegetables, or to take their vitamins, but ignore the text messages they send or the language they use?
After school each day, do I double back like a watchful lifeguard and check again on my children? Do I ask, “How was your day? How are your friends? Are you happy? Do you need to talk?”
The answer is yes, I do those things, but not nearly as often nor as well as I should.
We’re home now. The dinger is done and we’re back in the rhythm of life, but I pray my family never forgets the fun they had and the memories they made.
I pray they are grateful for and never forget the lifeguards who so brilliantly watched over and protected their physical safety.
But more importantly, I pray I never forget the prompting that I need to become a more effective spiritual lifeguard.
Will you join me?