On heat and Slip N’ Slides

July 23, 2008 | 27 comments

The girls wanted to play with the Slip N’ Slide today. I tried to talk them out of it but found that my argument essentially boiled down to “I would rather sit on the couch in the cocoon of my darkened house than frolic outside in the fresh air and have some summer fun, ” so I decided to just go with it.

I do not have fond memories of the Slip N’ Slide. As a child, I recall feeling rather certain that whoever invented this device lived in a land far, far away from mine. The theory is that you lay a long yellow tarp down across the grass, wet it, and when kids run and jump on it they’ll glide along in a splashtastic spray of water. In those northern places (you know, the ones that have those things called “seasons”) like Oregon, Washington, perhaps Vermont and Maine, I’m sure that this works out very well. I can just picture throwing yourself down onto the tarp only to be cushioned by lush, springy grass that helps you glide along as if on a cloud.

Here in Texas, that’s not how it works.

When we threw ourselves on Slip N’ Slides, we were met with a bone-crushingly hard ground that was sparsely covered by grass that had the consistency of old hay. As we slid down the yellow tarp for our three seconds of fun, we’d invariably experience the familiar explosion of pain from previously undiscovered rocks or sticks jabbing deep into our internal organs. Then we’d slide off the end into some fire ants.

The girls, however, did not seem to share my perception of this activity as abject misery, and set up the Slip N’ Slide in my front yard with unbridled enthusiasm. I tried to join in this all-American ritual of doing things outdoors in the heat and enjoying it, but I’ve been out of practice for, oh, 20 years. I stood stiffly near the yellow tarp and occasionally forced a supportive comment about the sliding prowess of the young ladies. Within about two minutes my skin began to get blotchy and I thought I had the beginning symptoms of heat stroke, so I shuffled over to a tree to get in the shade. I made a mental note to find a book I could read that offers a detailed exposition of how one could go about carefree summertime frolicking. Compared to the laughing, running kids around me, a passerby might have mistaken me for a statue of a sullen albino.

“Miss Jennifer! Miss Jennifer! Do you want to slide with us? It’s so much fun!” they called out to me.

“At what point, pray tell, will the fun begin?” I wanted to ask. “When I hoist myself awkwardly down onto the tarp, when the ice cold water sends my overheated system into shock, or when I engage in some sort of motion that begins a forward trajectory over the various hard objects in our yard?” Instead I just shook my head and adjusted my oversized black sunglasses.

I had gone through the Herculean effort of wrestling my children into bathing suits so that they could join in this so-called fun. I saw that my two-year-old redheaded daughter, the only one of my children unfortunate enough to get all the Irish genes, was increasingly looking like a lobster despite being caked in SPF 45 sunscreen. People with our skin tone don’t need SPF; we need burkhas.

As all the children smiled in glee at the wonder of the Slip N’ Slide*, I did feel thankful that at least we are safely removed from the rich neighborhoods where kids these days have inflatable water wondercastles that the bring the thrill and joy of a water theme park right to your front yard. Around here, we can still get away with throwing some plastic on the ground, hosing it down and calling it a day.

I realize this whole post is apropos of nothing, but why have a blog if you can’t occasionally take a post to complain about the heat? I guess all I’m trying to say is: IT’S HOT OUT THERE, Y’ALL.

* All of them except the redhead, that is. Our day of fun was abruptly cut short when some water droplets touched her and she screamed about it for twenty minutes, leading me to realize that she is not a fun in the sun person either.

Photo by Paco CT


  1. Sue

    Jennifer, this cracked me up! It sounds like Slip N’ Slide in Texas is very simmilar to Slip N’ Slide in Georgia where I grew up. I would have been one more albino statue under the tree with you. I got all of the Irish genes in my family too. My four siblings tan wonderfully. Is that fair, I ask you?!

  2. P

    As an Irishman, I can sympathize. After more than 3 seconds of direct sunlight, we burst into flames.

  3. Cheryl

    I’m a fun in the sun kind of person, but when we were kids, our slip ‘n slide came out a max of 5 times for just the reasons you gave – hard ground, rocks and sticks, and hay-like grass. Maybe if you laid a bunch of sleeping bags under the thing it would be fun, but otherwise, no thanks. Though at this age (and size), I suspect that hitting the ground might require a bit more cushioning!

  4. Jeana

    Oh, I KNOW. I am so done with summer, and we have a good six weeks of the hottest part of the year left. Ugh. I pretty sure the reason I like winter so much has everything to do with living in Texas.

  5. SuburbanCorrespondent

    Grown-ups and SlipnSlides do not mix. My friend’s husband almost broke his neck on one. What is fun is a little wading pool for the little ones. And, to enjoy being outside, you need to get wet. Hose yourself down and then you don’t mind it so much. At the pool, I dunk myself periodically and then I can happily sit in the shade and watch my kids splash around.

  6. Sarah L.

    Oh, I live in the land of lush grass, but I have a horrible memory of the Slip n Slide.

    My mom hated the Slip and Slide because it mashed the grass down or something. Grandma had given it to us, so once in awhile Mom let us use it. One year, my brother and I decided we HAD to use it on Mother’s Day. Mom said no, but we nagged and begged and whined and carried on and on for an hour. I think she still said no, but we got it out ourselves and used it anyway. Mom cried. We seemed to have missed the point about Mother’s Day, no? To avoid this scenario with my own children I bellow loudly “it’s MY DAY” periodically on Mother’s Day, lest anyone forget.

  7. Beth

    My Dh won’t allow a slip and slide here (Boston area). He says it will kill the grass. I think the kids would like it, but we do have a pool so no slip and slide for us.

    We’re Irish and Polish. Two sons get lovely deep tans. The other gets pink. What can you do?

  8. SteveG

    Using a Slip N’ Slide in PA is just as you fantasized!

    Soft cushiony grass. Even a slight downslope in our front yard to make sliding extra easy (and providing for maximum velocity).

    The best part is when I ‘bowl’ the boys.

    I pick them up so that they are parallel to the ground, face down…left hand cradling their chest, right hand firmly gripping the back of their trunks.

    With a might heave ho, they are off and flying down the s n’ s! Imagine someone tossing a bale of hay.

    They usually are moving so fast that they hit the ‘pool’ at the end and bounce over the little barrier that’s suppossed to catch them! It’s not unusual for them to land a few feet past the entire slide.

    Ahhh…what fun! And no one’s ever been hurt…..yet.

  9. jennifer

    People underestimate the cruelty of the sun for the ultravioletly challenged.

    It makes me want to curl up and die to stay in the sun.

    I never understood “sunbathers”–are you out of your mind? But then I realized not everyone gets an all over throbby feeling, headaches, swollen extremities, third degree, blistered burns, and sometimes even fevers and rashes from being in the sun.

    Ech, what are you going to do?

  10. JackieD

    Wow ^_^ I’m currently up in the Balitomre area, but this post really makes me homesick for Texas summers and painful Slip ‘n Slides :-p

  11. Hairline Fracture

    “People with our skin tone don’t need SPF; we need burkhas.” That made me laugh for real. I’m in Texas (high of 99 degrees today), have all the Irish skin genes in my family, and would MUCH rather be cocooned in my darkened house than frolicking in the heat.

  12. Stephanie

    Are you sure you’re not me in another body? LOL!! This post cracked me up because it is EXACTLY how I feel about the slipnslide, and being outside in the Texas heat in general. Oh I remember those bruises from the “fun” of slipping over jagged rocks hidden among the grass in the yard. Not to mention the grass and wet dirt that would then be stuck on my feet and hands and legs, yuck! No thank you! Give me a book and air conditioning, please! 😉

  13. Karen

    slipping and slide + sensory processing disorder = do not try this at home.

  14. Milehimama

    I have a redheaded two yo daughter too. And I never, ever tan. I pink.

    Does long underwear count as a swimsuit? Cuz that’s the only way I’m avoiding a burn around here!

  15. Katie

    Ah yes,we have those cursed Irish genes, too.

    Even here in Indiana with that nice plump grass, slip and slides were torture.

  16. elizabeth

    I’m a burkha-needing albino, too. Within minutes of being in the Southern sun I can actually hear my skin crisping, not unlike bacon under the broiler. In those same few minutes my daughter, on the other hand, looks like a tall no-whip mocha, only creamier.

    I used to talk a good game about loving the outdoors, but that was when I lived in Buffalo, and there were only three months when anyone actually did anything outdoors.

    By the way, those grand inflatable water park contraptions are remarkably inexpensive. I also thought they were reserved for denizens of McMansions, until my mother bought one for $29 and brought it over. They are huge and attention-drawing, so if you wanted to continue telling yourself they wouldn’t fit your yard nor budget, I’m happy to play along.

  17. Sandy

    Ah, yes. 102 outside today and 108 in my van. Good times.

  18. Darwin

    Shucks, I was hoping the story would end with you taking the plunge down the steep slope of your front yard with Riley shouting encouragement. Just so I could picture you careening down a Slip N’ Slide. 🙂

  19. Drusilla

    “…not everyone gets an all over throbby feeling, headaches, swollen extremities, third degree, blistered burns, and sometimes even fevers and rashes from being in the sun.”

    I got my mother’s (Portuguese) colouring and my father’s (German) skin. Even a 60 spf isn’t enough. I’ve always had GI issues too. And now that I live in the land of connective tissue disease, beaches and pools have become forbidden, distant lands (and I was born on at the shore and spent much of my childhood in CA). I can’t wait for heaven because then I will understand the jokes.

  20. Jamie

    Texas does not have summer–it has More Hot, Less Hot, and Blazing Inferno. I do not know how anyone engages in “carefree summertime frolicking” during Blazing Inferno; I certainly haven’t mastered it.

  21. TRS

    “When, pray tell, would the fun begin? .. et al.”

    So funny… you sound like Eeyore – read “In Which Tiggers Don’t Climb Trees.” (the house at Pooh Corner)
    Perfect Classic sarcastic Eeyore!

  22. expat

    Plain and simple, summer is an abomination.

  23. Rachelle

    Wow, I can totally relate to this. With me, I'd rather sit at my computer than go out and play on the Slip & Slide or the trampoline.

  24. Lundie

    Wow! I’m not alone! I have skin the color of cotton, and the name “Slip N Slide” does nothing but send chills up my spine. My experience was a roll of visquine (sp) my dad had (much cheaper) and a bumpy hill. Enter one small stick poking up through the plastic and a cut from ankle to hip! Never again!!

  25. Abigail

    I think this is in the running for my all time favorite Et Tu? post! Who knew Slip ‘n Slides do not belong in Texas? Please post more on Lane’s reaction. She sounds like my type of gal!

  26. Alexandra

    “People with our skin tone don’t need SPF; we need burkhas.”

    LOL! I can empathize.

  27. Andrea

    LOL! This is HILARIOUS! I realize I'm reading it, like, 2 years later but I can so relate. I live in Missouri and I never enjoyed the previously mentioned projectile launching of my body down a thin piece of plastic that covered numerous rocks and twigs not to mention the fact that it was pinned down with metal pegs! And to top it all off, it kills your beautiful, cushy, lush grass! That's how I found your blog. I was trying to find out why my boys Spiderman Slip n Slide is killing our grass.

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