Heat, Slip N’ Slides, and other things that ruin my life

June 3, 2013 | 19 comments

This is a post from 2008, but since my children are jumping up and down and begging me to get out the Slip N’ Slide today, I thought I’d run it again.

The neighbor girls wanted to play with the Slip N’ Slide today. I tried to talk them out of it, but when I realized 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 summer air” I decided to just go with it.

I do not have fond memories of the Slip N’ Slide.

As a child, I recall feeling quite certain that whoever invented this device lived in a land far, far away from mine. The theory is that you lay out a long tarp 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 yonder regions up north like Oregon, Washington, perhaps Vermont and Maine (you know, the ones that have things called “seasons”), I’m sure that this works out very well. I can just picture throwing yourself down onto the yellow slide 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 onto Slip N’ Slides, we were met with a bone-crushingly hard ground that was sparsely covered by grass that felt like old hay. As we slid down the yellow tarp for our three seconds of fun, we’d invariably experience explosions of pain as undiscovered rocks and sticks jabbed deep into our internal organs. Then we’d slide off the end into some fire ants.

The neighbor 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 skills of the young ladies. Then my skin began to break out with unsightly red welts as it is wont to do when I spend more than 30 seconds in direct sunlight, and I thought I noticed the beginning symptoms of heat stroke. I shuffled over to some shade under a tree, and made a mental note to read a book that explains in detail how one could go about carefree summertime frolicking. When I thought of what I must look like compared to laughing, running children, I wondered if passers-by might mistake 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 my knees creak as I lower myself slowly down onto the tarp, when the ice cold water sends my overheated system into shock, or when my slide down the hill functions as a tactile tour of the various hard objects in our yard?” Instead I just shook my head, adjusted my oversized black sunglasses, and retreated further into the shade.

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, it occurred to me that I should at least feel thankful that they were enjoying it. We’re safely removed from Austin’s fancier neighborhoods, so none of the children in our neighborhood have any idea that some kids have access to jaw-droppingly awesome water wondercastles that are basically small blow-up theme parks for 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.


  1. Ana Hahn

    ha! I feel the same way.

    My parents have a treacherously steep hill in their back yard and every summer they have all the nieces and nephews do this crazy slip n’ slide where they buy several huge blue construction tarps and connect them running down the hill and all the kids go crazy.

    It makes my heart stop and I am sure that one of them is going to get seriously injured one of these summers. I have thus far been able to avoid any of my own offspring being involved in the activity and will continue to try to avoid it forever and ever.

  2. MemeGRL

    You and I grew up on the same slip-n-slide. I do not understand the attraction.

  3. Grace

    Ah, I remember my early experiences with the Canadian slip-n’-slide; if we got over the snow banks, we’d end up in a salmonella-filled lake, surrounded by hissing, squawking geese.
    And my cousins wonder why I don’t join in the fun.

  4. Wanda

    Hi Jennifer! I emailed you about an upcoming trip to Austin. There was an issue with the email address, so if it doesn’t arrive will you let me know?

  5. Marie

    That was absolutely hilarious. I had to stop reading for a minute so I wouldn’t wake my sleeping baby on my lap (because I was laughing so hard)!

  6. dave

    Ah! The memories of childhood this brings back. Growing up in Alabama I can relate to the rocks/sticks/fire ant thing. Just be happy you weren’t subjected to lawn-darts. I wonder what sadistic child hater thought those up.

    Oh, and don’t knock those Irish genes. Those redheaded freckle faced people who require SPF 900 to walk to the mailbox and back will rule the world! 😉

  7. Marcy K.

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

  8. rose1929

    Oh wow. I grew up in southern California. Yes, a yellow thing with hard hard ground, and me with big, blue bruises. Yellow and blue go together, no?

  9. Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life

    Yes! I was a nanny one summer in college and the little girl loved the slip n slide and I had to go down it way too much. I ended up bruised black and blue. I think as adults it’s just way too long of a drop to the ground and I’m certainly not graceful either.

  10. Denise

    Our yard in Colorado has a slope good for sledding in the winter and slip and sliding in the summer. The problem is, it ends up in the rose bushes! I used to hold my breath, watching the kids fly down, hoping they’d stop in time!

  11. Hafsa

    I have never enjoyed slip n slides or the heat of Central CA weather. I seriously debated taking my kids outside for water play which in my house means a sprinkler or a small inflatable pool. I kept imagining all the fun they would have and then the 87 degree (yes a mere 87 degrees but I’m pregnant so it felt like 100) temperature got to me and I steered the kids to playdough at the kitchen table. Thanks for reassuring me that I’m not alone in the outdoor summer water/heat torture.

  12. Dawn

    Ha! I recently told two separate groups of people about your hilarious slip n slide post when the subject of how not fun they were came up. Thanks for posting again. I’ll send it along. 🙂

  13. Meg

    Yeah . . . I used to get friction burns from Slip N’ Slides. Bad memories.

    I can be caked in sunblock of SPF 100, under clothing with UPF 50+, stick to the shade, and STILL BURN. I inherited this from my father. My mother, despite being just as Irish, passed on to my brother the ability to run around and tan in the sun . . . but her family has the everyone-gets-melanoma-I-mean-EVERYONE gene. Bizarre. Y’all know to wear sunblock in for car rides, right? I know Texas allows more significant shading of car windows but it’s still important.
    I will admit to using my lobster-transforming-history to avoid Evil Social Events in the daytime and hide in my introvert paradise of just myself and the dog indoors. Thankfully the park is open at night, also, for her sake.

  14. Lone Star

    If you put one of those down on the ground in Dallas, you not only had all the problems Jennifer enumerated, but you also took the risk of a child or even the whole Slip’n’Slide disappearing down into one of the huge cracks that opened up in that black, gummy soil.

  15. Suzanne

    I grew up in Maine, and they were wretched there, too, despite the lush grass!

  16. Jan

    We didn’t have slip and slides in the 1960s. But in Southern Oregon there were plenty of dried out hillsides and we rode down those on flattened out pieces of cardboard boxes…. I still carry the scars of those fun-filled(??) summers. When we got home Mom would inspect our newest wounds and promptly apply the much dreaded, stinging Merthiolate. It stained your skin bright orange…but back then any kid worth their salt to be called your “friend” was covered in the stuff. I guess we had fun….at least we kept going back for more.

  17. Michelle

    This was hysterical. You really have a gift of gab. How about storing those darned things! hate them.

  18. Genevieve

    As one whitey white girl to another, let me tell you something that changed the out doors for me: long sleeved rash guards. Myou can get them cheap with crazy lands end sales with crazy lands end coupons on top, or just randomly at Costco. There are even almost full body ones for kids out there that my daughter loves. Pair it with a swim hat and your daughter is ready to go. My rash guard is really breathable, but for times when I’m not going to get wet, or want to look more presentable, I wear lands end light weight crew neck cotton modal (which is surprisingly smooth and comfy given that I am a 100% cotton girl) long sleeve shirts. I don’t bother making myself sweaty with sunscreen (unless I forgo the wide brimmed hat), and the fabrics are light enough that I still feel a breeze. I am typing this instead of sleeping while my baby is asleep because it made that much of a difference. And, while I covered myself in sun screen all my life, I still have melanoma, so, I’m also hoping that this helps your daughter too.

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