Fatherhood is braving the murky depths.
I’ve been on this lake dozens of times. I’ve swam in it, jet skied over it, kneeboarded across it, and accidently swallowed what must be gallons of it. Never once did it occur to me that I was playing in the belly of a beast, 10,000 acres of drowning potential. Sure, I’m exaggerating—a little bit. But when you slip a couple of six-month-olds into a body of water where you can neither feel nor see the bottom, you’re instantly on high alert.
1.) Aspirate lake water.
2.) Suffocated by floatie.
3.) Inhale outboard motor fumes.
4.) Sustain head trauma from choppy water.
5.) Airway constricted by tight life vest.
Keeping my head above water is a secondary concern. And despite wearing a life vest myself, I’m surprised by how much more effort it takes to stay afloat while making sure my babies don’t suck lake. To make matters worse, I’m pretty sure that’s all they want to do. It’s as if this massive puddle of mud, dead animals, and pee is nectar on their virgin tongues. (And yet they hate green beans, but that’s another story.)
6.) Sun poisoning.
8.) Choke on lake debris.
9.) Ingest microbes.
10.) Strangled by fishing line.
I begin thinking of all the ways this day could go sour.
11.) Bitten by snapping turtle.
12.) Bitten by water snake.
13.) Capsize with pontoon.
14.) Sucked into propeller blades.
15.) Mauled by an errant jetski.
All this morbid prognostication is exhausting, but it keeps me sharp. To know thine enemy is the first step in making sure your baby doesn’t get:
16.) Eaten by rabid fish.
17.) Thrashed against bluffs.
18.) Struck by lightning.
19.) Snatched by bird of prey.
20.) Smote by Poseidon.
It’s not long before I find myself back on the pontoon deck. Greyson has surrendered to the gentle rock of the lake, towels strategically hung around him to block the afternoon sun. Charlotte intermittently chews on and talks to her diaper bag; it’s a relationship she’s kindled with everything from toys to people.
"It’s a lot different being on the lake with children," Ashley says wistfully. It’s true. Suddenly, the lake is laced with dozens of hazards previously unseen. My children, the victims. But we’ll be back soon, and as frequently as possible, because there’s really only one danger that concerns me:
21.) Smothered by overprotective parents.