The Playroom: Wetsuits in Iowa

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I don’t like being cold. I don’t like being wet and cold. Ergo, I don’t like water parks.

Whoever came up with these things anyway? Probably not your neighborhood environmentalist and not me either.

I grew up in coastal Virginia, south of Richmond. It’s hot and humid in the summer and in the winter temperatures hover in the forties for a couple months, while it rains a lot and then it’s spring. Although I’ve lived in the Midwest much longer than I ever spent in Virginia, as far as I’m concerned anything less than 50 degrees is still cold. But I manage the weather okay, well until January. I still cry at the gas station when I’m pumping gas at minus 10. But, water parks, ugh, my waterloo.

My kids and my husband love going to the water park, so once a year we spend a weekend eating expensive hamburgers as we stand around in our bathing suits in the middle of winter, in the middle of the Midwest, in the middle of nowhere and the kids’ lips turn blue and we take lots of pictures of soaking wet shivering children and I spend as much time as I possibly can in the slimy hot tub.

But this year I had an idea. Where I grew up, if the water is cold and you want to get in it, you put on a wetsuit. It’s just one of those things people wear when they are going to jump in the ocean and get wet and they don’t want to get cold.

So, when packing for our weekend at the water park, I packed my wetsuit. My husband, who grew up in Wyoming and never owned a wet suit in his big square western state life, stared at me in total disbelief before doubling over laughing so hard there were tears in his eyes.

“Please, please tell me you aren’t going to wear that to the water park?” He gasped between laughter, and then my daughter joined in the fray of family jest, both of them bent over laughing and gurgling and gasping.

“Why?” I asked. “What’s wrong with wearing a wet suit to a water park?”

“This is Iowa!” my husband gasped. “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of.”

“Well I don’t care. You need to respect my differences.” At that they just started laughing more, because evidently somewhere in all the lessons on respecting differences there seems to be a caveat for anything that causes you to laugh your tuckus off at mom.

Growing up in coastal Virginia and moving to the Midwest might sometimes make me a object of jest. But I am also able to introduce people to things they wouldn’t otherwise discover: a decent biscuit recipe, not to mention my crab cakes and corn bread, piddling (something I’m really good at) and a wet suit at a water park.

It’s just one of those things people wear when they are going to get wet and they don’t want to get cold, in Virginia and in Iowa.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at