Explore & Adventure,  Learning

Where are the real mermaids?

You can be anything you want to be, even a mermaid.

You think I’m joking? Skye is a mermaid. She says this with all seriousness. She’s worked very hard to become one and has plans for her future mermaiding.

Weeki Wachee Springs (now a Florida state park) is home to the original mermaids. It boasts a clear water spring that is 72-degrees year round, an underwater amphitheater, and a long history of mermaids (even Elvis was a fan!). We took Skye for her 4 year old birthday, where she discovered that mermaids were real and, after seeing one of the mermaids putting on her tail, figured out that she too could be a mermaid. All she needed was a tail. Cue pestering me.

Several years of swimming later (and a global pandemic during which swim club was closed down), I needed a way to motivate Skye to practice swimming for me in the local pool. Enter her very own mermaid tail, complete with monofin. The deal was that she had to demonstrate certain swim skills before she could even try the monofin (which is exactly what you think it is, a mermaid-fin shaped flipper for her feet). The she had to show similar skills with just the monofin on. These included extended floats, swimming the length of the pool, and treading water.

This summer, Weeki Wachee offered their Junior Mermaid Camps again. Skye informed me that it was the top thing she wanted to do this summer since she was finally old enough. So I used a bot to watch the website and notify me as soon as mermaid camp dates were posted. (“Of course you have a bot for that,” one of my coworkers.)

Down to Florida we went, exploring other clear springs, tubing down the rivers, and finally, dropping her off at the entrance to Weeki Wachee with the waiting professional mermaids. River and I then went off to ride airboats, see alligators, and eat ice cream.

During all this, I’ve started to follow a few groups online of mermaids, including many professional mermaids. You learn a lot about a topic just quietly following a group. So I knew about Mertailor and we made a stop of the way down to see their new exhibit. It was a good chance to see a silicone tail in person (I’d only seen pictures and videos, all the mermaids I’d seen in person to that point used simple fabric tails). I have thoughts, but we have a ways to go before Skye can even consider a heavier tail.

While she petted the starfish and sting rays, I got to chatting with one of the employees, who was of course also a merman. It was wonderful that they just accepted Skye as also a mermaid and happily gave me tips and insight on getting her more involved in the merfolk community.

The entire experience was lovely and Skye felt very welcomed as a mermaid. The counselors helped her learn about mermaid makeup, she got to see behind the scenes and learn a little stage craft, there were many many opportunities to swim in a tail, and of course, mermaid crafts.

The last day of camp, River and I showed up to watch the state park’s mermaid show. River had never seen a mermaid and was enthralled by the show. Then we stayed behind as they lowered the curtains once again so the Junior Mermaids could come out. I had to jump over benches to get across the theater to where Skye was and River followed, climbing up into the window so he could wave to his sister under the water. She blew bubble kisses, waived, and smiled a huge smile.

You can be anything you want, kid, even a mermaid.