I have what people refer to politely as “busy children.” I can’t help feeling that this is a commentary on my parenting skills, or lack thereof, and it has been a battle finding places I can take my “busy kids” to safely, without feeling there is a time limit on my outing. It gets a bit daunting venturing out only to turn back when mayhem ensues. “We’ll go home if you don’t behave!” becomes an idle threat when you’ve already driven half an hour to reach “civilization.” Living in the middle of nowhere can have its drawbacks.
And that brings me to why I’m in love with Discovery Village. Finding this place has changed my experience as a transplanted Canadian, feeling lost in a foreign land. It took me all of two visits to purchase the membership and pronounce it as my kids’ clubhouse. There are a number of reasons why.
One of my criteria for going out to places with other kids is cleanliness. Not that I’m a germ-phobe by any stretch, but having kids you realize very quickly that when another child is standing in front of yours coughing on them, there isn’t much chance you’re going to escape without some collateral damage. And haven’t we all been to a play center only to have our child get sick the very next day? Or in my experience, the minute we get home. On my first visit to Discovery Village I was thrilled to see the employees walking around and carefully wiping down the open play area and the toys.
The second issue I come across with two kids of different ages and interests is that what may work for one might not interest the other. So, while I have one enjoying looking at animals at the zoo the other one will want to run off and chase peacocks. True story. It’s moments like that I contemplated a leash. But there is nothing politically correct about a harness. What critique that would have opened me up to! A mother should have some control over her children, no matter how “busy” they are. Right? Well, with Discovery Village I don’t have to worry. After the initial running off the steam phase when they first get in the door, the two of them gravitate towards their own interests: one digging in the moon sand and the other creating pizzas in the pretend restaurant.
My third problem (which is probably just mine) is that I seem to forget I’m a mother and don’t do any of the normal preparation that I admire in so many mothers I see. You’re hungry? Probably would have been good to pack some snacks. You have to go to the bathroom? No, I didn’t bring any wipes. You want to color? Now? Nope. I didn’t think to bring crayons or paper, either. I’ve seen mothers pull stuff out of a magic bag that keeps their kids entertained for hours. But, not me. “Let’s meet at a restaurant” is the worst phrase I could hear from a well-meaning relative. You’ve probably seen me. I’m the one in the corner of a restaurant shoveling down my food so I can “enjoy” a meal prepared by somebody else and quickly get out before my kids demolish the place. However many times I leave the house without packing food for the kids, I never learn. At Discovery Village they’re well stocked with wipes, crayons, and the kid-friendly cafe has saved me more than once!
My son often asks me to give out his number to friends made in a childhood instant, not even knowing their names but knowing that he enjoyed their company. Like him, I’ve met some of my best friends here, through random chats over a cup of perfectly made coffee (another of my criteria!) and I’ve found insight, strength and support through another mother’s humorous outlook.
Recently I attended a birthday party and a mother and I were staring at each other, trying to figure out where we had met when suddenly it dawned on us. She spoke first. “It was at Discovery Village. I was having a terrible day and you said something that put it all in perspective.” Me, “And then the next time we saw each other I was overloaded and having a particularly bad parenting day and you reminded me to take it in stride.” We smiled at each other, the moment of understanding so complete that nothing more needed to be said.
So, as much as I call it my kids’ clubhouse, I can truly say it’s mine as well. I am welcomed into a safe environment where my kids play largely unsupervised while I chat with other mothers and enjoy a rare moment of drinking my coffee in its original, non-microwaved, hot state. No time limits. No disapproving glances. I am with my people. And when my kids are screaming and crying when it’s time to leave I know it was a successful outing. The emotional, creative and social needs of my children have been met in a nurturing place with attentive, qualified staff. Not only can I chalk it up on my mother report card; it’s also a rejuvenating time for me. Best of all it makes the rest of my day easier, because you know what? They’re not so “busy” after a few hours at the “clubhouse!”