What Ever Happened To Just Going To The Park?
What ever happened to the park? You know, that playground area in your neighborhood that has swings, a slide, a water fountain and a merry go round. As a child, I loved going there. As I grew older and had my own kids, I must have forgotten it was there. I want to blame this business of children’s activities. The marketing has me fooled. I have fallen for it all. Dance class, piano, soccer, basketball, t-ball, ice skating lessons, violin, the list goes on. I’ve paid a fortune just to keep the kids busy, and meanwhile, the park was there all along.
Recently, I rediscovered this ancient concept called a “park.” Don’t worry, I’m not bullying your child at the top of the slide these days. I’m taking my two younger kids there constantly. It’s addictive. I bring a book and let them run around. The youngest is now 4 and doesn’t need me to go up and down the slide with him anymore. Last week, I found myself there with the little ones three times! I can’t remember the last time I went anywhere three times in one week. And each time, I was there for a little over an hour. Afterwards, I was not even tired. I was actually more relaxed. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done that day.
For those of you who have never abandoned the park, please bear with me as I get this out. I’m a part of that mother club that has excessively overspent when it comes to showing my kids a good time. Field Station: Dinosaurs, I’ve spent $70. Chuck E. Cheese, $50. The movies is $100 for our family. The carnival, at least 150 bucks. Waterparks, amusement parks, a couple hundred. We all know how costly children’s activities could be. Actually, it’s pretty ridiculous. But the park? Get this, free.
In addition to spending every last dollar I’ve ever made on my kids, I generally tend to end up taking them places that wear me out. Grabbing their hands with excessive force so they won’t run off, shushing them in nice restaurants until I have a headache (my sssshh is probably more disturbing to patrons than their noise), waiting 30 minutes on line at Chuck E. Cheese just to redeem a prize with the sole purpose of entertaining them in the car ride home. I won’t have it anymore!
The park is a closed area where the kids can run freely and my mind can run freely in a book or answering text messages on my iPhone. The kids will get all that energy out, and the monkey bars at the park are a lot safer than hanging from the poles of my guest room canopy bed. The only disturbance is the occasional bathroom break, but that usually only happens once, if at all. They meet new friends and set up future park play dates. Moms can meet new moms and discuss things like our aching bones with people who actually care.
As we approach summer and try to figure out what is both fun and cost effective for our kids, we are faced with quite a few challenges. Summer camps are damn near reaching the price of a college education. If you work from home like me, how will you get any work done with them home from school? If you have to go to work, you’re stuck either paying a ridiculous amount for childcare (rates in my neighborhood are at $20 per hour) and then trying to figure out what your kids will do all day. I’m suggesting a few hours at the park daily, if you can somehow make it there. Bring $5 for the ice cream truck and call it a day.