It was day two of Spring Break and the sky was dripping, preparing for three storms to hit in so many days. Couple that with the tears running down the cheeks of my kids and we had a lot of moisture. The weather was unpredictable but the tears on their faces were not. Their hopes of Happy Hollow and Gilroy Gardens had been shattered due to inclement weather, forcing us to make new plans to occupy our weeklong “stay-cation.”
Early that morning, I made a short list of local indoor play zones for kids. I gave the children a vote, an activity that takes full concentration and deliberation. In a deadlock vote of 2-1 and with a little coaxing, the decision was made to head to San Mateo’s Safari Run for a hour of stinky, sweaty indoor fun. We quickly packed up and tried to leave the house with enough time to spare before open play began at 10 a.m.
What we encountered at the door was unimaginable. Eager children scattered about, strollers jammed-packed in the waiting area while annoyed moms and dads tried to squeeze in from the rain, jockeying for one of 45 spots to play in the atmospheric jungle. We didn’t have a prayer. I overheard a man babbling into his cell phone that his daughter was No. 58 on the list and they had been in line since 9:40 a.m.
This was another unanticipated event and one that frustrated me even more than the upcoming week of stormy weather. What to do now? My list of indoor activities was feeling less conquerable as the time was now nearing 11 a.m.
I didn’t allow my inner frustration to impact my mood when I told the kids there was no space for us at Safari Run. To my surprise, they didn’t seem too upset by the change in plans. In fact, they weren’t bothered by it at all. After all my list-making, voting and rainy driving, now they don’t seem to care much about a change of plans?
I realize at this moment, that maybe our family culture has gotten a bit out of control with what type of activities we perceive our children to need on a rainy day. We really don’t need to run our kids to the nearest indoor play spot, stand in line, and pack them into a warehouse with hopes of getting those wiggles out. With all my planning to get my kids out to do new things, to take them to places that would “stimulate” them and keep them busy by their own nature, I overlooked the obvious activities that really allow you to spend quality time together. And they really don’t care what it is as long as they’re with you.
As we were loading back into the car, drenched from a downpour, my phone rang. It was mother-in-law calling to invite us over for lunch and a movie.
“Do the kids want to come for lunch and watch a movie by the fire? I taped Mary Poppins,” my cheery mother-in-law said.
It was just the invitation we needed. We are greeted at the door with a smiling grandma and a table full of fruit and cheese skewers, a “make your own pizza” station and candies and colored frosting set up to decorate cupcakes for dessert. With the three kids sitting up at grandma’s kitchen island, they laughed, joked and told random stories, teasing each other in between. I was able to watch them in a manner all too different from the way I watch them when they’re at an amusement park or play zone.
Following the snacks, we snuggled, my three kids on my lap with a huge fleece blanket in an oversized recliner and watched Mary Poppins in its entirety.
To my surprise, the kids loved the movie – a classic movie I would never think they would enjoy so much being that it was made in the 1960s. The pro-family insinuations were a good reminder for us all. The message is clear – family is first. Sometimes we get so caught up in our lives and what we think the kids need that we ignore the quality time opportunities.
In the days following our enchanting Mary Poppins afternoon, the movie has stuck with them. Ashley has tried to snap her room clean while singing movie songs and Connor has attempted to correctly spell out “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I have also found myself hanging on the words from one of the last scenes in the movie.
“Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve… And all too soon they’ve up and grown, and then they’ve flown… And it’s too late for you to give – just that spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.” Dick van Dyke
** But for the days when a cozy day at home with a classic movie just won’t do, here’s my early morning list. Feel free to add to it in the ‘comment’ section to save us all from jamming to the same stinky, crowded indoor play zone when the cabin fever sets in:
Safari Run, San Mateo
Pump It Up, Belmont
Movies, San Mateo or Belmont
Exploratorium, San Francisco
Tech Museum, San Jose
Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley
Cal Academy of Science, San Francisco
Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey
Coyote Point Museum, San Mateo
Laurel Street Arts, San Carlos
Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland
Palo Alto Junior Museum, Palo Alto
Sky High, Santa Clara
Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos
Lazer Quest, Mountain View
Any municipal library
Reading Bug story time, San Carlos