Parenthood is a ticking, germ-laden time bomb. A sea of vile, phobia creating quarantine shed scenarios that make even the bravest of the brave fall to their knees (get up, sanitize their knees with a travel sized Wet One, return to their knees, hand sanitize their hands after touching said knees) in horror. I have taken a deep breath and, for the betterment of kindred parenting spirits everywhere, have gone to a dark, dark place in order to tell you about the worst of the worst. Public arenas turned Outbreak. Places soap can not touch. Places soap doesn’t bother touching. Places where hand sanitizer is futile. Places of danger. Places I always end up.
|Kids, is everyone suited up? Great. Let’s get out there and have some FUN.|
Remember that scene in E.T.? – The scientists arrive at Elliott’s home to study E.T. and his connection to Elliott. They are all wearing hazmat suits with full astronaut helmet. The entire house is connected to the research site by an elaborate series of above ground tunnels? These places are exactly like that except remove ALL attempts of sterilization and order.
|I must insist you keep your body completely covered while in the milk crate. Gertie found it in a KFC dumpster.|
1) The Indoor Play Place
The sites! The sounds! The smells! No, it’s not Clorox. Take 15 – 40 partially potty trained toddlers, several babies and a smattering of 1/2 tuned in parents and you have the perfect storm that is the indoor play place. Urine. Unrecongnizable assaulted food products. Dirty diapers. Soiled underwear. That is just the coat rack near the entrance. There is, inevitably, a climbing structure that is just big enough for a child to become stuck and terrified and just small enough for you to lay on the floor, stick one leg under the structure for support and flail most useful arm up into the abyss, motioning for your child to grab your limb. During this cirque du soleil feat, you try not to think about the wet spot grazing your hand and are hopeful that your foot is digging in to what could be so many things, but, is probably not the nutrigrain bar you’re hoping for. After hours with other parents, exchanging horror stories and on-call pediatric physician numbers for the closest three counties, you leave, shower your children and burn their clothes in the backyard.
2) The Children’s Museum
At the children’s museum, you can explore your local city. You can learn how to anchor a news desk, work the local market register and learn about transportation. There is one exhibit missing – how to fight off the resurgence of 14th century “black death”. Come with questions, leave with the Bubonic Plague. Not on museum t-shirts yet. I’m working on it. The children’s museum is a maze of sticky plastic produce and rare childhood viruses. Learn how to make change, ride the subway and survive hand, foot and mouth disease. Be the foreman at a construction site, try on a fireman’s helmet and pass on Fifths Disease to your family and friends. Excuse me, your former friends. The children’s museum. Discover. Learn. Vomit.
3) The Public Pool
All you need at our local pool is $1 per child, a swim diaper and the intestinal fortitude of a world champion butter eater. From the kiddie area, the regular pool gleams with sparkling chlorine filled water. Water filled with adults. Water filled with the expert level potty trained of America. Over in the kiddie pool? Well, imagine a sewer line. That’s it. Just imagine a sewer line. Turned inside out. With lots of crying. And, unusually warm water. Our toddler water area is very festive. Rainbow sprayers, turtles to climb on, and giant shower head sprayers. I see the appeal. So does every 2 year old in New England. The turtle, and its fun shell sprayers, act as a seat AND an unintentional water fountain. Mmmm…can you taste that? That’s chlorine and anxiety. Delicious. Between the tears, swim diaper blow-outs and smashed snack shack fries, I make a weekly vow to never return, but, the fanciful rainbow sucks me back in every time. “This time it will be different.”, it whispers. “This time, it will be magic. I’m a rainbow…trust me!” The rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers and pee.
4) The “Family Restroom”
|“You JUST went to the bathroom before we left the house!”|