Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Defense of Indoor Playgyms

We had a relatively mild start this winter.

Sure, it was chilly, and yeah, I complained because I'm not a cold weather person, but internally, I was breathing a sigh of relief. I did a happy dance when we didn't have a white Christmas and we didn't have to worry about travel being impacted.

Then...Mother Nature decided to give us ALL THE SNOW at once.

No. At once is a lie. Two years ago we really did seem to get ALL THE SNOW at once, and it was a three day snowbound experience that we were well prepared for and was almost kind of fun. We ended up with forty inches when all was said and done, and snowbanks and drifts that were almost comical in their size, but when it was done...it was done. At least that's how I remember it.

This year it's more like...snowstorm giving 8-12 inches...a few cold days...snowstorm giving another 8-12 inches...a few cold days....snowstorm...repeat, repeat, repeat. We have not had Monday dance class in almost a month, which is torture to Madison. And outside is sort of that mix of snow topped with ice topped with snow topped with ice. With slush on the driveway. Ugh. Gross.

Anyway, this winter's method of beating us over and over with snowstorms is making me stir crazy in ways that the three snowbound days of 2013 didn't.

I need. To get out. Of the house.

I need. To get the girls. Out of the house.

I don't know if it's them feeling pent up, or my threshold for insanity being lowered, but lately they are tearing around the house like crazy kids. Seriously. They chase each around and around and around and around the ground floor, tearing around furniture and leaving general destruction in their wake.

I ask them to stop...so they start tap dancing in the kitchen. Literal tap dancing, with some skill and a lot of enthusiasm. And music...loud enough to be heard over tap dancing on a ceramic tile floor.

I ask them to stop...so they start "doing gymnastics" over the furniture.

And back to chasing. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

If it were any other time of year, I'd send them outside to the playscape, which I can see from the kitchen window, and let them exhaust themselves in the yard. But the playscape is currently under many inches of snow, the air is cold, and I can't let them go outside in the snow alone (yet). Which means I have to go outside with them. And while I'm willing to do this occasionally, I'm much more likely to bring the snow inside...fun for snow play, not so much energy expended.

So since opening the back door really isn't an option, we've become great advocates of the indoor playgym. We hit the free ones (McDonald's and the mall both offer wifi in addition to playtime) and the ones where you pay a certain amount to let your kids exhaust themselves on slides and mats and foam pits. The girls are  happy. I'm happy. My house is happy. Win. Win. Win.

I mentioned this to a group of moms recently and several of them all but recoiled in horror when I mentioned where we'd been. I am not exaggerating. One even made that sucked in, side eye, nose wrinkled yikes face. That face that somehow displays disgust, disapproval, and a faint degree of sympathy that they need to be the one to educate you.

Oh...no, we could never. Those places are disgusting. And it's cold and flu season. And AREN'T YOU WORRIED ABOUT GERMS?

In a word...no. 

Let us be clear that I am not a germaphobe. At all. You'll be hard pressed to convince me otherwise. Ever since I had to deal with actually having to be a germaphobe when Madison was dealing with her whole neutropenia thing, I've welcomed the return of a functional immune system and trust that it will do its job. Sure, sickness is no fun, but getting the occasional cold is part of being a kid and developing a fighting system. Most of the time you're catching whatever you get from someone who doesn't look sick. We all avoid the kid with the snot...even though they're the ones who aren't contagious anymore.

Yes, I'm generalizing. Sometimes you have snot and you are still very contagious. I avoid those kids anyway...because they're gross. Even - or especially - when they are my own. Boogie Wipes help...especially now that Madison can handle her own blowing and wiping.

So we go, we play, we wash our hands (or use santitizer) and we go home. And let me be clear, the girls, following my instructions to run and climb and slide and completely wear themselves out, are pretty much on and touching every single piece of equipment in every corner of these places. They're in the tubes. They're on the mats. They play with the balls. They're playing with other kids. They're drinking from the water fountains (because what fun is the water bottle you brought from home where there's a fun fountain with a fun button to push?)

Here are the positives we've experienced from going out to these places:

1. They get to burn energy.
2. I get to sit and watch them while I drink my coffee or chat with other non-germaphobe moms willing to risk it.
3. They have fun.
4. Sometimes there's wifi.
5. We get out of the house.

Here are the negatives:

1. Sometimes it costs $7 a kid - or 2.99 for a Happy Meal (if I give in).
2. There is no number 2.

Seriously. So far we have experienced no drawbacks other than I regret not buying the punch card so our visits are cheaper. The girls have not gotten sick once from our outings. They did get sick about a month ago, but I'm pretty sure that they got that from Adam.

I know, I'm sure that many of you are reading this and crying out for my head on a platter, saying that every time you venture into these places you come home with typhoid or worse. And that stinks. I get it. Typhoid is no fun and you should probably stay home.

But we will happily enjoy every cooped up moment of escape...and the diminished crowds the germ fearing provide.

Indoor playgyms for the win.

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