For guys not accustomed to planning fun time for wee ones, the prospect of a whole day with them can trigger anxiety attacks. I should think most dads place tremendous pressure on themselves to make a day with the kid(s) not just fun, but an extravaganza. Boys, these kiddie places see you coming like hungry lions hiding in high grass see herds of antelope.
As dads acting on our own, we have enough on our minds that it may not occur to us to look into things moms seem to know of instinctively, e.g. Groupon, LivingSocial and the like. With summer vacation fast approaching, I am all about learning to use such tools. As a veteran of two summer bloodlettings, I’m looking for discounts on Happy Meals. This year, I’ll be loaded for bear, baby, carrying a valise stuffed with coupons organized by category.
It seems to me the game with kiddie places is to get you in for whatever price, then soak you for the cheesy merchandise that draws kids like gold diggers to diamonds. It took some self-discipline to conquer guilt brought on by the disappointment in those little upturned faces whenever I said “no”, but I got there. It was either that or surrender my car to the bank. Shucks, these places are getting so expensive, they need to install casino-style kiosks where you can mortgage your house on site.
For the more athletic, adventurous or cash-strapped of us, there are always park expeditions, bike riding, playgrounds or free or inexpensive museums. An online search will turn up all kinds of free events or destinations that are about the kids and not the commerce. I learned early that you’ve got to do your due diligence — or pick the brain of any single mom you know.
I try to plan a mix of paid and free activities for our days…and sneak in a little tutoring between “wow” time. Sometimes, I’ll get a notion and we’ll just wing it. Regardless, I use the time to reinforce the unique bond I have with each child through observation of their behavior, asking open-ended questions and sharing chuckles whenever possible. When they’re grown and I’m God knows where, my hope is that the memories we create now will carry them through the worst of times later.