My vision of myself as a stay-at-home-mom includes having it together enough to go out and do “stuff”. In my mental fantasy, we would go to the park at least twice a week and manage at least one outing to do something more significant — a trip to the zoo, a visit to a “big” park, swimming in the summer, skating in the winter. That does not happen. That has never happened. I’m pretty sure that’s an unrealistic image.
On a very good week, when it isn’t the holidays, and when everyone is healthy, when we aren’t about to travel, and we haven’t just gotten back from travel, and when the weather cooperates, we sometimes manage one such outing. It’s been a while since we’ve done one.
It’s such a lovely place, and going during the week is a special treat, because it isn’t overly crowded. The whole place is set up to be interesting, inviting and stimulating to small children. The current exhibit, “Ocean”, is set up as an undersea world on the bottom level, with “fish” to play with, a mirrored tunnel for the kids to crawl through, and all manner of costumes and underwater-inspired decorations to build with. Up on the second level is the sea surface, with boats wheels to steer, a crane that the kids can use to load sandbags into a ship’s hold and fishing lines (the kids playing downstairs can attach the “fish” to the line so the fishermen upstairs can haul them up). My boys absolutely love it. There’s space for them to run and play, and they can be almost entirely independent — since everything is age appropriate, and most of the toys are open to interpretation, all they need is their imaginations.
I can tell that parenting in Austria is changing me. The first time we went to Zoom, I hovered over the kids. I “helped” them with almost everything they did, and I inserted myself into their play. Not today. Today, I followed Benjamin around most of the time (Jo played with Liam, mostly) and I only got involved when he had questions or when he invited me to play with him. I let him run ahead of me, even out of sight, and I only “helped” when he asked. Part of that is their ages — at 4, B is getting more confident about his independence and Liam, who has never really needed the reassurance of my constant presence, runs off without looking back. But part of it is me. I’ve adjusted more to this environment, where the parents are less intrusive and more relaxed. This is a safe place, where the kids are set up to have a positive experience — I don’t have to micromanage it. We had a really great time. It was nice to let my boys do their thing. (And then, when B asked me to help him “fish”, it was a real treat to be invited to play.)
We didn’t have any particular purpose in going today. We just went to do something fun, together, out of the house. We really had a great time. It was a fun hour of exploration, investigation and a chance for the kids to just be kids. We really should do this kind of thing more often.