Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting
Entry 7: Summer in the City
By : Liz Eagle
We’re about a month or so in now to the hap-happiest season of all (well, at least for the kiddos). Folks ages 5 to 23 are rejoicing that school is out and responsibilities are void until the end of August. It’s such a freeing time, a time to stay up late, sleep all day, and inevitably be bored of all activities by the second week of June. So, as a care-giver to a carefree little rascal, what is one to do with three months of freedom (besides hide in a corner and cry)? Grab a hankie and hear me out.
My 5-year-old loves, and I mean LOVES, the pool. Her 2-year-old bro, however, really just ain’t having it. She’s begging momma to hop in the pool with her, catch her when she jumps, hold a hand underwater so she can tag it, all while the little guy sits on the side of the pool (fully clothed) asking if we can leave. I try to appease both by letting my gal swim fearlessly and my guy splash his feet while I try my darndest to embrace this time (simultaneously not letting anyone drown).
OK fine. Maybe it’s not that bad. It’s fun to watch them enjoy the pool, having two completely separate experiences with each child. But it’s also a bit nerve-racking and can only be done while fueled on approximately 32 oz. of coffee and in thirty minute intervals. Then it’s all smiles when you try to bribe them with ice cream to leave.
I’ve had a few parent-pals from the neighborhood and preschool send me emails promoting the pools they have joined for the summer, hoping that our family will follow suit. And I have to be honest, it all looks very enticing. Very. But as I think about the reality of it all - 50% of my children hating swimming, my disdain for packing lunches and beach bags, and the financial commitment - I have come to the conclusion that at this stage in life, it is not for us. It may be in the future but for now I’m satisfied with a one-time-only guest pass.
But behold! I believe I have found the secret to summertime happiness, for those of us questioning water sports and summer sanity, and it’s not in expensive pool memberships or boarding school; it’s the splash pad. I think my sister (who also plays the role of nanny) put it best in her text to me that said, “ I like this place. You can’t lose kids and they can’t drown.” Ditto. A mom friend and mother of six once put childrearing and family size into perspective: “How long do you want to be the mother in the pool?” Or, in other words, when the kids are little, you have to stay so close to save them from the impending doom of the pool (add dramatic sound effects) that it can quickly become an ominous event. The splash pad takes away some of the stress while allowing the kids to enjoy the #1 luxury of summer: water.
Oh, and the best part? They’re free. The Charlotte Parks and Rec. has made this very easy. All the splash pads are gated and open from sunup to sundown. Got an early riser? Head to the splash pad. Got a night owl? Head to the splash pad. Think your head will spin like the exorcist if you have to watch one more episode of Arthur? Head to the splash pad. There are various facilities located throughout the city, so one is bound to be nearby. If not, the pilgrimage is well worth it.
So, in classic Cheap Momma fashion, here is your how-to for splash pad fun:
- Take a deep breath and accept that summer is upon us.
- Throw your little tike in those cutie-pie hand-me-down swim suits and grab those three-year-old towels from the closet.
- Pack a bag. (And yes, folks, this is an instance when parents of even the wee-est sprouts can pack a book or magazine or something to do that is at least somewhat adult focused.)
- Google your nearest splash pad and let your GPS be your guide. (Check the list below for a few suggested locations.)
- Upon arrival, set up camp. Most splash pads come complete with shade, so most spots should be pretty comfortable.
- Douse the kiddos in sunscreen and let ‘em at it.
- Enjoy yourself… for real. Read that book. Clip them coupons. Knit that blanket. Whatever you want. The kids are currently under the supervision of the summer gods.
- Watch closely as your kids run out all that sweet energy while you regain your sanity.
- Pack them up, talk about how awesome it was, and determine yourself to repeat the process as often as needed.
And there you have it, folks. The summer Cheap Momma’s Guide to Parenting.
Stay tuned: you never know where the cheapness will take us.
Charlotte Area Splash Pads:
- Cordelia Park, 2100 North Davidson St. (If you are a brave soul or just love to swim, this one also has a pool open daily from noon-5:30.)
- Latta Park, 601 E. Park Ave. (Latta Park also has an amazing park and nature trail, along with basket ball courts and a covered picnic area. Take note the sprayground is not shaded.)
- Veterans Park, 2136 Central Ave. (Veterans has a great amount of shade as well as a park and baseball fields.)
- Nevin Park, 6000 Statesville Rd. (A larger facility with tons of other options available)