When it comes to watching my kids experience pure joy, money is no object. Of course we do plenty of family things that cost nothing like ride bikes, read books and take nature walks in the park. But to those that say, “money cannot buy happiness” have obviously never seen a child riding a miniature pony. I find myself internally conflicted, since places like fairs, zoos, and carnivals can be sad, inhumane, and sometimes downright creepy. Fortunately, the portion of my children’s brain that would see a whale in a tank smaller than most celebrity’s penthouse pools as cruel has not been developed yet. So instead, they see a “big fishy” and immediately are giving me the pouty lips and requesting a giant balloon animal with a spout. I wish that my moral convictions were as strong as my desire to see my kids giddy with joy—until then, any place we can pet, ride, or feed the animals, seriously, just take my money already.
The creators and investors of places such as these are no fools-- they see a market that can easily exploit desperate parents that will stop at nothing to avoid very public tantrums. They know that they can absolutely charge $12 per person for a 3-minute train ride around the monkeys. And sadly, my bag of old tricks like “the train is not working today” is no longer a lie I can get away with, especially when there’s a loud speaker announcing train rides every 20 minutes.
We have yet to brave the wonder and overwhelming glee that is Disneyland. I simply cannot justify dipping into their college savings so I can show them pictures in the future and have conversations like:
Me: “Remember how much you loved riding Dumbo? Oh look at us in front of the castle!”
Them: “When did we go to Disneyland?”
Fortunately, we are very close to several toddler amusement parks, carousels, and trains of all shapes and sizes. Kids will lose their minds over anything plastic that they can ride.
There are also bounce houses or trampoline parks that charge more per hour than most criminal attorneys. It is tempting to be wary of any place you need to sign a liability waver for, however the upshot is that it does exhaust them into taking 3 hour naps. So I’m just going to be the mom that magically pulls helmets and mouth guards out of my Mary Poppin's bag.
I am also a huge fan of splash pads or play structures where I can sit off to the side and wave from a shaded bench while finishing my cold coffee from that morning. I call those places heaven.
Sure, the best things in life are free—but Thing 1 and Thing 2, just happen to have very expensive tastes.