Hi! I'm Carrie, the owner and founder of PlayLab.
You might not know who I am, especially if you just started coming to PlayLab in the last 7 months. (A parent actually asked me if I was new today). But if you're reading this, you most likely know about or have been to PlayLab, or at least are thinking about visiting. And if you've been to PlayLab since we opened two years ago, then you know it's not like other play spaces. To my knowledge, PlayLab is the only indoor play space in the area that is based on the latest research on play and child development.
I've missed being in the space and I'm proud of the work we do and, man, does it feel good to be back at PlayLab being productive again! Productivity is my jam! (Not that I haven't been productive over past 7 months. I produced a human being. For the second time. That's pretty much the most productive you can be, I think, having a baby.)
But childbirth is quick, like a band aid being ripped off, compared to the slow burn of parenting. If childbirth is a sprint, parenting is like a marathon that never ends- AND you have to run barefoot over Legos and someone is blasting the 'Paw Patrol' theme song over and over. To me, parenting can feel stagnant, boring, monotonous, and unproductive at times. .
At the end of the day, when I look around at my house/mess, I start to get frustrated and feel like I wasn't productive. But then I stop myself and do this little check-in: I ask myself 'What did I do for my kids today?' Aside from the obvious: feed them and keep them from horribly maiming each other? Well, I spent most of the day sitting next to my seven month old, Marin, on the floor while she played.
See!? I did nothing. I just sat there. But let's think about this in a different way: What did I actually do for her development during these moments sitting together on the floor?
Marin recently started sitting up and crawling. As a child development specialist, I know learning new skills can be scary for babies. It's a big world and they are so small comparatively. They fall. It hurts sometimes. They try again. It's an endless cycle of synapses firing and making connections and I'm right there in the middle being her safe place, support system, and first playmate.
As she crawls away from me, she turns to look back, searching my face for feedback. I smile a bit, or make an observation; "You're wondering if you can go further." I'm letting her know it's safe, and I'm here for comfort if she needs it. Simultaneously, I'm also modeling how I would like my almost-four-year-old daughter, Linley, to interact with her baby sister. She is learning what it means to be a big sister and how to be a safe 4-year-old around an infant. (Let's be honest: if I left her to figure it out herself, it would be like a giving a golden retriever a squeaky toy made of bacon. The excitement would lead to lots of well-meaning, but too intense, hugs and kisses. And probably more than a little biting.) Linley is watching how I talk to Marin, listening to the words I use, feeling my gentle touches, and copying my silly faces that make Marin giggle.
This check-in reminds me that when I feel unproductive at maintaining my home, I'm actually being an incredibly productive parent. I'm doing a lot more for my children than I give myself credit for- and so are you.
Even when you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and you want to punch Chase and Marshall right in their adorable cartoon puppy faces, you should have this feeling of beautiful certainty. Certainty that you are exactly where you should be. Sitting on the floor with your kids, doing nothing.
You can see how something simple like sitting next to your baby can be something incredibly productive and special. I think PlayLab is like that. A simple, inviting, and beautiful space designed with intention and respect for young children that lends itself to more productive play. When play is productive it helps kids learn to make sense of their world, build social skills, have emotional intelligence, increase frustration tolerance, build creativity, think critically, and all the other stuff that makes successful adults. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for a ball pit and a bounce house, if that's your thing. But PlayLab is not that place.
I have that feeling of certainty when I'm at PlayLab. That feeling that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing: sitting on the floor with my kids, doing nothing, just enjoying their company and treasuring this moment in their lives.
I hope you do too.