As any parent knows, one of the best things about being a parent is getting to ignore your kids.
Whether that means parking the kids in front of the TV for a few hours or shipping them off to Grandma’s house for the weekend, there are few sweeter moments in life than when your children’s insatiable need for attention and interaction can be temporarily directed elsewhere, leaving you time to take a shower, read a good book, or just stare blankly into space.
But unfortunately, you can’t send the kids to Grandma’s house forever. (Unless you live in the Maori culture of New Zealand, where children traditionally are raised by their grandparents. Note to self: Move to New Zealand, apply for dual citizenship, and disguise self as a Maori.)
So if you’re looking to get out of the house for a few hours while still enjoying the serenity and bliss that can only come from neglecting your children’s emotional needs, here are some of the best places in Des Moines to go to ignore your kids:
Mall play areas: Every mall in Des Moines has one – little wonderlands of molded plastic and padded landing areas where the kids can climb, clamber and caterwaul. Let the kids burn off some energy and squeal with youthful delight while you fiddle with your smartphone in peace.
- Drawbacks: Mall play areas are often festering with germs – you can practically see the cold and flu viruses floating around in mid-air, cackling at you.
- Pro tip: Choose a mall that has a fully enclosed play area so your kids can run around without escaping from your semi-watchful gaze. Also: Make sure to use hand sanitizer, which is often provided for free.
Parks/Playgrounds: Taking your kids to the park is a win-win – your kids get to play outside and socialize with other kids, and you get to feel like a slightly better parent because you’re giving your kids some outdoor recreation while kind of being semi-involved with them at the same time.
- Drawbacks: Most parks are not very fun during winter. Although ice-covered slides and swing sets can dramatically improve your kids’ velocity and launch trajectories.
- Pro tip: Avoid making conversation with other parents at the park. It’s almost always awkward and uncomfortable. C’mon, people – I’m here to ignore my children, not to make some new casual acquaintances!
The Library: Going to the library combines two of kids’ favorite interests – books, and creating chaotic messes while making a scene in public.
- Drawbacks: You can’t really “ignore” your children at the library for very long, because they’ll run off and get lost in the stacks. Also, often there are creepy people hanging out at the library – like freelance writers, high school kids and senior citizens.
- Pro tip: Sign up for children’s story time at the library. Then your children get the benefits of having an adult read to them, but without you having to spend time reading to them yourself. And put a firm limit on the number of books your kids can check out. If you’re not careful, they’ll bring home 50 god-awful Clifford the Big Red Dog books, and each one of those books will cost you 25 cents per day in overdue fines.
Raccoon River Brewing Company: Yeah, that’s right. A bar. This is the most kid-friendly bar in Des Moines. Seriously. If you’re going to take your kids to a bar, this should be at the top of your list. They have pool tables on the upper level, so you and your fellow parent friends can shoot some pool while your kids play on the floor. Go on a weekend afternoon or weekday night to avoid the crowds.
- Drawbacks: Kids don’t appreciate behind-the-scenes brewery tours as much as they should.
- Pro tip: Raccoon River Brewing Company has a good kids’ menu! (Non-alcoholic.)
Monkey Joe’s: This indoor play area in West Des Moines is a really fun place to take your kids. You can watch them climb floor-to-ceiling inflatable ladders and plummet down steep inflatable slides and jump around in comically huge inflatable bounce houses. It’s all the fun your kids wish they were having at home – and without any of your furniture getting damaged.
- Drawbacks: Monkey Joe’s is not cheap. Depending on which day of the week you go, it costs $8 or $10 per child. And my kids want to go to Monkey Joe’s pretty much every single day. Which would add up to…I don’t know, what? $600 per month? (I’m not good at math. I’m a wordsmith, not a, um, numbers…guy.)
- Pro tip: Save money on Monkey Joe’s admissions with a Frequent User card. And/or follow Monkey Joe’s on Facebook to get daily deals and discounts. (DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Monkey Joe’s and I do not get a commission for referring new customers to them – although that would be great if I did, because my kids love to go there and I could really use the cash. What do you say, Monkey Joe’s? I wrote this nice blog post about you, how about showing some appreciation by sending some money my way? No one needs to know. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, or however the saying goes…)
Being a parent isn’t easy, but if you find ways to create little moments of joy and happiness along the way, you can get through it relatively unscathed. As Maria Montessori once said, “It takes a village to ignore a child.”
Ben Gran is a freelance writer and comedian who lives in Des Moines with his long-suffering wife and long-neglected children. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter – but don’t expect any daily deals or discounts, ‘cause you won’t get any!