I remember a recently married, new to New Orleans version of myself walking around Audubon Park, wondering about the colorful building with toys spilling out. You see it from the track on the downtown side near Magazine. Years later, a very pregnant me took a tour of The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital and realized it was the building I’d been curious about.
Then there was the postpartum me, this time carrying my new baby girl into The Parenting Center for my first Snuggles and Struggles class (ages 0-6 months). I was in desperate need of mom friends. The sweet woman I sat down next to had a son the same age as my daughter. Nearly four years later, she’s still a great friend.
Any time I see a family taking a tour of TPC, I can’t help but share my two cents: the membership price is very fair, the toy selection and play structures both in and outdoors are carefully curated, and there are a wide variety of classes, including free music, art and water play. The staff offers parenting help via phone or in person. I’ve received advice and support on issues like sleep and sensory difficulties.
TPC has been a lifeline during the ups and downs of parenting, a friend-maker, and the perfect bad weather play space. There’s a loveseat in one staffer’s office where I frequently nursed my girls once they were too distracted by the fun in the main playroom. I weaned my younger daughter a few months ago, but when we pass the seat, she still says, “Malk!” I also have come to depend on the free treats in the kitchen: hot coffee for me and apple juice and graham crackers for my girls.
No “Mommy Wars” Here
We often plan playdates at TPC so no one’s house gets messy, but my favorite playdate there was spontaneous. One morning I was so excited to see two of my close friends and their kids arrive. I met B at TPC before our oldest kids were walking and now we are neighbors. C and I met through our kids’ preschool and wish we’d run into each other at TPC sooner.
That day, just as C sat to breastfeed her new baby, her toddler took off her diaper and ran to the other side of the room. She offered to go after her, but B and I didn’t want her to interrupt the feeding. I threw away the diaper and scooped up her kid.
One of the reasons I admire B is that she’s a pro at diapering while her kids stand up. The one time I tried it for a poop diaper, my daughter ended up eating a little bit that fell out of her diaper before I could stop her. I had even more respect for B after that experience!
We grabbed a new diaper and as I entertained the wiggle-worm, B diapered her while she stood. C’s baby had a peaceful meal, her toddler went back to playing, and our other kids were too busy to notice we were otherwise occupied. Take that, Mommy Wars!
I’ve been feeling quite sentimental about TPC lately. Soon my toddler will be in school three days a week and my preschooler will age out. Inevitably, our visits there will lessen. Now and forever, when I spot TPC from Audubon Park, I’ll be grateful to have such a fantastic resource in our parenting community.