My Top 2 Pet Peeves at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

This post is specific to my most recent visit to the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Alternatively, this post could also have been titled, “Things I notice now that I have two kids and need to maneuver a stroller and a walking toddler”.

First of all, being from Chicago (okay, not technically, but because I spent some of the best years of my personal and professional pre-kids and post-kid life here, I claim to be from Chicago) and having had the advantage of a Children’s Museum that was really fun (but expensive) even for a crawling/almost walking Baby J, I have to say that the SJ one is somewhat disappointing. I got over that disappointment pretty quickly though given as there is no other choice but this one if I want to take J and E to an indoor play space with lots of choices (somewhat limited by age currently). We even got a membership the last time (and first time) we visited.

Today, on a whim, I decided to take both kids here to at least get my money’s worth by going more than once in the membership year. The only other time we went was the last time we visited. I got a great spot parking on the street for a little over $2 (it is $2/hour) and I kicked butt at parallel parking (that’s Chicago parallel parking experience for you!). Loading the stroller with E, a diaper bag, and my handbag and with J holding on to my hand (he has gotten quite good at this and I love holding his little hand), we crossed the street and entered the Museum. I showed my membership card and ID and we were in. So far so good. So what’s this about pet peeves. Allow me to elaborate:

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Photo Credit: dhendrix73 via Flickr. No changes were made to the original image.

1.School children on group visits/field trips: Unless you are the parent whose kid is in one of these groups and you don’t have to physically be there to monitor your child or her/his group, you will know what I mean and I mean it in the best possible way – I despise these kids in groups. Now I appreciate and respect the benefits of such field trips for kids, no matter the age. I understand what an opportunity and privilege it is to experience some of the exhibits, displays, and activities that for some may be the only time to do so. I also realize, somewhat ironically, that this is a children’s museum and if you can’t or don’t expect there to be children, then you need your head examined. I get all that. My peeve is against the kids in these groups who are unruly, disrespectful of other kids’ space – especially of those kids younger than them, and loud. Even if I was to excuse them under the ‘kids will be kids’ excuse, I do not understand how their supervisors – teachers/tour guides/caretakers can allow for these unacceptable behaviors.

We live in a society and share many a common spaces but pushing and shoving one’s way to amass the majority of that space selfishly albeit perhaps unintentionally at their age is just not done. J had wanted to see the fire engine that is one of their permanent exhibits there. As soon as he got to the driver’s seat to move the stirring wheel, some other bigger and taller kid came and almost pushed him aside. I complained to their leader who duly reprimanded the kid and told him to wait his turn. However, other kids behind the kid who was scolded went right in and pretty much  scared J, making him rush out.

This also happened on our way out. Because there were no other kids, I told J to go on in and take his time. Out of nowhere, some 5-6 kids (of that same group) came running into the fire engine and this time J didn’t even make it to the driver’s seat. He just retreated from the steps, scared. Yes, the adult supervisor was around but just didn’t seem to care. Perhaps she had had an exhausting day minding these unruly kids and who can blame her but that her exhaustion and lack of disciplining comes at a cost to my son is unforgivable. She wasn’t even close enough for me to say anything so I let it go. This time.

The ambulance, another permanent exhibit, was a similar story. There were older kids from some group huddled inside the driving cab and fighting each other. Not knowing this, I encouraged J to go on in (I had to wait at the back with E who was starting to stir in the K’tan) but a kind lady who was retracing her steps holding the hand of her own son told me that J wouldn’t possibly be able to go in much further. What a bummer!

I understand that their website recommends that to avoid crowds such as these to come in the afternoons (or I could go on Member hours on Sundays) when most groups have left. With an infant and a toddler though, the only times that do work for me are in the mornings. I know I just have to suck it up but a little more monitoring, disciplining, and a sharp eye on such behaviors by Museum staff would go a long way in ensuring a safer and fairer experience for everyone. After all, as a children’s museum, shouldn’t they want values such as community, sharing, and kindness to be better promoted and modeled. That’s all I am saying.

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Photo by MyDoorSign.com

2. Restroom designed by architects without young children: Of course I don’t know this for a fact. Perhaps their children are all grown up making them suffer from a convenient bout of selective amnesia. I’ve heard this is common among BTDT (been-there-done-that) parents. Anyway my peeve is against doors that are too heavy to be opened with one hand (but can be with exertion of some extra force), while the other is maneuvering a stroller with only one eye toward the door while the other eye is on the toddler to make sure he is not making a run for it. Now TJ is really good at sticking close to me and won’t just take off (thank my lucky stars so far!) and I constantly remind him to stay where I can see him (and hope that this becomes an implicit mantra stuck in his head) but even so, he gets easily distracted as a two-year-old should. If only the door to the women’s restroom on the second floor was more easily opened, I would be grateful. Once inside, it was thankfully not busy but they only had one large handicapped stall.

This is a children’s museum. There will be mothers with kids in that restroom. In fact, I guarantee that at any given time, there will be more mothers with kids there than just a mom/non-mom woman coming in to relieve herself. Can we have some more stalls with large spaces for at least a stroller please!! Because the lone large stall was occupied (no guesses, by a woman with two toddlers, one of whom, possibly still under potty training, needed to be coaxed to do her deed and flush), the three of us had to wait.

Now, as any mother knows, waiting can be very, very dangerous when you have a child and especially when you have children. At any given second, one or both of them may decide to let out screams or tears or tantrums or what have you. Again, TJ is a really good kid and I am well aware of what things might trigger such emotions. For the most part, he is a very patient child and will even allow me to reason with him on occasion but even he has his breaking point. E being E and not even 3 months yet, is quite unpredictable. At one point in the stroller, (not while we were in the restroom), one second she was staring at me, all quiet and content, but the next second, she made a little crinkle between her eyebrows, pursed her lips, and just started crying. Thankfully that only, literally, lasted 3 seconds but what gives!? AGAIN….Waiting is not a fair game for parents of young ones. SO PLEASE ADD MORE SPACIOUS STALLS. Not sure of the situation in the men’s restroom but no reason they shouldn’t have larger or even more stalls either.

Let this review not discourage you. I do like the Museum and we did have a great time. I see many a visits here in my future as well as the futures of my kids. There are also a whole lot of things I appreciate and like about the Museum that I may get into in a future post. For now, I just needed to vent.

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