One thing that my wife and I have always seemed to struggle in the parenting arena is getting our children out of the house and doing something as a family. In some cases, that’s because our work schedules rarely line up. She is a teacher, and I travel for work. I work every Saturday and more often than not, Sundays; she is off every weekend. In other cases, plain exhaustion becomes the underlying reason why we choose to make our Sunday run to Target our “Family Activity” for the week. More often than not though, it’s been asking ourselves, is the juice worth the squeeze? Will our twin toddlers get enough out of a particular activity to make it worth the hassle of going?
Enter the Crayola Crayon Factory.
We both had a day off; the boys like to color. Let’s pack our tiny humans up and drive the hour to Easton, PA to see just how crayons are made and let them color on somebody else’s furniture for a change. I skipped the coffee that morning, we’d stop at Starbucks on the way. A fun fact we learned about our destination: you don’t pass a Starbucks on the way. We took a detour; coffee is important.
An hour and a half later, we made it to our destination. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones that had the idea to visit this highly popular attraction. The line to purchase tickets was not horrifically long, but one thing three year olds are not known for is their patience. To top it off, it seemed like the facility was a little short staffed that day. After the line to buy tickets there is, you guessed it, another line to get in to where family fun surely must be waiting.
If you’re not aware, when you have a potty training toddler the best practice is “pee before fun.” It gets considerably harder to drag a kid away from something they are thoroughly enjoying to take a leak. Unless my presence is specifically requested, my wife usually handles the public bathroom trips.
While his brother headed in with mom, my other son and I counted floor tiles. We had reached about 20 when we watched an entire army of public school students in for a field trip jump in line in front of us. It felt like this was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
That kind of set the tone for the rest of the day. Over the next few hours, my toddlers ignored every opportunity to color, paint or draw. They followed us as we dragged them through swirling seas of excited children. When we found the toddler playground, one of my sons spent the better part of an hour going in and out of the smaller jungle gym while the other played with what was essentially a life-sized ‘Light Bright’. After that, they got to use machines to “create their own crayon,” both of which dispensed broken crayons. We capped off the day by watching a demonstration on just how they go about making the famous art supplies. My son watched the presentation while sitting on my shoulders, which was fine. I just wish we had changed his diaper beforehand. Brightside: nobody really crowded us during the show.
The day’s activities had pushed us way past lunch time, and the $8 soft pretzels weren’t going to cut it. Much to the excitement of my children, we stopped off at McDonald’s.
Over chicken nuggets and juice boxes, we started to recap the day with the boys. Not once did they mention the lines. They didn’t mention the crowds. They didn’t talk about the broken crayons or the cost of concessions.
They talked about how much fun they had. They talked about the playground. They talked about how much they loved getting a red crayon at the end of the show and how funny the cartoon crayons were. They talked about the big ‘Light Bright’ wall and how much they loved going to McDonald’s.
It is so easy to simply look at the world through our own eyes. Personally, I didn’t have an abundance of fun at the Crayon Factory, but that wasn’t the reason we were there, was it? We were there for our kids to have fun, and mission accomplished. I saw their smiles and heard their laughter, but their overall enjoyment just hadn’t registered with me. I was so focused on all of the things that they weren’t doing that I didn’t fully appreciate how much fun that had doing the activities that they did participate in. Knowing what I know now, I can’t wait to take my children back there…in a few years.
The biggest realization of the day? When it comes to making memories with your children, the juice is always worth the squeeze.
Dale was born in Pittsburgh, PA but currently lives outside of Reading, PA. He graduated with a BA in photojournalism from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA in 2007. He has worked as a Marketing Brand Representative in the optical industry for five years. Dale lives in a quiet suburb with his beautiful wife and twin three-year-old boys. He enjoys Pittsburgh sports, comic books and bad action movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Dale also runs a comedic twitter account under the handle @TwinzerDad.