Since I homeschool my boys we try to do something fun on the weekends that’s social. Our original plan got hijacked when a friend who was supposed to come for an extended sleep over mouthed off to his sister and couldn’t come. So, I was surprised when I heard my son Donovan say, “Mom, you know what I’d really like to do? Go to the Imagination Station – you know by the ducks and play center.”
He was talking about the Imagination Station located in the heart of downtown Brighton by the Mill Pond. My surprise came from the fact that my 12 year old wanted to go there since he hadn’t been in at least two years. My surprise was even stronger when my 13 year old chimed in with, “Yep, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s go.” You see, they rarely agree on anything! That’s part of the fun and challenge in parenting tween and teen boys.
So we set out, and I was pleased that within minutes my two Aspergers Syndrome kids had gotten social enough to find a group of other children to play tag with… and who they continued to play with for more than 2 hours! There were kids of all ages at the Imagination Station, climbing the wooden play structure and laughing with hoodies thrown wide in defiance of the chill February air. Of course, some parents had their wee ones outfitted in mittens and puffy winter coats but the many kids who appeared to be in the 10 – 14 age range were just out to enjoy the sun with red cheeks and noses bitten by cold unnoticed in all their excitement.
At one point I counted 50 children romping in the play structure. After that I was having too much fun to continue counting. The sound of the occasional little one screeching was set off nicely by the screech of gulls, and the honk of geese. I saw families laughing, and parents taking the time to be present with their kids. There were moms and dads and grandparents climbing the structure with only pleasure on their minds, and you could see the joy on their faces as they played and took breaks to walk along the water and see the pair of white swans nestling together on the ice.
I’d been bringing my kids to the Brighton Imagination Station since it opened. We even joined in two National Kidney Foundation walks held there, and of course the Smokin’ Jazz and BBQ Blues Fest is a favorite event of ours. This delightful outdoor space holds many memories for us – I had just thought that my boys had outgrown it. This day taught me two things aside from reinforcing the adage “boys will be boys” (I had wood chips everywhere in my car after the ride home). I learned that all ages can thrive at a play structure, and I learned the importance of planned community spaces even in an area where we have so much naturally occurring outdoor space that’s here to be enjoyed.
If you haven’t visited the Mill Pond to see the ducks, swans, or geese and enjoy a romp on the wooden structure of the Imagination Station I suggest you plan a weekend. You don’t have to drive far to have a pleasant afternoon with your kids, no matter how old they are or how young. You’ll also find that the sound of so much laughter warms your heart even in the chill of February in Michigan.