Originally published in the Chillicothe Gazette, October 27, 2019.
When my daughter was born, over ten years ago now, I embarked on the adventure of stay-at-home parenthood. I saw myself reading books as my daughter played contently nearby. I’d be meal-prepping, preparing and entertaining in a spotless home that I had ample time to tend to. For anyone who has ever had a child, y’all know that ridiculous bubble popped the moment I arrived home from the hospital. Instead, I was sore, terrified, and attached to another human for the foreseeable future.
Of all the unexpected lessons I learned in those early years, the one that most surprised me was how isolated I felt. Never mind that I was home WITH another human. The loneliness and—I’m going to say it—the occasional outright boredom of it, was a shock to someone raised on sitcom stay-at-homes gliding through life surrounded by glitter. I was sad and clinging to the last remnants of sanity when we decided to venture out to the Discovery Garden, a free playgroup housed in the Main Library Annex and funded in part by Easter Seals of Central and Southeast Ohio. Despite my stained clothes and probably unbrushed teeth, there expanded in front of me an oasis in my desert of solitude. A bright room, full of noise, motion, and other adults! I had begun to think that my husband and I were the only two grown-ups left.
Yet, there she stood, wearing bright dangling earrings and a smile like the sun, Miss MaryJo Flamm-Miller. She pulled me from the shadows into her domain of light. There were shelves of animal figures, which my daughter spent nearly the entire time organizing, various sizes of blocks and balls. There were sensory bins and a craft table. So much to explore. Then, this beautiful human rang a bell, taught my child to clean up, and fed everyone a healthy snack, which I soon learned parents worked together to provide. This was more than a magical figment of my imagination. It was a community of other parents and grandparents and guardians just like me. Reaching beyond our own destroyed living rooms for something more.
Eventually, my child left my side and began to make friends her own size. Miss MaryJo helped me recognize the bittersweet beauty in that transition. The growth occurring as she felt safe enough to roam. A growth I’m positive was fostered by the environment that Discovery Garden creates.
This playgroup is a gift, an incredible opportunity to be a part of an extended family and make connections that may carry over well after Thursday morning. Friends I made in Discovery Garden have gone on to bigger cities and still reminisce about the incredible community they found there, sitting on the thin carpet watching a group of puppet animals become friends.
Visit Discovery Garden playgroup every Thursday from 10am to 12pm at the Main Library Annex through the school year. Or bring your older children along for the fun through the Summer, as Discovery Garden meets at the Heilman Shelter in Yoctangee Park in the same time slot, rain or shine. Take the child in your life and discover the magic for yourselves.