Mama Madison: The new Madison Children's Museum is not a drag

Parents can feel very 'downtown,' while kids do what they do

In late July a friend of mine who works at the Madison Children's Museum called to ask if my elementary aged kids would be interested in appearing in a video promoting the new digs. While my immediate stage mom wannabe response should have been "and what should they wear?" I was a bit nervous about how my kids might behave at the shoot.

They just weren't, if I may be frank, huge fans of the old space on State Street. Sure, we'd spent some lovely pre-school mornings digging for dinosaur bones and milking fake cows, but once my sons hit third grade, they'd pretty much aged out of the place and I, long before that. Sure, I love a good museum as much as next mom, but growing up in DC and raised on all things Smithsonian, I never fully got the whole children's museum thing.

But, the lure of the limelight is exceptionally strong and they -- ok, I -- couldn't pass up a chance to be on TV. Maybe there would even be craft service.

I was happily shocked to find (along with over 40,000 of you, by now) that this is not your father's Madison Children's Museum (or even your teenager's). It is unbelievable, with some of the funkiest exhibits I've seen anywhere. From a cow hanging from the ceiling, to the bone bridge, to the first-rate public art, the space is weirdly and wonderfully beautiful. A blend of Salvador Dali and Rube Goldberg for the Nickelodeon set.

But what really struck me most about the museum that day was not how much fun my kids were having. It would have been impossible for them to do otherwise, with a human gerbil wheel, duh? The real revelation came when I realized what an awesome time I was having, independent of my offspring. It was not a "brings out the kid in you" moment. I was hardly feeling childlike, but instead I felt hip and youthful, like I'd just discovered some hot new bar or gallery space in Soho. I felt "in", "with it" (are these still "in" and "with it" words?) -- something I hadn't felt for years on a kid excursion!

In the old space, my happiness had come from watching my tots have mild fun in a sweet and safe environment. There I always felt a bit dowdy -- willing to give up my good time to ensure theirs. In many ways this sacrifice is the essence of parenting, but not always thrilling. Here I just want to say, "Kids, meet me back here in an hour, Mom is checking out the Roof Top Ramble on her own. Just don't break anything." A complete win-win, unless of course they actually break something.

Rumor has it the museum does fabulous birthday parties. I'm already secretly (ok, not so secretly) planning my next one there. Adults only.

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