“Kids change you, you know.” They all told me, and annoyingly, they were right. I see the world differently, I see people differently, and I see myself differently. And besides all that deep stuff, my life seems to have moved seamlessly from trips, gigs, and events to soft play areas, cold swimming pools, and church playgroups. It wasn’t deliberate, but the fact of the matter is it’s far easier to do stuff with kids that they like, because it statistically lowers the chances of them acting like d*cks. Although, inevitably, they still do, leading me to wonder if I should have another go at doing the things I actually want to.
So I’ve spent the last two weeks running an (admittedly small) social experiment. Is it possible to enjoy fun and culture in Nottingham with feral nippers in tow? Can it be done? Let’s find out:
Most art galleries do not mix well with prams and a rampaging toddler, so I was always going to be limited to somewhere with big spaces and baby changing facilities; gotta keep it real, people. So we headed to the Nottingham Contemporary one bracingly cold day to check out the From Ear to Ear to Eye exhibition. The trickiest part was getting my son through the gift shop without smashing any trendy china, but once we got to the exhibition itself I actually felt a bit more relaxed.
It was a weekday and reasonably quiet, so I didn’t feel too guilty about his babbling, though as a parent I’ve been feeling guilty about most things for several years, so perhaps I’ve stopped noticing. In the interests of full disclosure, we spent longer in the very accommodating cafe bar than we did in the exhibition, and there were a few stopping-him-from-grabbing-stuff moments. But there were also definite snatches of enjoyment in experiencing it first-hand instead of just reading about it. I viewed some stunning photographs and a very moving documentary... which I admittedly only saw 2.5 minutes of.
My infant son also wishes to add that their lift facilities are awesome, and he would like to press its buttons “AGAIN, AGAIN, AGAIN.”
This is somewhere we’ve frequently visited over the last four years, because a sandpit and ducks is every small child’s fantasy. However, we experienced both the theatre and an exhibition for the first time this month, and marvelled at how the whole package is so set up for families.
Toilets and somewhere to get a “SNACK!” are obviously non-negotiable, and the cafe comes up trumps. Still, a large, free outside space that is a genuine pleasure to visit, small wooded areas ripe for little explorers, a ton of space for running and scooting, and amazing transport links all conspire to make Lakeside the perfect combo of culture meets parenting.
I don’t really consider my kids - aged four and almost-two - to be quite ‘proper’ museum age yet, i.e. they’re very shrill and have a tendency to smash stuff.
However, we braved the Museum of Nottingham Life to find helpful staff and two happy children kept busy with cave exploration and a very cool toy exhibit. As adults, we loved soaking up some local history and realised that, without kids, we probably never would have visited. Which is a nice way of looking at life with our culture-robbing little rascals.
“What is this?” I hear you cry. “How can you possibly take a trip to town for anything other than school shoes? You’re a parent! You’re not meant to enjoy it any more!”
Well, in truth, we didn’t enjoy it all. There was a thing with the tram meaning we were stranded for a while with two angry tots, plus one threw a strop on a crowded and steep pub staircase. FYI: it may be true that suburban family fun pubs are soulless, but they are, mercifully, mostly on one level.
There were also some golden moments, though. Like their faces and our hearts as we watched our beautiful city glow beneath the stars. Or dancing happily with friends, offspring and glow sticks in the Malt Cross on a Friday night, even if it was only six o’clock and we were home by eight. Still, it totally counts, right?
So, can culture and parenting in Nottingham meet? I say a resounding “Yes!” Depending, that is, on the levels of mental resilience that particular day. And the mood of your child. And how many “SNACKS!” you brought along. And the weather. And a few hundred other variables. But it’s certainly worth a shot.
And *whisper* if it all goes wrong… there is always the free Broadmarsh soft play and a hit of £1 take-out Wimpy tea...
Yvette Lamb is a Nottingham based copywriter.