If you're new to town, Seattle may feel like a tough place to settle into. It's often gray, wet, and cold. It takes time to find the best places to get coffee and pho. Even if you have marketable skills, finding a good job can be hard.
Imagine being new to the world. Newborn babies have zero skills besides knowing how to suckle. Their digestive systems are not fully developed, so they burp, fart, and shit their pants loudly, often in public. And after 40 weeks nestled deep within a cozy, dark, warm cave, blissfully naked, babies suddenly find themselves under harsh fluorescent lighting, wearing ridiculous things like tiny socks. It's no wonder they cry all the time.
To help babies remember the time they spent floating weightless in amniotic fluid, consider taking them swimming at one of Seattle's many public pools. A few of them—including Ballard, Queen Anne, Rainier Beach, and Southwest—offer weekly hours specifically set aside for young children and their caregivers, as well as swim lessons for babies six months and up. The recently remodeled Rainier Beach Pool is especially baby- and kid-friendly, with a separate family pool area that includes a hot tub, water slide, fountain, and lazy river.
Seattle is home to more than 400 public parks, and some of the most charming ones can be found in the industrial neighborhood of Georgetown. While they may not have the beautiful, sweeping views of parks such as Carkeek, Discovery, and Seward, they all have features that will blow the minds of small people, and can be easily explored on foot in less than an hour.
At Ruby Chow Park, located at the north end of Boeing Field/King County International Airport, babies can coo and wonder at the giant airplanes flying directly overhead. It might seem counterintuitive, but the loud noise actually soothes them. A few blocks away, Oxbow Park, better known as "Hat 'n' Boots," is home to a fantastic 44-foot-wide orange cowboy hat and a pair of 22-foot-tall cowboy boots—remnants of an old gas station rumored to have been visited by Elvis. (If your child is unimpressed by this, there's also grass, a play area, and a community garden.) During warm weather, the spray park at Georgetown Playfield, which is never crowded, is among the best and most laid-back places in town for kids to run around. Nearby, big trains roll past—their loud whistles matched only by the sounds of babies squealing in delight.
Just a few blocks from Georgetown Playfield is Machine House Brewery, which pours English-style session ales. Machine House is the breast-feeding, beer-drinking mother's best friend: The beers are all low in alcohol and poured from traditional wood-and-brass hand pumps, which will feel oddly comforting and familiar to anyone who spends hours of their day hooked up to a breast pump. (Machine House, located inside the original Rainier Brewery, is also huge, with loud acoustics and a stockpile of games and toys.)
Speaking of beer, brewery tasting rooms are terrific places to take babies because, unlike bars, the majority of them are all ages. The best brewery to take your baby to is probably the one closest to your house, but others that are particularly good: Ballard's Stoup Brewing, which has lots of space, including a huge patio; Columbia City's Flying Lion Brewing, which is small but has unfailingly friendly service (including a bartender who's a doula-in-training); and Sodo's Seapine Brewing Company, which has a spacious taproom that is often populated with friendly dogs.
If your baby likes to pet and talk to animals, then head to Zoomazium, the indoor children's facility at the Woodland Park Zoo. Zoomazium encourages nature-themed play: rock-climbing, wrestling stuffed orangutans, exploring caves, and picking up fossils, bones, and shells. Every day at 10:30 a.m., the Creature Feature program allows kids to gently touch real animals—reptiles like leopard geckos and snakes, as well as mammals such as rats and armadillos. The tenderness with which your little mammal greets another little creature will move you.
Loving and caring for your small being takes work—and support. New families can find comfort and guidance from organizations such as the Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS), which connects parents in neighborhoods throughout the city. If you are part of a family of color, you should join Families of Color Seattle (FOCS), which offers a variety of parenting and support groups: for parents with newborns and waddlers (six months to three years), for dads, as well as for couples. FOCS actively initiates complex and essential discussions about culture, language, race, and identity, both in its parenting groups and public Community Dialogues (childcare provided, of course). Beyond these conversations, FOCS also offers cultural arts classes such as African dance and drumming, Brazilian capoeira, and toddler breakdancing.
Giving birth doesn't mark the debut of just one being in the world, but two: baby and mother. In the physically and emotionally exhausting postpartum days, it's easy for women to feel both awed and slightly horrified by their bodies. Ladies, when you're feeling strong enough, get yourself to Dance Church—an hour and a half of guided improvisation and movement set to pop music—at Velocity Dance Center. This Sunday morning service should be a required activity for all the new postpartum bodies that need to be celebrated as the divine vessels they are.
When Dance Church leader Kate Wallich instructs you to "grind your crotch down into the floor" during a Drake song and someone near you giggles uncomfortably, throw your head back and laugh, mothers. This is the easiest, most liberating thing your vagina has had to do all year, so get down on it.