Mean Moms: How to Ignore, Confront and Avoid Becoming One


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This sentence in a comment on Facebook brought my mindless scrolling to a full stop: “I could not let some woman in daycare raise my child.” I had posted a link to a story about a working mom who was frustrated with the homework her 6-year-old had brought home from school. The homework included a worksheet that had blanks for her daughter to fill in with the “correct” words after reading a story that implied that the whole family was unhappy and neglected because Mom had gone back to work. And yet one of my connections on Facebook, who knows I am a full-time working mother with a young child in daycare, felt it appropriate to unleash some not-so-subtle shade in the comments. I counted to 10 — the same tactic I encourage my 3-year-old to use when she’s angry — and started typing out a response. When I hit “post” six minutes later, I felt pretty good about what I’d come up with:
 
Totally respect your choice to stay home with your child. Personally, I don’t consider the teachers at my daughter’s school to be raising her instead of me — just like I won’t think that about her kindergarten teacher when she starts elementary school. It takes a village to raise a child, and her teachers are part of mine. Plus, she gets awesome socialization, friendships and help from a group of women who adore her (and are much better teachers than I am, to boot). For me, this story is sad most of all because it implies there is only one correct choice. And that is just not the case. Most of us parents are out there doing the best we can every single day, and I try really hard not to judge. (Some days I succeed. Other days … not so much.)
 
The commenter’s reaction to my response, however, surprised me. I had expected more snark, but what I got was one sentence: “You sound like a terrific mom, and that’s what’s important.” I had attempted to take the high road (well, mostly) — and it worked.

 

Owning Your Reaction

Every parent has a story about being the target of a judgmental comment from another parent. Frank or subtle, in person or online, we’ve all taken heat from other parents — sometimes even complete strangers — about our parenting choices. But why is spouting off our default setting? When did we stop thinking about the consequences of our words? And why don’t we hold back when we know those words might be hurtful? Kate Paquin, a therapist and coach with Apex-based A Family Coach, thinks it doesn’t really matter anyway.

“Just because a ball is thrown doesn’t mean you have to swing at the pitch,” Paquin says. “I’m not saying it’s not offensive, but [the commenter’s] motive doesn’t matter.”

These “mean moms,” she says, thrive because we care. Our feelings get hurt. We feel compelled to defend ourselves. But the most important thing, Paquin says, is to realize there’s only one thing you can control in any of these scenarios: How you react. “You own your feelings,” she says.

I asked Paquin to take me through some real “mean mom” scenarios I gathered from fellow parents. Here’s her advice on when to ignore, when to respond and why you might want to consider your own motivation if you realize you’ve been an offender.


Scenario: A mom posts a photo on Facebook of her child sitting in her new car seat — in the middle of her kitchen. A commenter pipes up to note that the child should be rear-facing. “In fairness,” the mom who posted the photo says, “I was not aware of car seat-in-the-kitchen regulations.”

What to do: If you posted the photo, respond in an unemotional way or ignore the comment. “I think part of [the motivation for this comment] might be, ‘See what I know?’” Paquin says. “OK is the best answer you can give. Or ‘I’m sorry you feel that way.’” Sometimes these types of comments reveal a commenter who feels isolated, she says. “A lot of moms feel disconnected, so when they can chime in or make a difference — even if it wasn’t asked for — they dive in.”


Scenario: A mom likes to dress her child in gender-neutral clothing. When the mom gently corrects strangers who comment on her child’s appearance, she frequently gets negative comments about how she should dress her child. Another mom reports similar comments about her twin daughters’ unpierced ears.

What to do: Respond without emotion and move on. “I wouldn’t correct [strangers who assume a girl is a boy] because it just doesn’t matter,” Paquin says. “My daughter didn’t have hair for a really long time, and I had a woman ask me, ‘Oh, is she sick?’” Paquin laughs. “I said, ‘No, but thank you so much for caring.’ It was inappropriate, but her intent wasn’t to be a jerk. She was really trying to provide empathy.”

Be confident and unflappable about your choices — and when someone comments on clothing, hairstyles, pierced ears or any other notes on appearance, be frank. “My approach is to always steer into the skid,” Paquin says. “Say, ‘No I haven’t [pierced their ears] because I’m their mother and that’s my choice.’ Answer without emotion.”


Scenario: A mom who recently quit her job to stay home with her child goes to visit her husband at a tradeshow near their home. Since she doesn’t have cash, he gives her $5 to get lunch. His coworker, a woman, remarks: “Is that your allowance?”

What to do: Take the sting out of these comments — for or against working outside the home — by assuming the motivation is “I could never do that.”

“To feel superior, a lot of us are taught to make others feel inferior,” Paquin says. “Again, steer into it. Say: ‘I know, it was a great sacrifice. I’m really glad I did it.’ If you go into the situation thinking you’re going to change someone’s mind, you’ve lost already,” she says. If you’re the offender, offer a supportive comeback: “Yeah, I understand. It’s really hard.”


Scenario: A sports parent implies that a mom isn’t doing everything she can to make her kids happy and successful because she hasn’t hired a pitching coach for her son or paid for her daughter to play on a travel softball team.

What to do: Don’t let the commenter get away with this one. “We have to make a decision as parents,” Paquin says. “Are we going to let others’ words convict us? There’s turning the other cheek, and then there are times you should stand up for yourself.”

Paquin classifies this comment — which calls the parent’s character and parenting skills into question — as the latter. “Say, ‘I appreciate your input, but you have no idea how my family dynamic works, and I wouldn’t make that judgment about your family,’” Paquin says. “Make it clear that they’re judging you and you need them to step back.”

Instead of addressing the issue, which can lead to a debate, this approach allows you to steer the conversation into a warning that the other person has crossed a line.

Are You the Mean Mom?

If you’ve recognized yourself in some of these scenarios, you’re not alone. But if you’ve been guilty of shaming instead of supporting, and you’d like to flip the script, therapist and family coach Kate Paquin with A Family Coach offers a few tips.

1. Realize there are many ways to parent. “The best way to support other moms is to stop thinking there is one right way,” Paquin says. “Support by seeing, sharing and moving on. Don’t see, overshare and try to convince.” If you feel compelled to react, walk away.

2. Recognize that the “mean mom” reaction comes not from your personal nature but from feeling out of balance. “No one tries to push down a person who’s behind them in a race, but we sometimes want to push down those we perceive to be ahead,” Paquin says.

3. Consider what you’re putting out into the world, and make a conscious effort to be more positive. “If you give off judgment, you will receive judgment,” Paquin says. “The law of attraction works everywhere. What are you attracting?”

4. Find your “buttons.” Realizing the issues and situations that light you up can help you better respond when they pop up, advises Paquin, who recognizes that her extroverted personality can cause her to perceive slights that don’t exist.

“Someone I didn’t know was giving me the cold shoulder and I decided to be as mean to her as she was to me,” Paquin says. “Fast forward four years: I found out six months before that encounter she had lost her younger daughter to a cardiac condition. I didn’t know, and she had no reason to tell me. I was the mean mom.”

5. Be careful how you comment on social media. With the popularity of the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever to quickly react without consideration for how your words could be received.

“Facebook’s whole purpose is to get likes and comments and shares — and then we wonder why everyone feels they can comment on everything,” Paquin says.

But, she adds, it’s also important to not look for reasons to be offended. “People aren’t necessarily being mean to you. Just because you perceive it doesn’t mean it’s happening.”


Aleigh Acerni is a writer and editor whose daughter loves daycare. Find her online at aleighacerni.com.

 

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July 2020

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Abari Game Bar
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Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
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8116 University City Blvd.
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

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Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

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Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

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Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $11 for one hour

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DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
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Cost: Free

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The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

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Superior Play Systems
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Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

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Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
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More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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Website »

More information

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Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


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More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph, 2730 Randolph Road
Mint Museum Uptown, 500 S. Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC
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Telephone: 704-337-2000
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More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Hear live music every Thursday, June 4 through August 13. Bring chairs, blankets, and money for food trucks, beer, wine and sodas. See website for lineup.

Cost: $5 per person (free for members); $5 per car for parking

Where:
Anne Springs Close Greenway
291 Dairy Barn Ln.
Fort Mill, SC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Drop off your little ones to explore, play and learn during Music Mondays, Theater Thursdays and Food Fridays. A small snack is provided. Register online.

Cost: $21-$31

Where:
New Hope Baptist Church
2024 Redbud Drive
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Toddlers can enjoy a special jump session every weekday morning. With each child age 6 and younger, an adult may jump for free, not including DefyGravity socks for $3.

Cost: $11 for one hour

Where:
DefyGravity Trampoline Park
8116 University City Blvd.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
Website »

More information

Drop in for safe play on the equipment indoors.

Cost: $8, $10 on weekends and school holidays

Where:
Superior Play Systems
11415 Granite St.
Suite C
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
Tiny Blooms Yoga
15905 Brookway Drive
Suite 4106
Huntersville, NC
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More information

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Cost: $5 per swimmer, max $15 per family

Where:
Goldfish Swim School
13403 S. Ridge Drive
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free admission

Where:
Resident Culture Brewing Company
2101 Central Ave.
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Cost: Free

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Sycamore Brewing
2161 Hawkins St.
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Cost: Free

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Stumptown Park
120 S. Trade St.
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Where:
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19725 Oak St.
Cornelius, NC
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, NC
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Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Website »

More information

This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
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View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Learn about women in history who championed the cause of women's suffrage in this country and overseas in the late 19th and early 20th century in this performance by Jessica Michna with...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
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George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library presents monthly story times at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. every second Saturday of the month.

Cost: Free

Where:
Northlake Mall Live 360° Games Court
6801 Northlake Mall Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: Northlake Mall
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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Bring chairs and blankets to watch movies in the park. Concessions will be available for purchase. The second Saturday of the month, May through September with a Halloween special on Oct. 17. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Stowe Park
24 S. Main St.
Belmont, NC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
View map »


Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
Website »

More information

This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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