Dearborn, MI (Exclusive Interview): The Yemeni American News editor Brian Stone sat down for an interview with Dr. Moneer Abdo in what looked like a lush, enchanted forest from a Disney movie – only they weren’t in an enchanted forest, they were in Kidcadia, East Dearborn’s newest business. Kidcadia is a playscape for children that also has a cafe and equal space for parents to sit and relax. The new business, located at 13939 Michigan Ave in Dearborn, is a new venture with him and Nasser Mozep. We wanted to learn more about the inspiration for this unique new locale.
YAN:What was your first memory as a kid of playing and how did that impact your decision to open up this business?
Dr. Abdo: When I was 9, my dad died. It was a tough time for us, and I remember our family trying to get things back to normal. If I remember it correctly, during that first year, a family friend took the whole family to – I think it was Discovery Zone – and I remember thinking it was the coolest place. I remember sneaking through tunnels, mazes, and getting lost for hours. It was so much fun.
YAN: Do you have a medical background?
I finished my residency in 2017 and I took a job as an ER doctor so that takes the majority of my time. This was supposed to start as a fun passion project, but it took on a life of its own.
YAN: What made you want to do this? Was it because of those earlier experiences?
Dr. Abdo: The earlier experiences are part of the concept development, but it’s having my kids that created this need for a space for the whole family, one that didn’t exist for us. It was years ago, probably 6 years ago, that we took my now 7-year-old to this little play cafe while we were in Chicago. I remember my wife and I thought it was the coolest concept. We were able to have a cup of coffee, and [my daughter] was able to crawl around this padded room. There was no structure, no ball pits, just a soft floor, and a place for parents to sit. That was kind of the first seed.
YAN: A lot of the seating here is beautiful, it’s opulent. It seems that the place is as much designed for the parent as it is for the child. Tell me a bit about your thinking that went into that.
Dr. Abdo: We’ve been to a ton of indoor playgrounds over the years, but it’s never that comfortable for us as parents. Usually, it’s some plastic seats, sometimes there’s an old leather couch, overall not very nicely designed, like we’re an afterthought. The play structure may be nice, but not geared for parents. We wanted to disband that concept – the idea was, 50-50. We wanted adults to truly want to come here, not just for their kids, but for themselves.
YAN: So, part of your mission isn’t just for the kids to play and have a place to destress, it’s also a place for parents to enjoy themselves?
Dr. Abdo: Yes! We tried to capture a bit of an enchanted forest within our facility… We also wanted to create a play structure that was accessible to parents also. You’ll notice that a lot of the entrance ways are six or seven feet tall, which lets parents in without much difficulty. It’s designed to support the weight of an adult.
YAN: Can you describe your average day at the ER?
Dr. Abdo: So, on a good day, you can walk out of the ER with a relatively low emotional impact on your overall psyche. There’s a lot of trauma – essentially, any kind of physical injury a person can sustain, whether it’s a car accident, whether it’s a stabbing, a gunshot, and we’re also a burn transfer center – so we see some of the worst burns in Southeast Michigan.
YAN: So people come in [to the ER] with gunshot wounds, burns, all kinds of ailments, diseases, and in some cases they have a really hard time to recover. Does that take a toll on you?
Dr. Abdo: I think the ER is a special place. In medicine, they call it burnout. It’s a thing we commonly talk about. They have a list of top specialties, and we are usually number one or number two for most burnout. It does impact you.
YAN: So you have this stressful job – you’re a parent – and there weren’t any spaces for you to relax at the same time as your kids. Which, you probably needed?
Dr. Abdo: Yeah, I wonder if it was a big subconscious driver to all this? But, there wasn’t [a place for us.] We chose to live in Michigan, which has a beautiful summer and a beautiful spring, but we have a lot of clouds and a long winter, which was a big driving force in the thought process and development of the facility.
YAN: Have you heard of parents burning out? Do you think that happens?
Dr. Abdo: Oh my gosh, yeah… You see it, with friends and family… you do get tired, especially when you have young ones running around, but you’re willing to tolerate more, you’re willing to take it easier on your kids, but it is a give and take and [burnout is] there.
YAN: So part of what you’re manifesting here, in your business, is that you’re not just trying to prevent the burnout you experience professionally, but you’re trying to prevent parent burnout? You hear about parents being stressed out, so you’re creating a place not just for kids, but for parents.
Dr. Abdo: Absolutely. The idea was – how do I take an afternoon for a parent and make it just a little stress-free? How do I give them a few moments to escape the hectic, normal routine and give them a place where you can breathe for a few minutes? And when you look at what we’ve done, from training our staff, to how our facility is designed, it’s tied into that. We have multiple monitors that walk around and play with the kids, so if mom and dad want to sit back and relax on the couch, they can feel OK for a few minutes. That’s a huge part of this.
YAN: So part of your mission here is the same mission for you as a doctor. You’re trying to heal people.
Dr. Abdo: It’s funny, because I’ve gotten multiple questions from some of the visitors, and people ask me how I went from an ER to a play cafe. I didn’t connect it, really, until now, but I guess we are doing something very similar here to what we do in the ER. We’re creating a safe zone, but instead of patients, we have parents, kids, and grandparents.
YAN: What do you think about that? A lot of uncles, grandparents, aunts are involved in kids’ lives. Do you think this is a good place for them to go?
Dr. Abdo: We’ve had some grandmothers who bring their kids here a couple of times a week. It’s been a very nice way for families, and even extended families, to spend more time together. It’s a great destination for uncles, grandparents, any caregiver really, to come together.
YAN: Is there anything else you want to tell parents or readers of the Yemeni American News about why they should come?
Dr. Abdo: We’re hoping we can decide to come very easy. When we opened up the play cafe we were thinking about what was out there. We realized that not only was there nothing like us in the area but – with confidence – nothing like this in the country. We are the first of its kind in regards to the effort to make this a destination for parents, too. So it’s an easy decision – you have the best indoor play cafe in the country right in your backyard.