So it’s another rainy day or you just need to get out the house before some sort of cabin fever grips you and the kids are driving you insane. You decide to go to the local softplay centre….bad call my friend…or is it?
Entering these establishments is what I presume its like to enter enemy territory with a troop of men. You have to be constantly on the lookout for enemy insurgents whilst keeping your troops close by. Making sure they know the drills and being prepared for grenades (generally empty fruit shoot bottles lobbed by sugar high kids on their way back to the slide).
The lights are artificially bright-kind of like a casino where they need everyone to be awake. Softplay areas are neon rich with colour to kick start the senses of the sleep deprived mother. It makes you squint and also makes you realise that yet again you have left the house with the pair of jeans covered in stains – Oh, while I’m on clothing you will obviously have a pair of jeans on that ride way too low, causing you to spend the whole time hitching them up to avoid showing everyone your builders bum! Remind yourself for the millionth time to remember to wear better ones next time, you wont!
You will turn into the most judgemental parent upon entering – don’t feel bad you are being judged too! ‘Why is that mum sitting on her phone while her bruiser of a toddler commandeers the ball pool like a rugby prop forward?’ ‘Why is that mum letting her tiny baby play unaided when all they are doing is causing you to freak out that your own children are going to trample said baby?’ ‘ Why is that dad shovelling quavers and smarties into those two toddlers with no regard to the fact that it is 10am?’ All these thoughts swim in your head as you search for a place to leave your stuff and try and locate your own children who have flung their shoes to all corners and ran wildly into the fray!
There are certain categories of parents that you will recognise.
‘The resident‘ the mum you see every time you go who sits in the same place and looks worn out.
‘The social butterfly‘ mostly in groups they use the softplay for catch ups (most likely so they can send the older children off while the mums get a chance to play top trumps about whos kid is doing better).
‘The goal‘ this is the mum who is sitting drinking a hot cappucino with a magazine in front of her her hair is actually sitting nicely and her child come and goes at intervals and appears to play nicely. You can’t bring yourself to say hello as you are so in awe of her parenting abilities but want to ask her what her secret is – you yourself will never have had more than a few stolen swigs of a hot drink in such places!
‘The adventurer‘ This is the parent who has more fun that the kids going on all the slides and even playing with other kids – other people kids will want to chat to you, yes I found it weird too the first few times now I just roll with it, they will see you playing with your kid and will want you to play with them too. It’s all about smiling and deperately searching for their own person and trying to make eye contact to let them know they need to get off their ass and come play with their child!
‘The OTT parent‘ who isn’t sure young Mickey should go all the way up there by himself. They are the parent who will come and tell you that your little one might need a hand or has just pushed little Micky. Just breathe and remember to smile.
On the whole I think most of us fit into a few categories – some days I definitely enjoy the slides more than toddler boy! Some days I want to interupt the mum talking to her mates to let her know her toddler is an absolute demon who needs a talking to. It can certainly bring out the worst in the best of humans!
The place smells like the changing rooms used to when I did P.E at school (boak), the foods crap, expensive and the tables are never clean.
Have you ever looked at some of the softplat surfaces? I not sure how many times anyone goes in there with a wet wipe. So I have to approach it with the same sense I approach the swimming pool, try not to think what be floating about in there and grab the antibac gel on the way back to the car – and make sure you take a long hot shower when you get home!
Your child will faff about wanting to go on anything that costs money, want sweets and moan a bit. They will then kick off when its time to leave making the journey back to the car an effort and leave you feeling worn out.
The benefit of all this my friend is the car journey home. They are so tired they always nap!! Plan this correctly and you can get yourself a lovely hour in the afternoon ( ok so you spend it sitting on your phone in the drive because you dont want to risk waking them by lifting them into the house but it’s worth it and you are a step closer to bed time – and you totally deserve that glass of wine tonight!