Snapshot #6 – Levels of Play Centre Rage

Before I begin – I must say that I am not attempting to describe the soft play experience. This has already been done far more articulately, wittily and realistically than I could ever dream of, here:

I am hoping to convey the process that we find ourselves going through when at a soft play centre; the ladder, if you will, of what Husband Dearest and I term ‘Play Centre Rage’ (PCR).

Step 1: Criticizing the design, layout and construction of equipment.

‘Look at that drop at the bottom of the slide’, ‘Why would you have the bars so far apart?’, ‘That ledge is clearly too steep for little legs’, ‘I wouldn’t have that part out of view from this sofa that I happen to be stuck to’.

So it begins, the tensions are rising as you risk assess and conclude that this is indeed a place where your child could become injured and die. And yet you remain sitting there because you’ll be damned if you dont get your money’s worth of the £2.75 entrance fee and £1.95 cappuccino.

Step 2: Identifying the little shits children who you will later feel obliged to stamp on

As you watch your cherubs hurl themselves skip off into the ball pool, your eyes dart around, checking that no wild or socially inept children have spotted them. Most children tend to play in a very self-absorbed way when at soft play, but there will be a small minority who make it their business to zap the fun from your child’s experience and, consequently, shatter your mental image of sitting back and exploiting the free wifi whilst your child happily embarks on their three hours of physical activity, as recommended by health professionals.

Unfortunately, without fail, there will be one, or several, of these little demons, although, at this stage, it’s unlikely that they will have clocked your child. They may be pinching/pummeling/pooing on another child, which leads us on to:

Step 3: Furiously searching around to ascertain whose spawn the ferals are.

You will then attempt to burn them to the ground with your disapproving stare, whilst muttering expletives in your head.

Step 4: Marvelling at how well adjusted and well behaved your child is.

I find this is particurlarly pertinent when with Husband Dearest. Upon seeing the other children barging past yours, shoving to go down the bouncy slide first, lobbing balls at each other, you sit back smugly admiring that your child is being entertained by running into a padded wall repeatedly. Even if they do look pretty special.


Step 4: Cursing your twat of a child for being in one of those moods today.

They’re either clinging at your legs, whining at that pitch that ignites the instinctive need to punch them speak in a firm voice, or they’re howling in the most unreachable part of the equipment – meaning you have to kick off your shoes, revealing your unmatching, day-old socks, hoick your leggings up and wade in to the war zone to rescue the little fuck.

Step 5: Loudly reading the rules of play within ear shot of offending children’s parents.

Whether they’re a 6 year old trying to squeeze into the jumperoo in the ‘Baby Zone’, or an ‘eaten too many Organix gingerbread men’ larger child sat blocking the bottom of the slide, your blood begins to heat from here. Knowing you can’t legitimately manhandle another parent’s child, you passive-aggressively gently try to encourage pig-headed parents to make the correct parenting choices by stage-whispering ‘Oh look it’s under twos only in this area’, or ‘Oh dear, those poor kiddies can’t slide down’ to your play centre accomplice. Of course, it falls on deaf ears and you fail in your encouragement of them doing the right thing. Body temperature further rises and the red mist begins to gather.

Step 6: No more bullshit, you need to step in.

Ever so slightly enraged, you realise you need to go and give this little shit a piece of your mind. By the time you reach your child and the perpetrator, you may have calmed down a little, and OTT ‘Are you ok?’, ‘I saw what happened, what a nasty boy’, ‘We know that you don’t behave like that, that’s not nice’ kind of comments may suffice, whilst shooting death stares at the mindless thug. Or you may feel as though the unsociable sadist needs a talking to, and proceed to lecture him/her in your well practised firm but fair tone, wishing you could drag them over to their parents by their ear.

Step 7: They touch your child… WHAT THE FUCK.

The red mist descends. Your blood reaches volcanic temperatures. You may even shake a little. You storm into the snot covered soft play*, giving no child your mercy. Shoving past three year olds, you finally reach your weeping darling. Using all the restraint you have, you spit, in a voice just below a shout, ‘I saw that. You do NOT hit/bite/kick/push other children. That is very very unkind of you. You have hurt my little boy. Say sorry.’ No doubt they won’t. And you will march back to your chair, no more satisfied than when you entered the warzone.

*Glaring and theatrically tutting at the child’s parents, forcefully repeating ‘Did you see what that child just did?’ to your play date buddy.

Step 8: They do it again. You want blood.

Seeing no way other than committing a crime, you realise the only way is out. You grab your screaming child, shove their shoes on, and leave, bitter that you never got to read the whole of your facebook feed, finish your brew or have an adult conversation. You hiss words such as ‘ridiculous, irresponsible, terrible,’ in the direction of the neglectful, oblivious parents and bundle your tearful mess into the car, driving off far too aggresively. You swear never to visit that layer of hell again.

Until next week.

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