When your kids start school, they suddenly get invited to a lot of parties. O has a much better social life than I do. Next month he’s going to two parties on the same day. I’m totally dreading that day and I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to survive. But yeah, you get the idea; LOTS OF PARTIES. And these parties often take place in one particularly hateful environment: THE SOFT PLAY CENTRE.
Here’s a list of the things I hate about soft play centres. It is not a long list:
Absolutely everything. I hate the noise. I hate the shitty coffee. I hate seeing one of the workers carrying a roll of blue paper towel, a plastic bag and a bottle of disinfectant into the playframe, because it is an obvious sign that someone’s kid has just puked somewhere in there and I pray to god that my own wasn’t anywhere nearby.
Yeah. I fucking hate the places. I’m sorry. I know that probably makes me a total party pooper, but there it is.
However, I quite often have to set aside my hatred of them – and my rampant anxiety surrounding their germ-spreading potential – and take O to a soft play party. And usually I sit there with the other parents and we talk about the kids and drink the horrible coffee and I try not to swear.
Actually, to be honest, sometimes that part of the soft play party is kinda reassuring for me, because I see the eye rolls exchanged between exasperated mums as they comfort their tired, cranky children while they whinge about some other kid being mean. And we all sort of circle around the fact that we are completely knackered until someone says, “God, I’m so tired today. The kids were up at five. FIVE. Why do they do this?!”, which suddenly makes it okay for us all to join in and admit that we are winging it, not winning it.
All of that is fine. Once I’m over my social awkwardness, I’m generally okay in the soft play setting. Until O emerges and drags me in the direction of the playframe while I desperately try to remove my shoes. I hate that part because I always end up smacking my head on something or getting a really bad case of indigestion from trying to squeeze through those fucking awful roller things. Or I end up being the parent who has to convince a bunch of other people’s kids that they will not, in fact, die if they go down the Death Slide. Which usually requires a physical demonstration. And I can’t dick about up there because all of these kids are watching me and counting on me to prove that it is safe and I am not a wuss. But I actually am a bit of a wuss and I don’t really like that slide much at all.
Why am I always that parent?
It’s great for O, of course, because then all of the other kids think his mum is really cool, rather than just a bit of an idiot.
But I learnt something today after my Death Slide stunt, which is that we all wish we were a little bit more of some things and a little bit less of others sometimes.
I wish I was a little – or a lot – more organised. I wish I felt a little better equipped to guide my children into adulthood. I wish that I didn’t always feel a little bit startled every time one of my kids shouts “MUMMY!!!!” And I wish, more than anything, that I could be a little less ridiculous.
But there are other mums who wish they were a little bit more ridiculous and a little bit less afraid of the big slide at the soft play centre.
It’s funny what you can learn on a Sunday morning at a soft play party, isn’t it?
But… I still fucking hate the places.