The Usual Suspects of Soft Play

A while ago, I posted a blog about the usual suspects of the doctors waiting room. Thankfully, I have been spending much less of my time in hospitals and seeing various professionals, and much more time playing with my son and going on outings. So therefore today, I am able to bring you the much awaited sequel..

The familiar faces of Soft Play.

1. The neglectful mum.
This lady may be hard to spot, because she’s likely to be nowhere near her child. Best way to find her is to locate the kid that seems far too young to be unaccompanied, and then pair each other adult up to their kids. You should find one unattended adult, probably on her phone, possibly talking to a friend, definitely facing the opposite direction to the child in question. No doubt she would be the first to cry negligence if someone took the (ample) opportunity to grab her kid and run. She is immune to evil stares, and probably thinks she is a cut above other mothers simply because she is ignoring her child in a place with other kids and toys, not just in the tedium of their own home.


2. The ‘enjoying this far too much’ dad.
Maybe this is due to working full time, and only having scarce time for kid/parent bonding, but that doesnt really excuse why this parent is building a 4 foot tower with the giant lego while his kid is sitting on the sidelines. This dad clambers up the climbing frames, shouting to his kid to follow him almost as an afterthought. He creates far too elaborate imaginative play for his children, and then gets irritated when they deviate from his carefully constructed plotlines. He’s one step away from asking his kids if they will stop for ice cream on the way home. Exactly whose outing is this dad?



3. The rules dont apply to me mother.
These are just a few of the thoughts evidently running through her head.

  • I’m not taking my shoes off, do you know how much these cost?
  • I know that technically this is the under 5’s area, but I have a 8 year old and a 4 year old.. surely you cant expect me to walk between the two keeping an eye on BOTH my children? I’ll just let the 8 year old trample on the toddlers. 
  • Well you SAY don’t take photos, but look how adorable my child is, I need to capture this moment, regardless of safety issues.


4. The screamer.
WHY doesnt a parent do something about this kid? I know, soft play is a place of merriment, but surely they can enjoy themself without the high pitched shrieking? Weirdly enough, there is rarely more than one at a time, but there is ALWAYS one, regardless of how crowded or empty the centre is. Come on now, they are spoiling it for everyone.


5. The ‘how did I get roped into this?’ dad
Similar to the dad at the doctors surgery who has no idea what’s flying, this parent means well, but should not have been chosen for the days chaperoning. He isnt even sure if he is allowed to go into the actual play area with his kid, and once he overcomes that obstacle, he feels kind of awkward joining in too much (take a leaf out of his book, #2) and therefore stands at the side shuffling his shoeless feet and throwing out the occasional encouraging remark towards his offspring. He looks at his phone and watch often, and couldnt be more relieved when it’s time to head back to familliar territory.

6. The overly friendly parent.
Whether she is on maternity leave and looking for some company, or just one of those parents who is too proud of their kid, you know there isnt any escape as soon as they first hopefully catch your eye. This never happens on a day when you yourself are harbouring any loneliness or insecurity, oh no. This woman only appears when you’re waiting for a friend yourself, or just want to be generally left alone. Starting with a neutral “aw how old is he?” she will lure you in with an impossible to ignore question, and not stop until you know every aspect of her little Janey’s routine, including bottles, favourite nursery rhymes, sleeping schedule, and exactly when they visit this particular play centre.
Actually, that last one is kind of useful, we must remember not to be there then.

7. The ‘Thank God that isnt my child’
The characteristics change each time you visit, but every parent leaves soft play with the their minds lingering on one particular kid from that days outing. They might have been so overly familliar and unaware of personal space that you could barely play with your own child that day. They might have been so loud and disruptive that you can still hear their voice echoing in your subconcious. Perhaps they were the sticky kid. Or the smelly kid. Or despite the ‘All kids are beautiful’ lie, the ugly kid. Whatever the day’s selection, we are always just a little bit more understanding of our own offsprings faults and foibles when faced in such close proximity with what other parents have to deal with. I cant remember the last time I left soft play without giving my 1yo a slightly longer or tighter cuddle than usual, thanking him for being just the way he is.



Any other famillar characters you think need adding to the list?

On Dealing with Tragedy

The first time I had to deal with death I was 8 years old. I don’t remember a huge amount about it, but a favourite Aunt of mine died suddenly and tragically young with no warning. I remember being truly devastated, in the way that only a child can be, and I believe it has shaped how I feel about tragedy and death in general.

When I was 12, both my grandmothers died within a month of each other. The first, I found so painful that for years I couldnt think about it without crying, and the other, passed me by in the shadow of the former. From that point, without any conscious choice, I began to believe that anyone more than one generation above, was not safe. Even though 70’s and 80’s is young by some peoples standards, to me, if someone had reached their 70’s, it really was only a matter of time.

What a horrible way to look at life and death. And unfortunately, once again, I have to look at how mortality was viewed in my house growing up. I remember a conversation I had with my own mum when I was about 13.
“What will I do when [insert favoured family member of the older generation] dies?”
“… I know.”

As a child, wondering about death, having lost two grandmas in such a short space of time, I was thinking about older people and death and I suppose needed some reassurance that old isnt the same as ill, and that I didnt have to worry. Instead, the two word reply I got, (followed by the instructions that I had to be brave) not only confirmed that they were in fact, old enough to worry about (At the time this person was about 66) but also meant that pretty much the last decade or so since then has been spent waiting for them to get ill and die. If R asked me the same question, I have no doubt that my response would be along the lines of “Well that’s not something to worry about! X is perfectly healthy and not even very old yet!”

And so I spent my teenage years not really being affected by the loss of Great Aunts and Uncles, however much time I had spent with them, or by hearing of people young and old who had been lost. For me, it became a harsh reality, that still stung once in a while, but was just part of life.

And then I lost my Dad, the week I turned 19, and suddenly everyone elses tragedy was mocking me. I saw adults crying at their parents funerals, and became angry. How ungrateful they were to all the extra time they were given with their parent? When my own Grandfathers died soon after, I couldnt relate to my mums grief, because hers seemed fair, to lose a man in his 90’s, and mine so unjust in comparison. I was and still am shocked at people my own age with all 4 grandparents, much the same way as I would gawk at a two-headed creature on display at a fairground.

Before this, I had always found it difficult to relate to death around me. But at age 19, I became cold to it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel grief and sadness, for me and for others, and it’s horrible to watch anyone suffer, but I also know that my mind quickly switches to ruthless thoughts and drifts to other topics, and the tears dry up far quicker than they once did.

Maybe that’s just adulthood, and as we grow up, we find it so much easier to face death and illness and not fall apart. Or maybe losing a parent, at whatever age, gives us such a real glimpse into grief and mourning, that we are just better at handling it from that point on.

It’s hard to know what I would want for my own son. He already has just 3 out of 4 grandparents, and I feel a loss for him in that he will never know his Zeida. While obviously as a parent I pray that he is protected from grief for as long as possible, I also want to be able to meet that grief together with him head on when it comes, giving him a realistic yet optimistic view of life and death, and helping him through it, in a way that I never really feel I was.

The main thing is, that I don’t want him to have the same hang ups and mixed up feelings on the topic as I do. After all, here we are, he’s 1 year old, and all his grandparents are in their 60’s. And yet I’m kind of preparing myself for it already. What a huge effect the way we grow up has on every aspect of our lives. And how to stop history repeating itself?

Yet another work in progess.

60 Minutes. (Cryway to Hell)

Writing in stress today, as my baby is driving me mad.

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty lucky generally with my son. I’ve really never had many tear my hair out moments, and the ones I have had, have generally been more about me than him. As a newborn, he was never one for crying for hours, especially not for no reason, even when he isnt well, he tends to lean towards ‘pitiful and limp’ rather than ‘angry and screaming.’ He doesnt have any real discipline problems, and thank God, he is generally a happy and calm boy.

Right, now that you’ve finished hating me, I can give you a startling fact. I want to lock him in a cupboard right now. Even this baby, who is admittedly so good and so unstressful, has managed to make me lose my cool today. Because motherhood is really really hard. And all babies, no matter how cool and calm, have times when they just drive us mental. It started at 4.15. It is now 5.14. And in that hour, I have become a crazy person.

In order to understand how one hour could possibly be worth me punching the wall (Did I mention that part?) I’ll break it down slightly.

4.00: All three of us were playing happilly on our bed, peekaboo (obviously) and other such games.
4.15: R started moaning, and chewing his fingers. “Hmm, maybe he’s teething” I thought.
4.20: The moaning kicked itself up a notch, and I went to find the bonjela, applying with fear, as always when taking my life in my hands putting them anywhere near his ridiculously sharp gnashers.
4.21: I began singing songs, to pass the time while the gel started to work, but half way through wind the bobbin up, my son turned away from me and started extreme whining mode.
4.30: After trying to coax him out of his bad mood, we decided to go for baby nurofen, after all-there is a long time to bed time. When it was obviously not working, I decided to make his supper early, glad to get some peace and quiet from the crying and whinging, i went off to make dinner.
4.40: When I enter with food, R literally jumps towards me, arms outstretched. “We’ve cracked it-he’s starving!” I thought. How naive I was.
4.43: R stops eating after about 4 mouthfuls, and starts instead opening his mouth for food, and then pulling it out with his hands and throwing it at me.
4.50: Much coaxing, offering of drinks, different foods later, I walk out of the room, covered in rice and fish (which I am ALLERGIC to, ungrateful child.) C takes over.
4.55: Husb gives up. Apple is given to SHUT THE CHILD UP.
5.00: Apple gets thrown on floor. Baby gets taken out of highchair, in the hope that he will calm down and play. I come back in to try and entertain him.
5.05: R takes his half chewed apple, and starts biting bits off and then spitting them IN MY FACE and ON MY BRAND NEW COUCH.
5.10: I start to lose my cool… and baby whining and grizzling turns into full blown crying. Bad parenting moment. I walk out the room, give evil child to C (who has more patience than me evidentely), bash the wall, and open blog.

R, I know you are 15 months and fairly backwards in comprehension, but if I’ve ever wanted to ask you somnething in the last year and a bit, this is it.

If it isnt your teeth, and you aren’t in pain, and you’re not hungry, and you dont have a nappy, and you dont want us to play with you….. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHAT IS IT?!

And now you know why I was blessed with a baby that didnt cry that much and for no reason, I obviously am ill equipped to deal with it. But I don’t feel awful. I feel blessed that I have a great husband who can step in and take over when it all gets too much, and also that I dont feel this way that often in the grand scheme of parenthood.  If anything, I’m just a little in awe of the mums who DO have the babies who scream often and for no reason. How do you stay cool and calm day after day? Do you just get used to it? I know that no matter what the personality of your kid, it’s something that all mums go through from time to time, just part of being a parent, and generally it has no long lasting scars on your parent/child relationship, even if we do ‘lose it’ once in a while.

So I take a deep breath, glad that I’ve had the opportunity for some me-time to reboot, suppress the guilty mum feelings that threaten to surface, and remind myself that some days its harder than others, but if I can go back next door and calm him down, and get a smile out of my baby, or even just stop him crying, it will all be worth it.

If not, It’s only an hour until bedtime. And tomorrow is a new day.

Repetitive Behaviour. (Did I already say that?)

My baby boy is starting to understand things.

He understands that if he brings me his snack pot, I will give him a snack. He knows that if he is thirsty, finding an empty cup on the shelf and pretending to drink will get me to fetch him some water. He knows that if he is tired and bored of playing, he can go stand by the bath to let us know he is ready for the bedtime routine to begin. He even knows how to choose a toy or a game for us to enjoy with him, dragging it across the room in a half crawl, and then throwing it at us from a unsafe distance.

But the main thing he understands, and the activity which has simply taken over my life, is Peekaboo.

How I miss picking up a book or a magazine without first having to hide behind it and poke my head out 7 or 8 times. I remember fondly the days where I could just leave a room, no jumping back round the corner or peeking round the door, or through the window. Imagine getting either him or myself dressed without making the well practiced exclamation of “Wherrrrre’s R? … THERE he is!”

I get it, it’s a bit fun. You cant see, and then you suddenly can. (Something he should be used to by now.) And truthfully, my heart skips a little every time he engages me in a game that inviolves vision. I could probably sit there playing Peekaboo with him from wake up to lights out without getting genuinely frustrated with the lack of variety. After all, it’s a much more preferable game to “Do you think he saw that?” which was mine and C’s favourite game of his first 6 months.

But it is weird how he never gets bored of the same activity over and over again. The same songs, the same snippets of baby einstein, the same games and puzzles. And actually, it’s quite charming. So once again, my son is teaching me something special. There are few things in life that adults really enjoy, no matter how much of it we get. Too many chinese take-outs, and however delicious the duck pancakes are, we need a few weeks of home cooked meals before reaching for the menu, where were often heard saying “Maybe I’ll try something new today.”. A favourite movie or book is usually best revisited after a break, and often without the same joy it’s first viewing gave us.

Even spending time with those we love. Our best friends can get on our nerves, we ask for some ‘me-time’ away from our spouses or family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but it’s so different from how we acted as a baby. I would venture a guarantee that my 1yo never thinks about having ‘me-time.’ I bet he doesnt even understand the concept. Why wouldnt I want to be around him and entertaining him all 12 hours of the day that he is awake? After all, he wants me there all the time, surely I must feel the same way?I must LOVE Peekaboo! In terms of trying new things, that’s up to me to introduce, and more a case of him incidentely learning that he enjoys something, rather than going out of his way to discover new activities.

It’s an interesting distinction between us as kids and adults. At some point between childhood and adulthood, we decide that things are most pleasurable if we indulge in them more rarely and on special occasions. We stop wanting constant gratification and enjoyment and the same things over and over again. This is clearly a normal part of growing up.

But sometimes, even as an adult, you cant help wanting your best friend round for a whole day to watch back to back Friends episodes and order that same old chinese food.

Adventure sport for kids

I’m going to admit something here, and I do it in the almost certainty that all other parents are secretly doing the same thing. But there is that 1% in the word almost that has me a little afraid. I tell you what, loyal readers, if anything you read below shocks or appalls you in any way whatsoever, feel free to assume I was joking and put it all down to poetic license. No need to call social services on me just yet.

As a mum who only works part time, I spend a lot of time at home with my son. As a one year old, he puts absolutely no effort into planning our time together. Seriously I dont think he even gives it a second thought. He doesnt lie in his cot planning conversational points to spark chatter, he doesnt plan games or activities for us, or even places to go together to while away the time between food. The pressure is all on me.

As I’ve said before, I have an irrational fear that my baby thinks I’m boring. Yes yes, he loves me in that “youre the only thing I know about / complete reliance on me” kind of way, but does he enjoy my company? I worry not.

But as parents, we all know what that incredible moment feels like when we hit on a winner. We suddenly try a weird face or funny noise, that we may or may not have tried before, and our baby smiles. Sometimes even laughs. We repeat it, and they laugh again. They might even try to copy us. They might touch our face to make us do it another 2 or 3 or 30 times. It’s an amazing feeling. My child is entertained. Not simply putting up with me, not having a pleasant time, actually enjoying himself, as a direct result of something I am doing! Wow.

But it isnt always a face or a noise… sometimes, it’s an action… or a game.. And let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s normally a slightly less than safe one. Why is it, that our kids enjoy high risk activities? Sure, I might get a small smile when I blow a raspberry in R’s direction. But the peals of laughter I get when I hang him upside down by his ankles are just not comparable! I’m pretty certain it isnt just my son who is into extreme sports, which leads me to the obvious conclusion that all children enjoy such well known fun adventure games as:

  • Whoops, nearly dropped you!
  • Ahh! Dropped you but caught you just in time.
  • Can you balance? (props needed may include but are not limited to: window sills, banisters, kitchen counters and the like..)
  • Piggy backs even though the child in question doesnt even begin to comprehend the words “hold on..”
  • Where’s the baby? (While said child is lying flat, tummy down, on your head and you’re spinning round and round)
  • 1,2,3,wheeee.. (the numbers accompanied by swinging baby through the air, cumulating in dropping them on a bed slash sofa type object.)
  • Pretending to slap each other round the face, making the “ow” sound loudly. (Really? No-one?)

That last one might just be us. Either way, I do sometimes wish my boy got his kicks from some situational comedy or observational humour, rather than all the physically exerting amusements that really his father is more suited to performing.

The hypocritical thing is, if anyone else played any of these so called ‘games’ with my son when I wasnt around, they wouldnt be looking after him again. Why don’t you play with a nice jigsaw puzzle, or let him show you his shape sorter? I don’t want anyone else teetering on the edge of acceptable playtime behaviour with him, after all, what if something HAPPENED? I’d rather they had him vaguely attentive and having a pleasant time, even if it does mean they miss out on those adorable baby giggles.

Go figure.

Ps, if you have picked up the phone to report me to child services, try this woman first.