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?


Don’t keep my baby waiting

Taking kids to public places is really really hard. And not to sound condescending, but it really is one of those situations where, if you don’t have kids, you just have no idea.

Lateness is my personal pet peeve. I promised myself that just because I became a mother, I would not become someone who keeps others waiting. It’s disrespectful and rude, and in most cases unecessary. Where is is unavoidable, there is absolutely no reason why you cant let the person know as soon as you know, or if you don’t have a definite ETA, keep them posted. In this age of skype on our phones, free texts, and public mobile charging points, there really arent many excuses left for keeping someone waiting without explanation.

Before R, I was happy to turn up half an hour early (armed with a novel) rather than risk being 5 minutes late. The same was true when I had my newborn. He would sleep, or eat, or sit in the sling, and I would read my book, or gaze at his tiny face, and time would pass. This newborn phase is also known affectionately by me as ‘Starbucks age.’ The few months where your baby is happy to follow you around everywhere, fit in with your plans, and be generally unobtrusive to your social life.

Warning to those of you who are currently enjoying this honeymoon period… It passes. From about 11 months (7 for most kids) it became impossible to take R to a public place without some serious pre-thought and planning.

If we meet at 11.30.. I can amuse him for 15 minutes, and then feed him at 11.45… and hopefully if I shake the buggy enough he could sleep until 1.30… and that gives us two hours, at least one of which i can concentrate fully on what you’re saying during.

Meeting at 10.. Ok.. I can take with this pot and lid, which will keep him entertained for a half hour possibly, and then take some snacks for midmorning in case he starts grizzling, and hopefully he will find being in a public place entertaining and he could rip up some napklins for a few minutes at some point.. and I suppose if worse comes to worst we’l have to have our drinks to take away and walk around the mall?

I’m sorry. Can we just meet in the library?

Such is life. I want to see my friends, and I appreciate that the ones without kids arent interested in meeting me at baby yoga or riding up and down the train line all day, (to make him as happy as he is below) so I try my hardest to make it work. I am blessed with a cheerful baby, who doesnt mind me snatching the odd hour of social life which doesnt involve soft play, and most importantly, I am always armed with a bag of cheerios.

But if I am making this effort, and I have spent an hour or more making sure I am fully prepared for ‘Public Place Time’ the very least I can expect is that whoever I am meeting is on time.

Pre-R, It annoyed me. Post-R, it ruins my day, and potentially our friendship. We arrange to meet at 11. The second I walk in the door, the clock begins. We have a limited time where R is going to be happy to endure an activity which doesnt centre around his enjoyment. So I have planned appropriately, I wont arrive before 10.58, if necessary walking up and down the road outisde, maximising the time I can spend with my friend.

11.01, you are late. I am playing with my son, keeping him amused with songs and actions and silly faces. 11.05, out comes the stacking cups, and I help him build towers. Maybe I get a text from you saying you’re running late. Too late to tell me that, because I cant put him back in the buggy and take him for a walk to keep him amused, not only would we lose our seats and I’ve already got my drink, but also he would not appreciate being taken in and out like a jack in the box. 11.15, he is already trying to crawl away from our sofas, and taking things from a neighbours handbag. 11.20, you are ‘almost there’  but our twenty minutes of happy playtime are up. R is clearly frustrated, and by the time you walk in the door at 11.23, what you would call “only 20 minutes late” has taken up most of our alloted chat time. Out come the snacks, even though it’s nearly lunch time, and my son, who has picked up on my own frustration, manages another 15 minutes of fractuous conversation before we need to leave.

Your response, intimated or otherwise, “This is proof. Babies ruin social lives.” And to some extent you are right. We are never going to get that easy lazy 3 hour chat in the middle of the day, where we order more drinks and take our time flitting from subject to subject. But I’ve made it pretty easy for you to get an hour of my (almost undivided) attention. Just do me the courtesy of turning up on time.