Soft-play centres. I hate them.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they most definitely serve a purpose. But there’s something about mums, sitting around drinking coffee and gossiping with friends, whilst completely ignoring their child/ren that really bugs me.
Whenever Paddy has a day off school, we go to swimming lessons and then to our local soft-play centre (2BKids) straight after. He gets so excited at the thought of going to play in the “balls pool”, as he calls it. It’s a great way to encourage him to use energy, so that he will be exhausted at bed time, and fall asleep without much of a fight. It usually works.
I don’t know why it is that so many mums think they can just ignore their children in these play centres. Yes, we all need a break from time to time to regain our sanity, but these centres aren’t run by babysitters. They aren’t supervised by staff paid to look after our children.
Often, I am made to feel like the most paranoid mum in the world when I take the kids to these places. Whilst there are so many women sitting at their tables, with magazines and cappuccinos, I am running around (with my coffee in a travel mug), making sure my kids don’t bully or get bullied. I am making sure they don’t fall down any of the climbing holes, or that they are taking on something they aren’t yet old enough for. I am keeping an eye on all 4 of them, never pausing in one place for too long, worried that I might miss one of my other kids getting up to no good, or being pummelled by someone else’s little “angel”.
I guess it’s just me and my funny little ways. I hate seeing any of my children being picked on or bullied, and I am absolutely mortified if I hear that my child is doing that to someone else’s child.
And so today, even though I hate these play centres, I took Paddy along. We didn’t arrive until just before lunch, and by that time many of the children were being taken home to eat and sleep. The rush hour was over. Our timing was perfect.
I’m the first to admit that he does have fun, and he does make friends easily. Today, his friend was 2 year old Jack. They chased each other around the toddlers area and took turns jumping in the ball pool. They rode in the police cars and jumped on the inflatable castle. And I stood there watching him the entire time, with my coffee in hand, and Jack’s grandmother right beside me. And, I will freely admit, we enjoyed a good chat. But I barely took my eyes off Paddy the entire time.
Yes, it is possible to go to these play centres and enjoy a coffee, and chat to another mum/carer, and it is possible to watch your child at the same time.
And if you want time out from your child, if you really can’t be bothered watching them whilst they play with other kids, if you rely on others to do the babysitting, then send them to daycare or preschool.