Dear Soft-Play Mum,
You’re sat at the table on your own, one eye reading funny Facebook posts, one eye on your toddler, the other eye – that sixth sense, or eye-in-the-back-of-your-head eye – on your sixth month old having floor time with a miniature shopping basket. You smile at everyone who walks by and at the three year olds who dodge your baby every. single. time. no matter how fast they’re playing chase. Bravo.
You’re sat at the table on your own, your four year old twins roaming free with each other for company. You have an untouched can of Coke and you haven’t looked up from your phone in the 87 minutes I’ve been here. Your face says you’ve been sent to the fires of hell. You’re not wrong there. But your kid telling my kid to ‘go away’ six times pulled at my heart, a bit. I was his moral support, though. The twins had each other. Mine’s only two and new to this.
You’re up and about as your one year old has recently learnt to walk. He laughs as the older kids run by him, while your eyes dart around. Your other son is probably somewhere fighting over the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe – he will NOT settle for the pink one, he only wants the red and yellow one. You long for both of them to be in the comfort of their own bedrooms, but remember this is good for their ‘social skills’. You crack on to find the baby ball pit and hope little one doesn’t pick up yet another germ from this bloody place.
You’re sat down, then you’re up. Spot her, she’s fine. Sit down. Up again, oh there she is, going down the slide. She’s ok, she did it herself. Sit down. Off again, where’s she gone? Stand up, run and look through the mesh. Oh, she’s in the ball pit. “Do you want a drink, darling?” No reply, she probably does but she’s busy. Go and sit down. Repeat 500 times.
Photo credit: @nuts_for_kids.riga (Ig)
You’re stood at the tills ordering lunch, coffees and Fruit Shoots for your five mum mates and the nine ensuing kids. There’s a baby on your hip, a phone to your ear, yet not once do you get confused between Oliver’s chicken nuggets and Macy’s chicken fingers. Evelyn prefers blackcurrant and Martha has to have lactose-free coffee, not for the allergy but for the diet the yogi mums told her about last month. You do this every week. You don’t even have to think about it anymore.
You’re sat there with dad. You take it in turns to watch your son. He’s an only-child, so you worry about how he’ll be with other kids. Turns out he’s absolutely fine, but you like to get involved because you don’t come to these things often. Read: you’re just as bothered about how you should act in this situation, so like to give the impression you have the perfect partnership. In reality, you argued about the washing-up not being done properly before you left, while your son waited in the pushchair: “Go now, go now, go now mummy, can we go now?” We’d have gone earlier if your dad hadn’t washed your cutlery in cold water and left the glasses to accumulate grease stains. Well I don’t see you picking the food out of the plug hole. “Go now?”
Your baby is wailing in the pushchair, over-tired and unable to sleep in this noise monstrosity. You’re calling his big sister to get. her. shoes. on. now. or. no. frozen. She’s sat right at the top, plaiting another child’s hair, lips curled up into a knowing smile. Of course she’ll watch Frozen, because you’ll need to cook dinner later.
Soft-Play Mum: there’s no real way to do this. No army could prepare you for the war of tiny, hyperactive versions of you in the battlefield of ball pits, swinging ropes and £1 Postman Pat rides – which by the way, are daylight robbery. Just remember… they’ll sleep tonight.
Fellow Soft-Play Mum.