Our eldest has been invited to another soft play party. It’s great she is so popular but I hadn’t realised just how ‘involved’ I would have to be at these parties. This will be the second soft play party (at the same venue) in less than a month so at least we know the drill. It basically entails the children jumping, climbing, sliding and throwing air filled plastic balls at each other – and me. Most parents can get away with dumping their cherubs at the base of what is essentially fancy scaffolding and squirrelling themselves away in a corner to have a gossip. Not me. Sadly I have to tag along with my eldest which means crawling along padded corridors and going down slides in a sack. The alternative (as she is going through a clingy phase) would be to have her sitting on my lap on the sidelines watching everyone else have fun, as much as I would prefer sitting on my backside watching other people exert themselves, this would defeat the purpose of her invitation.
The concept of soft play is great and one which in theory I’m sure most adults would really enjoy. One thing which always makes me laugh is the disclaimer at the bottom of the invitation: “….avoid wearing man made fibres as these can cause burns when going down the slides.” This doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. But what if no one has read this and turns up head to toe in polyester? What then? The images of spontaneously combusting individuals fills me with horror but a curious mirth at the same time.
Plus, the reality of soft play is that you’re never quite sure what is lurking in the ball pit – after all how often are those balls cleaned? My eldest is really snotty – snotty in epic proportions, if we could convert snot into fuel we’d be self sufficient, but because I’m with her (wearing only the most natural, organic cotton I can find) I can clean her nose. But what of all those other snotty children whose parents are lucky enough not to have to follow a trail of screaming children? What happens to their mucous snail trails?
Also, my eldest sometimes dribbles when she is especially excited (a bit like our Labrador when he sees us eating apples) I’m sure she can’t be the only one who does this? Your own child’s snot and dribbles are one thing, potentially coming into contact with that of another child is something else. So it’s with some trepidation that I sit inside the ball pit, usually huddled in one corner with my hands firmly in my lap.
At the last soft play party I ended up wiping the bloody nose of another child in our group whose parent had disappeared somewhere (to safety in the parent pack I assume). I had been well aware of this child’s runny nose, it wasn’t a real bleeder it was that icky snot trail tinged with blood where I guess due to excitement he’d burst a blood vessel in his nose. I was hoping to be able to ignore it until he went away but another child (not of our group and a few years older) shamed me into action by pointing it out to me in a very loud voice. “Oh dear so he has” I replied as innocently as I could whilst quietly cursing this do gooding child – clearly someone was being raised not to mind their own business.
I think ultimately I dread these birthday parties because of my own lack of contrived schmoozing ability. After all the only thing all the parents of the invited children have in common is – the children. And these aren’t even children old enough to properly articulate why they like each other enough to be invited/do the inviting. And so conversation is usually fairly stilted and by the time I get to the “so what school is ‘X’ going to in September” my repertoire has been exhausted. I used this line of conversation at the last soft play party, the answer was one word and I had no idea where this village school was geographically, so that was the end of that conversation. Awkward doesn’t do this scenario any justice whatsoever.
My other half calls me a ‘bah humbug’ but I’m of the thought that I have enough trouble keeping in touch with my actual friends. I have no compulsion to make chitchat with other parents whose lives really don’t interest me. Frankly I don’t really care where so and so will go to school or what they do for a living or where they’re going on holiday – I’m just being polite. So when my better half calls me a ‘bah humbug’ I say to him well why don’t you take our eldest instead? He just laughs at me and walks away……..right then……I’d better brush up on my small talk then hadn’t I?