I always come back from soft play with my nerves in tatters. I know this is crazy. Toddler loves it – he has a grand old time jumping about in the ball pool, going down the slide and gleefully bouncing off the big, squishy shapes. This also generally wears him out enough that he has a nap later on, giving me some precious time to get stuff done (providing Tiddler also obliges and has a nap too).
It’s a mixture of things that make me dislike soft play really. It’s usually too crowded, making me worry that Toddler will bump heads with another child or that he won’t get a turn on something as he’s too polite and lets others push him out of the way. It’s the ‘idea’ of Toddler getting to run around having fun whilst Mummy sits and enjoys a latte, serenely reading a magazine which rarely happens. More likely I’m guzzling the coffee too quickly to make sure I can drink it before it goes cold, whilst looking around like a crazy meerkat trying to see where Toddler has run off to and if he’s ok, all the time trying to hold Tiddler up on my shoulder, as he’s no longer content with sitting in his pushchair, he wants to see what’s going on.
Today’s visit too my worries to a new level however; it was fairly quiet when we arrived and I managed to get a parking space, quite a rarity on previous visits; plus we managed to get a table with a decent view of the different play areas; Tiddler was also content to sit for a while, letting Mummy get her much needed caffeine fix. All was well until I couldn’t see Toddler in the under 4’s play area. I was fairly chilled at first thinking he was bound to be close by, but as the minutes went on I started to panic slightly (trying to retain a calm ‘just looking round’ exterior so as not to worry the other parents, or make me look insane).
As I looked over to the older kids section, I caught a glimpse of his stripy jumper – he was half way up the top and determinedly making his way to the BIG slide. The slide that I had once climbed up with him to have a go on, feeling more and more claustrophobic the higher we got and the smaller the climbing areas became. The slide that, once seated at the top, generated such a panic in me that I thought I was going to seriously pass out – it was so high and looked scarily fast. Not wishing to freak Toddler out, I had bravely sat him on my lap and decided that it would only take a few seconds, and off we went. I think I was squeezing my legs to the outsides of the slide as we stopped halfway down and I had to shuffle painfully slowly the rest of the way down.
So, as you can see, I really didn’t like this slide, but before I knew it, Toddler was at the top and speeding his way back down with such a happy look on his face. At the bottom he jumped off and ran back to climb up again. I did calm down a bit at this point – if he was ok the first time, didn’t get an injury and enjoyed it then maybe I should just try and chill out a bit. I don’t want to squash his sense of adventure or anything, but I worry stupidly that he might get hurt or scared. It is difficult at times knowing when to exert parental responsibilities for safety, to relaxing and letting him test the boundaries and try out new, exciting things. After he’d made his way down the slide a few more times, I relaxed slightly and decided that maybe this wasn’t the time to be Scary Responsible Mummy, and headed off with Tiddler to the ball pool to show him what fun he was missing out on.
Toddler did have a nap when we got home – my reward for letting him have lots of soft play fun!