Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 2, 2010

Excuse me, is this your child?

I’ve never been entirely sure of the purpose of indoor play centres. Is it somewhere for mum or dad to have an hour off-duty while a ball pool and a giant snake masquerading as a slide mind the kids; or is it somewhere for the kids to have fun and for their parents to have fun with them?

It's probably a bit of both for most parents, but I'm starting to get a bit fed up of going to these places to mind other people's children. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have ‘rescued’ someone else’s child from the top of a slide or rocked someone's toddler on the rocking lion or taken a wailing tot around the tables of chattering mums to see who the child belongs to.

Of course, this happens to us all; you only have to turn your head for a few seconds for something to happen and you feel like the worst mum on earth when someone else brings your crying child to you while you're paying for a scone and a latte.

But if you chose to turn your head for five, ten, fifteen minutes or longer, then that’s an entirely different matter altogether. I am just stunned at the number of times I see parents arrive, send their child off to play, shoo them away repeatedly when they come back to their table and generally do their best to ignore them for the duration of their time there.

I actually enjoy playing with my children at these places; shouting encouragement to them to come down a new slide or climb to new level and generally interact with them. Of course, play centres are a great change of scenery and a brilliant way to let the kids burn off some energy and I'm not condemning anyone for enjoying a coffee, a flick through the celebrity magazines or a much needed natter with friends.

But do I really want to spend my mornings looking after or disciplining other people’s children? Erm, nope. I have enough of a struggle looking after and disciplining my own! So parents please, please, remember that your children are your responsibility – not the play centres and not mine.
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  1. There is a soft play area near(ish) to us where parents can go on things too. Which is fantastic.

    We had party in the soft play area for Bel's birthday and husband ended up coming down the slide with most of the kids hanging off him and then I had to shout at the kids and the responsible parent who started it (!) to stop throwing balls!!

  2. Nope, I go there to completely ignore my children, so I certainly won't be taking care of anyone else's. :-)

    Seriously, I hate it when other parents don't keep an eye on their bullying children when they are hurting mine. I do go in and discipline them. But if they're crying at the top of the slide? They're on their own. Like you said - the other parents should take care of that. I'll be too busy reading my newspaper.

  3. I'm not a fan of soft play but it has to be endured I guess. I'm with Mwa, I tend to leave other people's children to it unless they're in imminent danger of really hurting themselves (and as it's all soft there's not mush risk). There are definitely the bullying children whose parents don't intervene and that's tricky. You get them in playgrounds too.

  4. I love these places myself so you're likely to find me pushing the little kids out the way so I can have a shot on the slides or bouncy castles!! Heh! =)

  5. Totally agree!! I often go with Oli and I follow him everywhere as he's so young. I often have to help other kids who are screaming for Mummy , whilst there Mummy is busy reading a magazine or doing something else other then keeping a eye on there child.
    I adore playing with Oli and getting involved and I dont think I will ever kept bored or want to be a Mummy who sits as far as possible on the sidelines.

  6. One time I got yelled at by another mother because I failed to notice that someone else's child needed help near me (and by the way, he was just struggling to stand up at the bottom of a soft slide) amidst the screaming child factory play area I was inside. I mean, what the heck? Now I'm responsible not only for my own kids but the whole world of children whose parents are too busy doing whatever it is they are doing to pay attention? Give me a break. I like to play with my kids in these places. But I like relax a bit too sometimes. But I certainly would never yell at another parent who "should" be watching my child simply because I'm too busy relaxing with my mommy friends.

  7. I totally agree with you, those play places can be maddening,
    For places that are supposed to be fun, I always get a stress headache, maybe it's all the coffees!

  8. Or when the huge 10 year old is trashing around the 0-2 area and neither the parents or a staff member think to tell the child to move out before he crushes a baby........gggrrrr. Yeah, been there HCM, there is always a few left to their own devices but where we go most of the parents are pretty involved, thankfully:) Jen.

  9. Don't get me started. I may rant. I will just say that I get so cross at these places (and other places such as toddler groups) where the parents just dump their kids to run around and do what they like while they sit back with a cuppa totally oblivious as to what their little one is up to. I love going and I love playing with my little girl and watching her enjoy herself.

  10. Bravo!!!!!
    I could not agree more.
    My kids are older now (7 and 11) but I had them because I wanted kids. I enjoy them. I'm looked at kind of strangely at our school because I adore school holidays and hate the school term when I have to send them to school 5 days a week.

    Publicly it seems I'm a magnet for other peoples children but when I seem them brushed off by their chatting coffee drinking parents I understand why. Im the crazy lady out there on the slides or rolling around the grass with them.

    Kids WANT, no kids NEED attention - they want us to join in or at least watch and encourage their play - Don't get me wrong I know we all need time out to recharge the batteries, but these little years go so fast and you cant go back to them when they are gone - the only time to enjoy your kids is now.

  11. Totally with you - I got into a nasty situation at our soft play for daring to say no to a little boy that was trying to push me over whilst I rocked my baby ... how very dare I set limits on another person's child

  12. I understand what everyone is saying. However, I recently joined a gym and as it's not always feasible to go when my five year old is at school, I sometimes go in the afternoons. He goes into the soft play area while I go to do my workout for 45 mins to an hour. When I asked the three staff members if this was okay, they said that was the whole point really and that's what most parents did. There seem to be plenty of people looking out for them and reprimanding where appropriate as I stuck around the first few times to make sure I would feel comfortable doing this. Hope this doesn't make me a bad, inconsiderate mum!!


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