When you’re preparing yourself to be a parent, reading all the right crappy books and attending all of those annoying classes that The Boss has contractually obligated you to go to, there is absolutely no mention of the most hellish of all parental responsibilities…. THE SOFT-PLAY CENTRE!
If I ran my own parent preparation classes, these centres of doom would form a core part of my curriculum, and I would tailor my sessions to include active role play (in full riot gear) and mental health risk assessments.
There is nothing The Boss can say to me that coendures such an extreme physical reaction as “maybe we should take the kids to [insert local centre] this weekend.” The feeling of hearing those words is like a dull blow to the stomach, sucking all of the air out of my body while I try and remodel the muscles in my face to resemble something like a smile. (Last time she thought I was having a stroke and was frantically trying to remember the words that make up F.A.S.T). I have been married long enough to know that the word ‘maybe’ actually reads as ‘we’re going to, whether you like it or not you lazy shitbag’.
So off we go, with a car full of nappies, baby snacks, changes of clothes, drinks, bottles of milk, wipes, disinfectant and pepper spray.
Now the first thing that gets me is that upon arrival there is never a car parking space. The carpark rammed full of huge selfishly parked 4x4’s, large enough to carry out military coups in the Kalahari Desert. When you finally find a space, the parking bays are so small that you cannot open any of the car doors wide enough to get yourself or the kids out, and so you have to be able to perform yoga style body manipulation, or climb out of the sun roof.
When finally free from the car, you enter the centre and approach the front desk where a spotty 16 year old awaits, baying to relieve you of your hard earned beer money. Now I am completely prepared to pay for my children to use this facility, but I fail to see why I should hand over money for my own torturous experience. Especially when you’re going to rip the arse out of me should I have the misfortune of becoming thirsty once inside.
So car parked, beer money gone, you try and find yourself an area where you can set up camp. After scanning the pushchair filled horizon you spot an empty table that seems to have less litter than the rest. You approach, and are about to unload the nappies, baby snacks, changes of clothes, drinks, bottles of milk, wipes, disinfectant and pepper spray when your nose picks up on a slightly cheesy waft. It is at this point that you realise why the table is vacant, and that you have just trodden in a large puddle of toddler sick. Wiping off your shoes (thank f*ck for the wet wipe stash) and vein pulsing in your head, you are called over to a more suitable table by The Boss, who tells you to “try and enjoy it for the kids”. Grrrr.
The next two hours feel like twelve, with the noise of five thousand tiny, running, screaming voices ringing in your head and the sticky stench of toddler in your nostrils. I just about don’t mind my own kids, but a warehouse full of everyone else’s just about does me in.
I’m sure I will have this forced upon me again next month. I had better start preparing, both financially and mentally.