Until my boys were born I was only vaguely aware of soft-play areas. Now I’ve been to every one within a fifty mile radius of our house.
Every time we go I feel like I’m walking into battle with a swarm of demented wasps, intent on gashing my eardrums and booting me in the shins. This tour of duty was no different.
Within three minutes of arriving I’d been assaulting by a three year old. We were settling into the ‘Manhattan’ area for the under-3’s and this kid who’d clearly just signed a sponsorship deal with Red Bull came zipping over to us, grabbed one of the balls in the ball pool and launched it straight at my tired, under-caffeined and under-prepared face.
His arm was less than a foot away from me as he released the ball so it point-blank twatted me in the eye. It seems that even in adulthood I’m still the kid getting pushed around on the playground. Yay, me.
It bounced off my eye socket and the little turd ran off, no doubt looking for his next victim. I looked to his dad for some kind of reaction, like a footballer who’s been tripped in the box looking to the referee. His dad showed no concern for the fact that his son had just committed a felony. He just slowly mooched over to him with as much urgency as Shaft on his way to return a library book and said, ‘Don’t do that, son,’ in the most monotone voice since the last Pet Shop Boys album.
“CONTROL YOUR KID YOU MASSIVE BELLEND” is what I didn't say.
Instead I silently wished haemarroids on this man, as our boys continued to crawl round this mini New York area, jaywalking whenever they could.
Just as I was starting to calm down from the previous onslaught a bunch of kids who were clearly breaching the under-3 regulation of Manhattan busted into our little play-zone. One lad looked like he was about 13 but in order to cleverly cheat the system he had started crawling. He was nearly as tall as me (and definitely more masculine) so the whole thing looked ridiculous. I did wonder for a minute if maybe he was just a really young dad but then I saw him pick his nose and eat the contents, which convinced me otherwise.
At this point I was just trying to protect my little boys from these older kids who were now rampaging around the under-3 area like Genghis Khan and his seven armies. One kid would stomp past as another jumped above us. Two would weave right through as objects were vaguely launched in our direction.
In the end I couldn’t take anymore. Enough was enough.
I stood up. Like a MAN.
And quietly walked over to the girl who was working on the door, and snitched on them.
I mean, she was paid to deal with this sort of thing, right?
As the hordes of overage revelers were led away from the under-3 area, like a true grass I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them. At least not until the last boy was leaving - the overage crawler.
As he tied his jumper around his waist he shot me a look that seemed to say, ‘If this was prison, you’d be watching your back, snitch…’
Luckily for me and my family it wasn’t prison. It was a middle-class soft play area so we finished our play and went for a very nice lunch.