So it’s raining, and my sister, Sausage, and her son Titch were at a loose end. Titch is 4, and starts school on Thursday. He is Ziggler’s favourite person in the whole wide world but it’s embarrassingly un-mutual. I’m waiting for the day Titch’s friends start fancying Ziggler and then he’ll realise how cool she is (not that I want them to be kissing cousins but… oh, y’know).
So the rain and the loose end led us all to Soft Play. Soft Play is something you have a glorious lack of awareness of until you are a parent. You play in it. It’s soft. Sounds ideal. What that description does not include is as follows:
The noise. The screeching; the keening; the over-stimulated cackling of 3000 or so small children.
The stink. Feet.
The furniture – plastic tables with plastic seats attached to the tables, in tidy capsules of eight as if each group consists of a quartet of identically proportioned children who only ever leave the table in an allotted order.
The food. It is FORBIDDEN to take your own food. It is FORBIDDEN for the soft play cafe to stock any kind of fresh fruit or vegetables, despite residing in a health centre. They have a legal minimum oil content of roughly 80% for any one item. Ziggler ended up eating a packet of Wotsits (with 25% extra free) and a bourbon biscuit for her lunch. I am a terrible mother.
The other people. Some of them are a bit what my grandmother would’ve called ‘common’. I’m not brave enough to say more on the subject, frankly.
That your kid will not want to play at the soft play place. Not independently anyway. That lady sitting calmly absorbed in her book can just knob off as far as I’m concerned. I ended up crouching in a low-roofed ball pool, lamely attempting to stop Pickle licking the germ-ridden globes while trying to coax ziggler down the slide we were at the bottom of.
I suppose it’s obvious that babies wouldn’t sleep at the soft play. But they get the most stimulation of their lives – the highlight of Pickle’s day is usually the spin cycle – get exhausted, and screeeeeeeaaaaam.
I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add your own. To compound the misery, one of Titch’s school friends turned up and they went off to tackle the big slide together. This left Ziggler heart-broken, abandoned and tripping on Wotsits. I had a tiny flash forward of what her first drunken break-up might be like, and it wasn’t pretty.
As we left, I remarked to Sausage that I can’t hack soft play. “nobody can hack soft play,’ she said sagely. ‘That’s the point’.
I think she meant it exists to make the rest of your life look better.