OK, here's the deal. There are some things that as a mum simply become mandatory - tiredness, dislike for dried Weetabix, and the constant need to hoover, being just three of them.
Hating Soft Play Hell is also another biggie.
But here's the thing. I actually quite like taking the kids to Soft Play.
There I said it. I quite like Soft Play. I'm SORRY!
Oh. And I don't think it's Hell either.
NO WAIT! DON'T GO!You see. Maybe I'm lucky, but our local soft play is quite nice, as long as you don't pick a rainy Saturday afternoon of course. I actually quite enjoy going. You can walk through the door, and before you've even chosen your table the children have abandoned their coats and shoes, and leave you alone.
YES, for the first time since I was rudely woken up by a child with a dirty nappy sitting on my face, I don't have a child hanging onto my leg or climbing up my body and flinging his arms 'round my neck. This feels amazing.
I also enjoy going with other mums, it's the perfect play date location in my opinion. I've spent many an enjoyable few hours after school, the kids going off and exploring and us sitting down with a Diet Coke (I can't STAND soft play coffee), catching up; not something you get to do very often without constant interruptions.
The children stop by from time to time to grab a drink from the array of fruit shoots and bottles of water littering the table, often stealing a crisp from MY PACKET. They are red, hot and sweaty, panting with enthusiasm, and are off before you know it, squealing with joy and heading up for another big slide.
Sometimes, the younger kids break out of the toddler area, they're bored of the rocking horses, the little ball pool, and tiny slides, and demand we join them on the big slides.
I don't need to be asked twice.
Clambering up the slides, helping squishy bottoms, the look of excitement as the Chunky Monkey turns to beam at me because he's catching up with his brother...his hero. He's down the slide before I catch him up, so the only thing for it is for me to go after him, often taking him out at the bottom because he's begun to climb up towards me. We laugh a lot, and do it all again.
I'm not saying it's always perfect. After all, I have witnessed a random child throwing up right in the middle of one of those net tunnels? You know, where you crawl through? Chunks of carrot and sweetcorn landing on the mat below. Plus, we all know about the wee in the ball pool don't we? But accidents happen *cough*.
Then of course, there's the whole leaving malarky, you start the "just 10 more minutes" strategy – with an actual 45 minutes to go – and their selective hearing kicks in. They run to the farthest point of the room, high up, shooting balls out of the loudest machine possible. When you finally manage to coax them towards your table (packets of chocolate buttons work wonders), they suddenly lose the inability to put their own shoes on, flopping down on the floor and offering your a limp foot.
This is where you decide against the battle, and quickly pull shoes on (note to self – Converse trainers in toddler size 6 are chuffing hard to pull on in a hurry), before turning around and discovering that not only has your iPhone been pick-pocketed from your jeans back pocket by a sneaky two year old, but they're legging it towards the ball pool, phone in one hand, chocolate buttons in the other.
You rugby tackle them, barking orders at the older child NOT TO MOVE FROM THAT SPOT, and drag them back, extracting your iphone and quickly apologising to the person he's called on your behalf – who just happens to be the client you were speaking to before the school run.
You throw them in the car, doing the head-butt move, saying goodbye to your friend, through a gritted teeth smile, before climbing in the car and counting to ten.
Then you drive home, thinking how much you hate soft play and you're never going to visit again.
You forget it all when one of your children needs to run off some SERIOUS hyper-activity and only remember when you have 45 minutes before it's time to leave.
I spend my days (and nights) trying to find the perfect balance between being the perfect mother and being me, whilst still trying to cling onto the normality of a career. I'm not very good at sitting and doing nothing, although sometimes I really wish I could be.
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