There we were, minutes into an enjoyable morning at a virtually empty indoor play place--the kids crossing net bridges, hoisting themselves onto foam pallets, and running around in gigantic hamster tubes--when an unfamiliar voice approached me.
"Is that your child calling for you?" A mum asked. She had a strange perm and an enthusiastic love of tiny gym shorts, as if she were about to go to a Zumba marathon.
I looked up to find my son at the top of his favourite apparatus: the tunnel slide.
"Yes, that's my boy," I responded and waved at my 4-year-old.
"He's not going down the slide," she noticed, "he's asking for you again."
She was really laying it on thick--you know, giving me the old Cha Cha chiding.
"He knows how to get down," I said, forcing a smile in the hopes that she'd jazzercise herself away from me.
Come on, woman...
5 6 7 8
kick ball change
kick ball change
and grapevine left
and grapevine left again
let's take it to the left
and one more time to the left
...I willed her.
But before I knew it, she was kicking off her bedazzled trainers and crawling into the climbing frame.
"I'll go get him," she shouted in a panic.
I'm sorry, what?
Do you think I left a newborn baby at the top of the play place with only a pack of wolves to look after her?
Or has my toddler escaped out the back door and begun to run toward the motorway?
Why such consternation, lady? This venue is basically an oversized airbag. The only things my child can hurt in here are his feelings.
Listen, Sister Samba Scoldy-Pants, If you want to hover over your own kid every second at the soft play, be my guest. Heck, you can even keep track of her geolocation with a honing device, or take test strips into the ball pit to determine its exact PH balance, or suction the saliva from her mouth before she breathes, or spot her if she dares to move her legs at a pace faster than walking--I won't stand in your way. I won't tell you how to parent your child, if you don't tell me how to parent mine.
Of course I didn't get a chance to say any of that because in a matter of seconds, she was at the top of the structure, pawing at my boy, who, at the sight of her electrocution perm and micro shorts, began to cry. My preschooler knew what Madame Zumba didn't: the least safe thing about this entire situation was a crazed stranger grabbing him against his will.