I’m at the stage now where one of my kids is old enough to have proper friends and invitations to birthday parties are starting to happen. We were pretty pumped to be invited to a 4 year old friend’s birthday party last weekend at a nearby indoor play centre. It’s exciting times because I know she will remember it, so I let her get involved in choosing the present, wrapping it and making a card.
The sleeps until the big day were counted and curious little fingers manhandled the present numerous times before the hotly anticipated party rolled around.
When we got there the shoes were flung off instantaneously and the tiny feet of a bunch of mates ran hurriedly towards the play equipment. I smiled the smile of a contented parent who was mentally storing the memory for future years down the track. Any parent knows that these moments are rare and fleeting, so you need to drink it up. At this precise moment I was winning at life.
The kids ran back and forth to us numerous times to grab a fistful of chips or a splash of violently coloured cordial, before bolting back to the heaving throng inside the Glo-Mesh walls. We mums kept a fairly close eye on them, but enjoyed the chance to gossip over some coffee and cake. The kids were having a ball, even though the place stunk like feet.
The thing about these play centres is that they can be very fucking busy. We had arrived at 10am when it was still relatively quiet, but come 11.30am things were getting pretty intense. The coffees were abandoned and we were suddenly all on high alert. What had seemed to be a fairly innocuous play session only minutes before, had now turned into something quite hideous. Instead of being able to pick our spawn out of the bunch, we were now playing a “Where’s Wally?” style game of “Where the fuck is my kid?” It was like the equipment had swallowed them up and they were now invisible. I started getting heart palpitations and I wasn’t sure if it was the cordial, cake, or the Nescafe Blend 43 that was doing it. I started imagining that Pennywise was in the middle of this giant fortress eating the kids. And mine was next.
I took off my shoes, rolled up my sleeves and entered the fortress. My eyes searched wildly for my girl and I fought back tears as I squeezed my soft body through numerous tunnels and padded cylinders trying to find her. I climbed the nets and peeked through the plastic periscopes. Nothing. A few other parents were doing the same thing as me, but we mostly tried to avoid eye contact. I certainly was doing my best not to smile as I conquered the huge bumpy slide to get me out to the other section where she might be waiting for me.
Sure enough, before my mind could run away into any more murderous scenarios, my daughter popped out of a slippery chute and ran back in again. The rebirth symbolism was not lost on me. Over near the jumping castle there were a bunch of sweaty 8 year-olds flinging themselves around like some wasted teens at Field Day. Pretty much every kid in this place was now high as a fucking kite, all jacked up on cordial, lips and asshole party pies, nuggets and chips. Flashbacks of my party days in London began to flicker in my frontal lobe. The brain cells that were still functioning in spite of those heady years were convulsing as I tried to take in the chaotic scene before me. The adrenalin dump forced me to have to take an actual dump, so I excused myself and took care of business.
When I returned, my friend was carrying my daughter out towards the table covered in blood. FUCKING PENNYWISE had taken a bite out of her sweet little head! I was livid and launched straight into fisticuff mode. As it transpired, she had found herself amongst the 8 year old mosh pit and taken an enthusiastic headbutt. The blood was everywhere.These things happen in seconds and my friend was there as it all went down, but I still felt terrible for my baby girl who looked like she’d been in a bar fight. Lesson learned. Next time I will turtle head all the way home rather than turn my back for a split second.
Fuck You, Indoor play centres for maiming my first born while I took a dump. It’s an insult when I was already forced to answer the call of nature in a room without windows, that smelled of baby shit and had puddles of wee on the floor. Fuck your stupid rules saying you can’t bring your own food. Between the chips and the nuggets and the jelly and the ice cream and the cake and the green cordial, you don’t leave too many options to tone things the fuck down with these kids. You just let them get hammered and stand by watching the carnage unfold. Fuck your dizzily coloured labyrinth design that forces you to go in there and get stuck for at least half an hour with sweaty kids that smell like stale pee and feet. Fuck the fact that I have to bury my nose in some random dad’s hairy arse crack while we both navigate this nightmare trying to find our children. And extra Fuck You for your absolutely shithouse coffee.
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