“What are you up to with the kids today?” dad, husband and spreadsheet aficionado asks as he prepares to leave for corporate civilisation.
“I’m taking them to Kidzania.”
“A huge warehouse full of soft play on a trading estate near Gatwick.”
“That sounds horrendous. Why are you doing that?”
“Errr because with this stupid snow we’ve been in all week and I’ve got cabin fever. Besides we’re going with one of the other mums from school so it will be fine.”
“Rather you than me, have fun. Love you”
“Have fun drinking your hot coffee you big corporate whore.”
“I would much rather be with you at the weird kid zoo than sat at a computer all day.”
“You would not”
“You’re right, I wouldn’t at all. But you signed yourself up to it so you only have yourself to blame.”
“That’s harsh. I have to do stuff with the kids.”
“Right I’m off. Oh by the way I’ll be late tonight, Bigsy’s leaving drinks.”
“I’ve never heard you talk about Bigsy once.”
“Oh come on, I came along to that parents’ booze up yesterday. I’m doing my bit.”
“Okay, okay, have fun.”
“Got to go, I’ll miss my train.” He starts to saunter off.
“Oh before I forget you are taking the girls to ballet tomorrow at 9am.”
He freezes and spins around.
“What?!!! Can you please stop bloody organising shit things at shit times! They make you join in at that class.”
“Ok. Love you.Bye!!”
I chuckle into my coffee. It’s the small victories. He’s right though, it’s going to be horrendous. At least I’m not going on my own.
HI, I’M REALLY SORRY BUT MARY HAS HAD A TERRIBLE NIGHT SLEEP, I JUST THINK SHE NEEDS A TV DAY TO CHILL OUT. SO SORRY TO CANCEL LAST MINUTE. HERE’S THE VOUCHER IF YOU ARE STILL UP TO GOING BY YOURSELF.
Of course I am still UP to it Amanda! That’s a massive cop out, she’s hungover. She was knocking back the Pinot at the social last night.
WHAT A SHAME. MUST HAVE OVER DONE IT YESTERDAY. SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.
“Right, come on Girls. Let’s go to Kid-zan-iaah.”
The room goes wild! When the news has sunk in, I pour them into their shoes and coats then fasten G, the 18 month old, into her buggy and pull over rain cover. J, the Threenager, leaps onto the buggy board.
“Where are we going mummy?”
“Kidzania” She screams excitedly.
I walk the two paces from the door to the car and stop.
“Mummy are we there?”
No sweetheart, we are at the car.
“But I don’t want to be at the car, I want to be at Kidzania” a chorus of wailing disappointment is the soundtrack to our 30 minute car ride.
We pull up to a warehouse where a huge cut out elephant in a Jumanji-esque hat welcomes us to a warehouse nestled between a DHL delivery depot and a fibreglass factory.
“Err Yes, 2 please. One is under two. Oh and we have a voucher.” I take out a crumpled paper from my purse. It has a lump of Babybel wax stuck to it.
“Sorry about that” I say smiling. Silence. Blank expression.
“No vouchers on a Friday. £20 please”
She turns her till to show me the screen.
“Ah yes, that’s what I thought you said. £20 for 2 children?
“And an adult”
“Of course, right.”
“Cash or card?”
“Card please. I don’t carry that sort of money on me. ha ha”
“There’s a 50p charge on all card transactions under £30.”
Of course there is.
Finally we clear customs and J is dancing from foot to foot.
“Who needs a wee?”
“Not me mummeee! Come on.”
“Are you sure you don’t need a wee? It will still be here when you get back.”
“No Mummeee, stop asking me that all the time.”
“Ok,if you’re sure.” She’s probably just excited.
After complying with Elliot the Elephant’s instructions to put our belongings in a shoe-box sized locker, I turn around to see the back of J’s head as she darts into the bright soft play abyss. I prize the little one away from slamming the locker doors and plonk her down in a sea of red and green balls. That will keep her quiet until it’s time to leave. I perch on the edge and start to do an online food shop. #mentalload
Smack, a ball lands on the back of my head. Smack, smack, smack. What the? I’m under siege. Where is the adult to stop their little git? I look around as a ball hits me on the nose. Turns out I’m sat under the end of a plastic tube that spews out the balls and it is actually my little angel that is frantically feeding the balls in like she is loading an assault riffle. For the unacquainted, this is a vacuum cleaner that sucks up the ball and carries it through a clear plastic tube, just long enough to lose the participating child’s attention, before dropping the ball back into the ball pit. She is mesmerised. I submerge into the plastic balls and help her load her weapon.
“Need a WEEEEEEEE aaaaaaaahhhhhh” a familiar voice echoes around the factory walls like a siren. I can just make out a silhouette on the top floor of the soft play tower clinging to the netting and dancing around like Baz from the Happy Mondays.
“COMING” I grab the little one who screams as I take her from her ball Arsenal and scramble into the soft play like Bear Grylls.
With a toddler on my hip, I mount the maze of oversized steps, I am lost in an assault course of bridges, mirrors, swinging plastic and hyperactive children not looking where they are going.
“MHUMEEEE, I need a weeeeeeeee”
“Coming, don’t worry.” Don’t you dare wet yourself. Not here, there is probably a fine. I think as I scramble up and up. When I finally reach her I am panting like a pregnant pig. Lacking the energy and the time to get down any other way I grip a child under each, slightly sweaty armpit, and fly down the vertical tiger stripped slide. We make it to the loo just in time. J sits on her throne peeing like a race horse.
Next stop the carousel. Kevin, the 20 something Fun Police on the gate informs me “Children under 4 must be accompanied by an adult on the ride” We all dutifully climb aboard. The girls pick a convertible clown car and climb in. I strap them in and stand at the side.
“Get in mummy.”
“Oh no, I can’t”
“Yes you CAN”
“I really can’t, I’m too big”
“Get INNN MHUMMMM, PLEEEASSEE”
“Okay, okay, okay”
I squeeze myself down perching sideways into the back seat. My chin is on my knees and one foot crushing the other but the girls are over joyed.
Off we go, from the gentle breeze I can feel my jeans are moving down and I am flashing a builder’s bum and a hint of a tacky baby pink, satin thong. Brilliant for the hen do I won them on but not ideal for a day out with the kids. It’s laundry day tomorrow so it was slim pickings this morning. The kids are laughing like drains having a fabulous time. We stay on three times until I can no longer feel any sensation in my left foot.
“Ok ladies, off we get”
I try and stand but my bum is wedged into the seat. The girls start to try and pull them selves out but their seat belts hold them down. The ride starts again. Oh god, I feel sick. I spend the duration of the ride trying to prize my bum out of the seat but all it does is pull my jeans lower. The ride stops. “Mummy I want to get off”
“Get me out mummy”
Both children start to struggle and squealing.
I try and squeeze out again but in my struggle my hip skin has started to sweat and I’m sticking to the plastic chair. I’m stuck.
Kevin comes over to investigate.
“Everything ok here?”
“Ah hi, yes umm well the thing is Kevin, it’s a bit embarrassing but I can’t get out of the seat. Ha ha ha”
“So, could you possibly pull on my jeans while I pull myself out? Ha ha.”
Kevin shifts nervously but agrees. I place his hands on the belt loops.
“Ok, on 3… 1,2,3”
I’m stood holding onto a pole sticking out of the middle of a clown car with my jeans around my ankles in a bright pink thong.
“UP not DOWN! What are you DOING KEVIN?”
And that my friends is why you should never go to a soft play on laundry day.