Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soft Play

Generally speaking it seems to be considered unacceptable to pass comment on the parenting styles of other people.

I largely agree with this. Want to feed your baby from the breast? Go for it, breastfeeding is ace. Prefer the bottle approach? Dandy, formula feed to your heart's content. Attachment Parenting? Sounds lovely, who doesn't like a cuddle? (I know there's more to it than this, I'm being facetious) Gina Ford disciple? It's not for me, but shit, it isn't my child so I have no say.

Basically, in pretty much whatever circumstance I've come across in my short stint as a parent I've been happy to let other parents do their own thing. Until last Saturday.

You may remember last Saturday. It was wet. Really wet. With actual floods and shit. Dramatic stuff, no mistake.

Because it was wet, we decided to go to the local soft play centre with a couple of friends and their respective small people.

It was busy.

It looked as if every parent within a five mile radius had been brainwashed by Derren Brown at the request of the soft play centre's owners: "when you wake up, you will go to soft play".

I half expected the world to end while we were inside, only for the moustachioed mind-fucker to debrief us all and tell us we were now reprogrammed to lead far better lives.

That didn't happen.

What did happen was I got into a fight with a three year old.

As, I suspect, most soft play centres do, this one features a "babies only" bit. There is a sign there, which says: "babies and crawlers only". Which seems an odd way of putting it, but does at least suggest that three year olds (most of whom can walk, yes? My knowledge of children isn't great) shouldn't be in that area.

So imagine my surprise when Cam and his little friend Daisy, happily playing in the dinky ball pool, with Daisy's dad and me sitting on the floor next to the pool making sure they didn't do any damage to themselves or each other, were suddenly joined by a boisterous bigger boy.

I say joined. I probably mean assaulted. The bigger boy blindsided both parents and did the full superman leap into the pool, scattering balls and only marginally missing the two babies.

We asked him nicely to leave the "babies and crawlers" area, said he needed to be a bit careful or he'd hurt the babies, because they're only small.

"I'm a big boy!"

*In my head* "Congratulations, now fuck off. Where are your parents?"

*In reality* "Yes, but these two are only little, there's a big ball pool for big boys like you over there, why don't you go over there?"

No. Instead, he sat back and started throwing the balls. At us, rather than the babies, so perhaps he was listening a little bit.

(Where are your parents?)

Periodic thrashing around near the babies made me decide it was time to remove him from the pool. I wasn't sure about this. But I was sure that I didn't want my seven month old baby to receive a blow to the head from this delightful child.

(Where are your parents?)

So, taking care not to do anything which might have been seen as forceful, I moved him out of the ball pool. Stupidly, I didn't pay enough attention to what his arms were doing, allowing him to grab my glasses from my face. Shitballs.

(WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS?)

He wasn't about to relinquish the glasses without a fight, which was a bit of a tricky situation, as I didn't much want to deliver a left hook to a three year old (okay, I kind of did, but I NEVER WOULD). I held him in one hand and one arm of my glasses in the other. He had both hands on the rest of my glasses. Stalemate.

(Seriously now, shouldn't your parents have noticed you're having a fight with someone ten times your age? Even if they only wanted to come and cheer the fact you appear to be winning, you'd think they'd notice…)

Cue the arrival of the cavalry: my wife and a member of staff.

Prising his fingers from my glasses, my wife turned the tide. Hell child's spirit was broken, and he was walked over to his parents, who were told what he'd done.

His mother's reaction? She gave him a heavy smack, then returned to her coffee (which, apparently, was deserving of far more attention than her child).

This lovely encounter was how I learned that the time I will judge someone else's parenting is the time that it puts my own child in danger. I think that's fair enough. I wasn't brave enough to say anything to the mother though, she was enormous and looked like a regular from Jeremy Kyle.

Plus, if I couldn't beat her son in a fight, what chance did I have against her?

Have you ever had a run in with a naughty child (apart from your own)? What did you do? What is acceptable? Is a parent smacking their child going to discourage them from behaving violently toward other children? Hit me up in the comments box.

16 comments:

  1. Holy crap. If that had been my child I would have been mortified. I don't understand why these parents don't take that sort of behaviour seriously.

    I think these days, soft play is treated as a place you can take your child and not have to pay them any attention. The place near us is exactly the same, nobody is watching their kids. I've had to tell other people's kids off before but only because, like you, my girl got hurt by them. I'm not being funny but my girl is 2 and I still follow her around because I'm not comfortable leaving her in the company of some of the kids.. That's bad isnt it?

    Sorry for the essay. Great post!

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, I think it's okay to follow your two year old around, she's still only little (and there are some horrible urchins in these places, as I discovered...)

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  2. I was at soft play on Sunday. There was a little girl who I am assuming was about four years old. She repeatedly tried to push my 11 month old over. I repeatedly told her that H was just little and it wasn't nice to push people. I said I would get her mum and dad if she continued (pretending I knew them, crafty). Did that stop her? Did it buggery! She did stop trying to destroy my child but quickly moved to other toddlers and began biting and hitting them! Eventually her father came over smacked her (HARD) and physically dragged her away to his table were he proceeded to ignore her crying uncontrollably.

    I can't help but think that the reason she didn't play nicely was because maybe she wasn't used to playing with others. Perhaps if her dad spent less time, shouting, smacking and then ignoring her? God knows though, I'm only new to this myself, so I'll take it as a lesson on how I don't want to parent my child at the very least.

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    1. That's what we decided too, thanks for reading :-)

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  3. That's terrible... Funny too, but terrible. My neighbors are like that too. Their 3 year old came over to my house and didn't listen to a word I said. He put his shoes on the couch, made my daughter cry, saying he would take her toy, and pulled his tongue at me. And then he actually took the toy home, hidden in his jacket. The reaction from his parents when they found out: a smack...

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    1. Skills. He sounds like a delight.

      Thanks for reading :-)

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  4. Soft play is always the place it seems where you are greeted with other children's naughty behaviour while their parents are not watching. I have had to speak to other children and thankfully they appeared to have listened so I haven't had to put up my dukes! I have witnessed parents smacking and cursing at their children and it drives me batty to say the least. I'm afraid I do not believe it solves much of anything. I tend to just give them dirty stares I'm afraid as I live in Glasgow and well I hope that explains it enough.

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    1. Yeah, I'm not too keen on smacking as a parenting technique. I wouldn't say I'd definitely never do it, but if it's your first response I don't think it'll continue to have the impact intended.

      Thanks for reading :-)

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  5. I've not met the naughty ones yet, but seemingly abandoned ones are at our local one in gangs. I always end up having to help some other little girl jump or swing too and in doing so, pay less attention to my own two. I am too nice. But I would rather that sit with a hot drink with my head buried in my laptop. Grrrr..... some people!

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    1. I didn't notice any abandoned ones, but I'm sure they were there.

      Nothing wrong with taking a bit of time to yourself while the kids play, but just completely ignoring them isn't on.

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  6. Oh I totally feel your pain. Where the hell are the parents. I'm a great one for sitting back and relaxing while the kids run riot, but my eyes are always on them and ready to deal with any eventualities. I can't believe she smacked him, poor boy. Well done for keeping your temper :)

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    1. Thanks, and thanks for reading :-)

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  7. Soft play is akin to the jungle and bordering on Lord of the Flies! I have to stop myself from parenting the children of others and have many a time scratched my head as to how such physically small beings can make my insides burn with sheer rage.

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    1. Yes! Especially for us poor glasses wearers! I was waiting for the chants of "Piggy piggy piggy" to start up...

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  8. Super funny (and painful) post! As a teacher, I can tell you that this kind of parenting is happening far too often. A child's misbehavior is excused, ignored, blamed on another child, or, believe it or not, blamed on the teacher. What kind of young adults are these kids going to grow into?
    Writing Pad Dad

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  9. We have a place for kids to play like this called KidTastic, when I went to birthday party with one of my little ones I was rite in there with them climbing around in the tubes and playing in the ball pits with them. I think its a great way to interact with your kids, and a great way also to keep in contact with your inner child. Yes, I have had expediences with "naughty" kids to put it lightly. It's in those time's you really find out how much you really know about yourself. How you handle stressful situations, and what coping strategies you really to have. I chalk it up to an opportunity to learn and grow.

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