Have you ever taken your kids to a play barn?
I hope you remembered to get your jabs.
Some-science-wot-I-once-read suggested that play barns cause around 89% of all childhood illness; they are literally a load of old scaffolding smeared with bacteria.
But…they are also a sure-fire way to keep the kids occupied for an hour.
So, swings and roundabouts.
Play barns also get better as your kids age.
I’m a 41 year old man of above average flexibility, and still I’m not convinced they are designed with me in mind. But until the kids hit at least three, I’d find myself in there with them.
(Not ‘find myself’ like, spiritually…just, y’know…’what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-in-here?’)
You haven’t experienced proper social discomfort until you’ve found yourself wedged into a cramped corner, undignified and sweating, and with your face inappropriately close to the body parts of a complete stranger (and fellow grown-up).
You look at each other, not sure of the etiquette, and well aware that your arse-crack is probably showing.
Both being parents, thankfully you can share each other’s embarrassment. You can empathise with the amount of arse-crack being displayed.
Just make sure you have your stock play barn small-talk ready to hand.
“Licence to print money, these places,” is always my opener, as I mentally do the numbers and imagine some business-minded farmer tending his crops on a gold-plated tractor.
As the kids get older, things change.
At four and above they may still want you to enter the fray with them, but I would recommend a strict ‘no daddy on the apparatus’ policy.
Where once I might have fretted and fussed as they roamed the badlands of a play barn alone – wondering if they’re safe, or lost – I now shoo them off with a wave of the hand.
You know the one.
It’s the internationally recognised sign for I’m-getting-a-coffee-and-I’ll-be-around-somewhere-have-fun.
Ply them with a juice and a snack at some point, and you’ve just bought yourself some quality me-time.
Admittedly, it’s me-time in a room that combines the raw white noise of several dozen sugared-up kids and the vague smell of human poo, but still; you’re a parent, and you’ll take what you can get.
Problems only arise when an altercation takes places between your child and another, and with the unknown parent nowhere to be seen.
You have no choice but to parent both of them.
The two kids watch you, checking for weakness, and thinking: “well now…hmmm…he’s out of his depth…what IS he going to do with this little situation?”
I adopt my usual tactic: say something vague (“can we all just try and be kind to each other please…?”) and move things along with minimum fuss whilst winking conspiratorially at my child as if to say “these random kids eh…what can you do?”
Just bear in mind: this kind of off-the-cuff parenting always works better when you haven’t got your arse-crack showing.