Today, despite it being both a Saturday and rainy, I took Devin to an indoor play centre. Well, the town’s only indoor play centre.
It was an odd hour.
I didn’t like it there. I started shaking as soon as we walked in and didn’t stop until we were home. The playground is part of a Sport & Recreation centre with Ten Pin Bowling, Laser Tag and indoor sports fields. Everything is kind of lumped together in a dingy and somewhat dilapidated building. It was loud, it smelled like stale sweat and fast food, and there were kids running wild everywhere. Heart rate – doubled.
After I’d anxiously looked around to find the actual play area (it was through a separate room) and paid for Devin (8 dollars, regardless of whether they’re one year old or ten) we walked through a gate into ‘KidzWorld’.
Honestly, the main play area was actually pretty good. It was quite tall, lots of levels, three big slides… Unfortunately, it was also crawling with bratty, uncontrolled kids, many of whom were far too old to be there – the age limit is 12, but there were teenagers tearing around in there.
I walked around it with Devin in my arms, and decided to just crawl into the ball ‘pit’ at the entrance with Devin. By pit, I mean some mats on the floor with two layers of plastic of balls. We sat in the corner and watched the kids running in and out and grabbing balls to throw at each other. (Like I said – lovely children.) When a couple of big groups cleared out, I rolled Devin around on his back on top of the balls, which was pretty much the most hilarious thing he’d ever done, apparently.
I started to feel awkward just sitting in there, especially with the other parents sitting around reading magazines and not giving a rats ass about what their kids were doing. Seriously, I don’t know if I just encountered a particularly bad sample, or if that’s what children are like these days. They were awful. And the swearing! If they’d been going slow enough to hear it, they would have copped an earful from me about appropriate public behaviour. Hey, if your kids piss me off and you’re not going to discipline them, I will gladly do it for you.
Eventually we went to the fenced-off, under-4-years area. That was another pit with an even thinner layer of balls, some soft shapes, a rocking… crab thing, and some fairly grimy maze and puzzle games on the walls. As I suspected, Devin was bored within a few minutes. We took a break to eat some grapes and watch the kids on the jumping castle.
What I’d been most anxious about was how Devin would interact with other toddlers. He has, at fifteen months, only played with other kids once, for about thirty minutes. Yes, I felt horrible about it, and after today, I feel worse…
After being in there alone for five minutes, we were joined by a father and his son, who was around Devin’s age. Devin was fascinated, and I don’t even know how to describe it. He walked up to the boy, smiling, and put his hands flat on the front of his shoulders. It was like, he was so in awe that there was a person just like him.
I was so worried that he’d be possessive and rough and bossy with other kids, and he wasn’t like that at all. I had never seen him behave so well, actually. He would pick up balls to give to the little boy, and his dad, and when they reciprocated, Devin would take it and grin and run to show me. When some older kids came in and played with the puzzles, Devin sidled up to them and tried to join in. They got kind of perturbed and moved on, so Devin just tottered off to find someone else. I only had to step in when he tried to pull the other toddler off the rocker by his pants, but even that wasn’t rough – he just wanted in on the action.
This is the part of parenting that I feared I would struggle with. I remember watching him in his hospital bassinet, the night after his birth, crying because I didn’t know how I would give this baby a social life, or teach him necessary social skills. I still don’t know.
It was an odd hour because, despite my psychological and physical reaction to the general atmosphere, seeing Devin interacting with another toddler and watching everyone with wide eyes, and hearing his excited squeals… that was fantastic. If I could have blocked everything else out, it would have been perfect.
As it is, I’m overly sensitive. To smells, sight and sound. To feelings. And looks. Being around people drains a lot of energy. I am trying to push myself for Devin, though.