Posted by Duff

It’s that time of year when the calendar says Spring, but it’s still not warm enough to have a child’s birthday party outside, hence, the Indoor Play Place.

Heaven for children.  Not so much  for their parents.

Any parent can attest to the fact that watching your child have a great time is up there on the “Why You Have Kids”  list. However, you have to actually be watching your child to seize the joy. And to protect other children.

Take, for instance, the infamous ball pit. I would like to have a word with whomever designed this petri dish of projectiles, because while this clever soul may love children (or more likely, wads of cash), s/he certainly is no fan of their parents.

Cut to The Dervish being introduced to the Rainbow Death Trap. She likes leaf piles, pillow piles, jumping, being generally silly. She doesn’t like being trapped and unable to move herself out of the way of the next three kids who come careening down the slide while she is quite obviously stuck at the bottom. She is thrown a couple of feet with each landing, and screams until my husband rescues her.

None of the parents of the human catapaults were within eye or earshot, as they chit-chatted over flourescent lemonade, content with the false security of the many brightly colored plastic spheres that served as a temporary and good-for-nothing babysitter.

Over the course of the next hour, I was relieved that The Dervish kept her distance from some of the older and more turbulent party-goers in favor of a mock tree house. But, eventually, curiosity got the better of her and she found herself teetering on the brink of the ball pit, where a game of Dodge Ball To The Death had broken out between two preschoolers with no supervision. I watched nervously as a toddler, younger and smaller than The Dervish, waded in their midst.

I’m not sure if it was the later stages of pregnancy, the noise, or the sound of plastic smacking against noggins that had me finally turn to my husband and say, “If you want to let her play in here, it’s all you. I can’t watch. and I removed myself from the scene to collect The Dervish’s balloon and party favor and gather our belongings for a hasty retreat.

With my back to the chaos, I heard a lot of plastic orbs meeting their intended marks, and the voices of two parents discouraging the fray – one was the mother of the birthday boy. The other belonged to my husband, who caught The Dervish mid-Trust Fall, luckily for her intended but unaware would-be catcher, the aforementioned vulnerable toddler.

It just goes to show you, you can watch your child’s every move and still not prevent the lightening fast reflexes that are two parts kid adrenaline and two parts Lord of the Flies group mentality. Further evidence that even if your kid is old enough to use the potty or navigate a playground without a spotter, s/he still needs a little guidance amid pandemonium.

No rest for the weary, that’s for sure.

We left a few minutes later, and the The Dervish extoled the virtues of the ball pit the whole way home, even as she was falling asleep, and woke up asking for more.

Driving home, my husband and I felt more like we’d left a crowded bar pre-smoking ban than a three-year-old’s birthday party.  A definite reminder to build up our constitutions before The Dervish joins competitive sports.

“How do you think they clean those balls?” my husband asked.