My adventures into Motherhood
On Friday I went to Jelly Bugs soft play cafe in Kingston to meet Jen and Lochie for some play time. Sof really enjoyed herself, clambering over all the toys and soft shapes and whizzing down the slide. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it for letting your toddler burn off some energy in a safe environment. It’s unsupervised, so you have to watch your own kids, but the cafe is set up so that you can easily see them even if you’re sitting down at one of the cafe tables having a coffee. I like to watch Sof play with new and different toys and see what she’s into before I buy her anything new. And it’s exciting for her to play with stuff that she couldn’t get at home – like their massive ball pit. She’s been in the small inflatable ball pool at playcentre, (holds 3 babies max) but this is a massive netting cage filled with thousands of balls, and Sof was swimming in them up to her chest. So many balls, she didn’t know where to start taste-testing them! I went in with her and kept her in the corner away from the bigger kids who were running and belly-flopping around the ball pit so she could play without being flattened or drowned by a tidal wave of balls. After we’d been in there a while, I noticed two boys playing quite rough over the other side of the ball pit. I didn’t know if they were friends already, but the dark-haired boy was clearly winning the struggle and the blonde one was on the bottom sorta being smushed into the balls, and he wasn’t very happy about it. I didn’t want to go over there because then I’d be leaving Sofia alone, so I didn’t pay too much attention because I was playing with my own child who was busy handing me a succession of coloured balls, but I did look around wondering where their Mother’s were…..
Next thing I know, a Mum comes crashing through the opening towards the two boys, and yanks the dark haired one off the other. Phew! Someone’s breaking up that racket! But then she turns to me and says “He was on top of him! And he was crying!” I just nod in agreement and mumble, because I’m not sure if she’s stating the facts or accusing me, her voice is all tensely shrill and pitchy, and I also don’t know if she’s the Mother of the bully or the victim. Then she turns to the dark-haired boy and tells him off, he looks non-plussed, and I think “Oh she’s his Mum, she knows he does this all the time”, but it turns out that she’s the blonde boy’s Mum, and so she picks him up and calms him down with a cuddle, at which point the dark-haired boy’s carer, an older sister I think, pokes her head through the opening and receives a telling-off from the Mum and she offers a small quick apology in return and yanks the boy out. Then the other Mum exits with her beaten-up boy and I guess they’ll be leaving the cafe now. After that whirlwind of action, Jen comes over to me and goes “What was that all about?” And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure………
Did that Mum expect me to have interfered on her son’s behalf, because I was already in the ball pit? Does simply being present in the ball pit with my baby make me the honorary peacekeeper for all the kids there? What are the rules of etiquette regarding disciplining a stranger’s child? Should I have yelled at them to stop, or gone over there and man-handled the two of them? Doesn’t interference leave me wide open for the other two Mothers to have it up with me? My pondering was rendered moot anyways because my indecisive delaying was enough time for the other Mum to jump in and save the day. Later that night, I was telling Nath, Myra and Pete about this incident and we discussed what they would do in that situation. Nath would have tried verbally to get them to stop, but he would not have gone over to their side of the ball pit and broken them up or touched a stranger’s child. As a father, I guess you’d be more open to attacks of man-handling despite your best intentions, and what you think is reasonable force can always be seen as excessive in the eyes of another parent. Myra and Pete don’t have kids (yet) and they thought I didn’t need to feel guilty about my inaction because it’s each Mother’s duty to watch their own kids at that cafe, so I didn’t need to be interfering.
But what if that was my kid on the bottom, being smushed into the balls by another kid? How would I feel about it? I guess I won’t really know until it happens, but I think I would be more inclined to blame myself for not watching more closely, and I probably would feel within my rights to give the other kid a dressing down, and let the other parent know that I wasn’t happy with their kids behaviour. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t snap accusingly at a stranger sitting in the ball pit, but I know that emotions run high when your child is distressed and I am prone to temper….. I don’t think I have much to worry about with Sofia at the moment, she’s more likely to be the bully given her latest penchant for slapping Mum in the face and then laughing maniacally, and pulling other kids hair and clothes when they get too close. So far, I’ve been the Mum doing the apologising and separation of Sof’s tight grip on various kids, but I guess the key thing is that I am right there watching her all the time.