by Kristen Bagwell
It started off like any other early-release day. Last week, I found myself with an extra hour or two to kill before heading home for dinner, and two kids needing to burn some energy. It was actually quite cold, and a bit dreary, plus we needed snacks. Plan A is normally the outdoor playground near our house, but due to the weather I went to Plan B: indoor play center with food option.
(I should mention at this point that as I get older, I am getting wimpy-er. I never had an issue with claustrophobia until recently, and evidently I can now mix in a fear of heights. This sidebar will become relevant in a minute.)
It's not often that I pray aloud in public, and generally not at a fast food joint. As I watched baby W clamber up to the second tier of the indoor play center, though, balancing on his baby buddha while trying to coordinate his cute little tree trunks back underneath him, I found myself murmuring "deliver us from evil." Evil, my friends, is the playground/toddler combo, which leaves little leeway for my phobias.
This, for me, was a nightmare...following my happy, active toddler through the kid-sized plastic maze, suspended from the ceiling by metal supports that I hoped were strong enough to hold at least 4 over-sized toddlers at a time in any one spot (assuming that's about how much I weigh; work with me here.) As we wandered back and forth between the 3 (!!) upper compartments, I found myself looking for a weight rating on the plastic tubes, and repeatedly checking the bolt/attachment areas while bracing myself with my hands on either side of the tube. Oy. Beads of sweat broke out on the back of my neck as I gritted my teeth and tried to smile for the cuties. "Yes, this is great! Best time ever!" Lies, lies, lies, darlings.
Added bonus: the upper/outer 2 compartments were shaped like a helicopter and a car, respectively, and had the added bonus of noise, vibration, and general wiggling when the kids entered. Wiggling! BARF. (I can't decide if the clear porthole-windows helped or hurt my cause, because while I could see out, I could also look down. Bad call, me.)
After 17 minutes of elevated heart rate and two trips down the twisty slide (completely enclosed, but with no windows - kill me now) I declared victory. "Time to go, pals," I announced, and big sis surprisingly agreed to go ahead home for now, as long as we could come back another time soon.
We'll see about that.