We’ve all been there.
When you’re a kid, it’s exciting! Balls, slides, tunnels; an endless cycle of ways to burn out your energy.
When you’re an adult, before you have kids, you find it mildly annoying, but tolerate it because, well, you’re eating in a fast food restaurant, what else do you expect?
When you’re a parent of school-age kids you let your kids go and leave them 75% unsupervised.
When you’re a school-age kid, you think you own the thing.
When you’re a toddler, you just HAVE to explore it.
When you’re the parent of a toddler/preschooler you stay in the room, supervising, and quietly cursing out the parents of the older kids.

Today, I was definitely a part of the last category.

The Setting: Delicious Chicken Restaurant (D-C-R for short) – now I love this place, its delicious and I feel like less of a terrible parent for letting my kids eat here as opposed to other fast food chains. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect, but I do spend a significant amount of time and money making sure my family eats well: few preservatives, predominantly organic, homemade foods. That being said, to the Buddy, D-C-R is a treat and he was thrilled!

The Time: Lunchtime. Now, I’m not sure about you, but D-C-R at lunchtime where we live is mass insanity. The drive-thru line wraps the building, completely, at least once. They pay two people with a cart to pass out condiments to help keep the line moving, and they have someone else standing before the speaker taking orders, I assume this is to avoid the “and then” issue…so the kitchen can keep up… Yeah, it’s madness!

The Scene: After getting the Buddy and the Biddy into the restaurant, ordering, getting a high chair for the Biddy, coats off, everyone seated, condiments, and having a very nice woman bring our food to us (just another reason why we love D-C-R) we could start the eating process. Now restaurants have made it impossible to ignore the giant play-scape from wherever you happen to be sitting, so I tell the Buddy that we may play in there, but only after he eats his lunch. So after a lot of gentle reminding, he finally finishes his lunch and so does his brother. (Note: I had food in my bag for the Biddy, I don’t actually let him eat straight D-C-R, although he does enjoy some of his brother’s fruit, and the fries he steals from me. So don’t call Child Services or anything).

The eating is over, now we enter the Play-scape.

Upon entering the joyous window encased room that smells of feet and sweat (again D-C-R’s smell is more pleasant than most), we proceed to get the Buddy’s shoes off. There are about fifteen other kids in the tiny, smelly room, and one grandmother. The Buddy is almost three, so once the shoes are off, he immediately starts climbing. Now kids are everywhere, which isn’t a bad thing, but I again notice there’s only one other adult in the room, and she’s there with a one year old, that leaves 14 kids, none over the age of 8, all unsupervised. I should add, before we made it into the room, I noticed that the manager of the D-C-R has been into the play-scape at least three times to scold kids about things they’re doing which are not allowed, you know, things that the parents would be monitoring, if there were any parents in there. So as I look around at the unsupervised children, I begin to notice that kids are climbing up the slide as other kids are trying to come down. Now the kids at the top can’t see the kids at the bottom because the slide is a twisty tunnel. Inevitably this leads to kids crashing mid-slide and crying ensues, or kids run out of the room to get their mom so someone gets in trouble.

Oh yeah, that kid running out, is now running through the restaurant in his BARE FEET! Yeah, awesome! I’ve worked in many restaurants, and would never go barefoot! Not only are you running through a grodie restaurant barefoot, but then you bring it back into the play-scape… super. I’d say about half the kids in the play-scape were barefoot.
(Note to self: Always have spare socks in diaper bag, because I don’t need my three year old to have athlete’s foot!)

So Grodie Feet comes running back into the play-scape with his Mom. Grodie Feet’s Mom comes into the room, high and mighty and looks at me and says:
“Why did you let your kid go down the slide when my son was climbing up?”

Now people who know me can attest that what I said next was probably the NICEST thing I could have said to her:
“Ma’am, my son wasn’t the one going down the slide. However, I’d be happy to let you know that since gravity is the force that pulls us down, I can assure you that the child coming down the slide was the one headed in the correct direction, and your son began climbing after the other child was in the tube letting gravity work. So since you seem so concerned about your child’s safety, you should probably begin supervising him from in here, and not that table over there with your girlfriends.”

Now, all this time, the Buddy has been playing and the Biddy has been doing everything in his power to free himself from me so he can crawl on the floor. I finally let him down and he heads to the little toddler section. The toddler house now has the oldest kids in it, like it’s the cool hangout of the second grade. Kids are sprawled out and laying in the house like it’s their couch. The Biddy is trying to climb in, and some kid (let’s call him Mike Dexter) pushes at him to get him to go away. (I’m only 3 feet away, but just watching). The Buddy comes by and starts to try to help his brother get in. So Mike Dexter uses his body to cover all the entrances and exits of the little house. The Buddy manages to get into the house with the Biddy and they play for about 20 seconds, before Mike Dexter pushes the Buddy. So I tell the Buddy that its time to go because the kids aren’t playing nice.

Now during this scuffle, Mike Dexter’s parent(s) are nowhere to be found; they don’t come in, Mike Dexter doesn’t leave. Another parent enters the playscape as I’m putting on shoes and coats, while trying to catch the Biddy, who so desperately wants to play.
That mother says to me, “Are you the only parent in here?”
To which I reply, “Well, we’re leaving so now it’s just you.”
The boys waved goodbye to her, as I wished her luck, and we left. I hope she and her little girl made it out alive this afternoon.