Monday, January 28, 2013

Playland Phobia

My name is Crystal, and I'm afraid of mega-chain kiddie restaurant playlands.

There.  I said it.  Now before you roll your eyes and click the little black "X" in the top corner of the screen, hang on.

I played on them.  I took my baby sister to play on them.  I don't recall being bullied or run over, I just remember the faux independence of standing inside the bubble, looking down on the rest of the world.  Well, that and the slides.  Slides are wonderful stuff.

Fast forward twenty years or so, and I'm a 34 and a half year old mother with three kids seven and under, and the thought of letting my kids run amok in these things makes my heart do a flip.  I can't see what's going on.  I can't see if they're safe.

Okay, maybe I'm not afraid of the playlands themselves.  I think it's more of an "I don't want older kids trampling my kids" thing.

The odd part was that Ryan seemed to have fun for the most part.  But toward the end, with the seemingly fifty plus kids crawling all over that thing indoors, with all the colors and sounds that go with it, he left screaming.

Richie and Maelynn were pretty good about it.  They were somewhat freaked out by the sheer amount of kids bumping into them over and over, and a few times Maelynn came out frightened but went back in after a hug power-up from Daddy.

They needed to get out of the house.  It was drizzly yucky outside all weekend and they needed to run around a bit.  I was a good idea!  I have to say I am glad that we tried it.  But I also have to say that I left wishing it wasn't such a big deal.

Yes, there were the usual stares as we left.  Big deal.  Yes, part of the reason my littles were a little frightened is because they're not used to large groups of kids who are bigger than they are... not necessarily too big, mind you... but bigger than they are.  I know people who use these places for playdates and things of that nature all the time and it's not a problem.  Honestly, I had forgotten why the thought of these places made me nervous. I remember now.

On the way home, being the never-say-die folks we can be, we thought through ways we could make a visit to such a place possible.  We don't want to be helicopter parents, and feel the need to talk through these incidents to see what we can do to plan ahead next time.  And there will be a next time, just not today.

And likely not this month.

Other than the meltdown as we left, the thing that hit me was the sign on the structure.  "Kids ten and under only, please."

Ryan will be eight this May.  He's not a little guy.  He's likely going to be a ten year old, maybe even eleven, twelve, thirteen year old who likes Elmo, Thomas, and Caillou.  His brother and sister will most likely get into age and developmentally appropriate things.  But Ryan might not.

I hope that we'll let him be who he is.

I hope there will be friends who accept him for who he is.

I hope that those friends will gently encourage him to like some age-appropriate things.

I hope his brother and sister will always be proud of him, to love him and be with him.  Even defend him.

I hope we will always be willing to let him be who he is.

Maybe I'm not afraid of restaurant playlands after all.  Maybe it's just another magnifying mirror that blinds us as we stumble in front of it from time to time.  Maybe it's really the next reflection of said mirror that frightens.

We have to step back and remember that we can't even see tomorrow.  We can only do what is before us today.  We can and should plan, talk about the future, and know where we stand based on what we know to be true today, but our hope and our peace cannot come from our ability to see and plan.

Thanks be to God for knowing the whole story and only revealing what we can handle today.

And thanks for Mom and Dad, who held our hands through the trip and back to the van.

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