An Anthropological Survey of the Mall Play Area

Oh, winter in the midwest. It is snowy and cold and the bane of existence for those of us with small yet highly energetic toddlers.

I try to be pretty good about making sure the kiddo gets time to run off some of his excess energy and I don’t mind taking him out in the cold, to a point. Once the temperature drops below 15 though I start trying to think of indoor places for him, as I am too delicate a flower for temperatures that are less than half my age.

Today I, and many many other parents, took the kid to the mall play area, a place that is one part anarchy, one part petri dish and one part concussion ready to happen. My kid loves it though as it affords him many opportunities to fling himself off of things, allowing him to land on his face. He seems to really like that.

The play area is a large circle, lined with benches. The floor is slightly springy and all the kids are supposed to take off their shoes before they start scrambling over the spongy plasticky bridge and slides. I suppose there is a maximum occupancy, but Lord knows that nobody pays attention to it. There were at least 60 kids in there today.

I try to let the kiddo run and play without hovering over him, but I do stand and watch, mostly to make sure he isn’t running over some of the littler kids or pushing in front of the line. I noticed today though that I am in the minority on this. As far as I can see, the rest of the parenting population breaks down as follows:

10% MIA parents. These are the bastards who leave their children at the play area, frequently under the “supervision” of an older sibling, while they go shopping. The older sibling, who is really too big for the play area, promptly ditches the younger sibling and spends the 45 minutes until the parents get back cutting in front of toddlers on the slide.

10% Texting parents. They are physically present but utterly fail to notice that their kid is hanging from their fingernails on the side of the rock wall screaming for help.

15% Parents of kids who are really too young to be in there. Here’s a hint: if your kid can’t walk, they are one thing and one thing only in the play area– a speed bump. The parents then have to spend all their time either A) comforting their crying child who just got stepped on by a four year old or B) constantly swooping in and rescuing their babies from getting stepped on. It must be exhausting.

25% Parents demonstrating appropriate (and by appropriate I mean that they are doing what I do) parenting behavior.

5% Parents who don’t make their kids take off their shoes. This fills me with a wholly out of proportion rage. It offends my rule following nature.

15% Helicopter moms who trail after their five year old cautioning “careful, sweetie” as their kid slides down a 2 foot slide.

20% Parents totally ignoring the fact that their kid is a brat or bully or biter.

So, many of the other parents suck but it is free and warm and keeps my son from flinging himself off the couch, so I’ll be back. I know I will.

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