The following parenting adventure was experienced by my friend, Jane*, mother of two:
It's a lovely winter morning in New England. Lovely means 25 degrees with the wind chill making it feel like 10 degrees (above 0, yay!) and just enough sunshine to identify the ice on the road. Jane and her two daughters head to meet Mary and her two sons at an indoor playground. Jane's daughters, Jennifer and Amy, are 2.5 years and 4 months, respectively. Mary's sons, Robert and Michael, are 3 years and 1 year, respectively. The plan is to enjoy the ball pits and ride along cars for a while, then get pizza for lunch. Jane and Mary haven't seen each other in a while, so they're looking forward to catching up while the kids tire themselves out and work up an appetite.
The indoor playground is packed, to an insane and slightly intimidating extent. Everyone must take off their shoes and put on a wristband before entering. Then, the free-for-all begins. The volume and sheer chaos makes it impossible for Jane and Mary to hear each other, much less talk. It also makes it impossible for Jane and Mary to successfully monitor their kids. The little ones, Amy and Michael, are strapped to their mother's chests in carriers, but the walkers are off and running and out of sight.
After an hour of losing both kids, repeatedly, Jane decides that she's had enough and explains to Jennifer that it's time to leave. Jennifer decides that the fun has just begun and launches into a vicious tantrum, refusing to leave. Within seconds, Jennifer's hysterics are beyond anything that Jane has previously experienced. Jennifer screams and kicks and flings a plastic toy. The toy bashes sleeping Amy square on the head, waking her up and launching her into a fit of her own. Embarrassed and shocked, Jane grabs hysterical Jennifer with one arm and drags her to the entrance. It's a full blown wresting match as Jane tries to get Jennifer's shoes on and then her own. Meanwhile, Amy is still hysterically crying from unknown cranial damage. At some point during the tussle, Jennifer grabs Jane's iPhone and unintentionally FaceTime's one of Jane's friends. Amid the noise of a bazillion kids "playing", Amy sobbing, Jennifer screaming and Jane struggling to get on their shoes...and coats and hats and mittens...Jane looks down to see the face of her bewildered friend who is watching the scene unfold. Jane says nothing and ends the call.
Somehow, Mary sees Jane and the wrestling match and corrals Robert to the front as well. Only luck can explain how they all exit the premises with no major injuries and no lost shoes. Because the mothers had no opportunity to catch up at the playground, and because they're complete masochists, they decide to get pizza as planned. At the restaurant, the younger ones are back to a calm state, but the older ones are climbing everywhere. Rather than tire them out, the indoor playground has brought out endless, psychotic energy. When the pizza arrives, they all inhale a couple slices and Mary asks for the check. It's around this time that Robert barfs all over the table. Several times. He covers himself, Mary and the surrounding area. It's everywhere. The mothers try to clean up while soothing Robert who is now sobbing, calming Jennifer who asks, "Mommy, what happened?" no less than 50 times, and not puking themselves.
The story basically ends there. They clean up as much as they can and part ways. My friend, Jane, described the indoor playground as a "friggen torture chamber" and the entire experience as a nightmare, but also said that she had to laugh. It wasn't a fun afternoon, but it was memorable one. And, in retrospect, it was really funny.
*Names have been changed for the privacy of these heroic mothers and their children