Sitting in a “play center” full of children and semi-confused adults, I watch as chaos ensues. A large facility full of climbing apparatus, blowup slides, tunnels, and foam padded floors is the perfect mixture for fun when there is no sun.
Children laugh and scream as they spend only the amount of time that seems directly related to their age. Two year olds focus on one activity for only about two minutes, three year olds, three minutes, etc… Unless they find a play “friend.” For some reason, attention to play time grows exponentially when there is someone to enjoy it with.
Children navigate the tunnels and mazes with the greatest of ease, as if they have their own internal GPS system. Or maybe it just seems like they know where they are going. Yet still, could it possibly be that they don’t care where they are going as long as they have these temporary “friendships” to traverse through this moment of time together.
Dads walk aimlessly with empty baby carriers attached to their chests, moms chat with other moms, and grandparents look frazzled as if to say, “Just think, I get to take them home to their parents when this is all over!” For many adults in attendance, they have physically arrived, but have yet to engage because of the technology that consumes their attention. Then “that moment” occurs! The moment that fear consumes a parent because they realize they haven’t laid eyes on their child in a long time. They scan the tunnels and playground while attempting to take inventory of what clothing their child was wearing today. Circling around the play equipment, they begin to make their way toward the exit, hoping all of the security measures are in place. “There they are!” almost speaking out loud to themselves. Fear subsides, but it’s suddenly time to leave. Playtime is cut short because that moment of time seemed like an eternity and a parent can’t endure too many eternities, or the adrenaline rush that comes with them.
Finally, the time to convince the child that leaving would be a great idea begins. This is where many children realize they have ALL of the power! Parents stand on the floor looking skyward trying to convince their five year old that it is time to leave. They attempt to carry on friendly negotiations because they are surrounded by a multitude of other parents who could probably do a much better job talking the child down. Negotiations turn to pleads, which turn to promises, and then to clenched teeth and guarantees of what will happen if they don’t come right now!
The family is reunited and everyone gathers their things, retrieves their shoes, and begins their journey to the car. “Did you have fun?” asks the parents. For some, the answer is a resounding, “YES!” Others aren’t quiet as excited about the departure. You know, the “play center” is one of the happiest places on earth and in the life of a small child, their “friends” aren’t able to go home with them and playing didn’t last long enough. Many adults have the feeling of, “I couldn’t get out of here soon enough!”
Children, cherish these moments because life moves quickly and aimless entertainment is acceptable during this part of your life. Adults, engage and take lots of pictures and enjoy these moments while you can. They will soon have “friends” you only wish were temporary, fear will be more about their future, and fun will be something that has to be scheduled with them. These moments may seem chaotic, but chaos is defined as, “disorderly and confused.” So, control the chaos and enjoy this disorder and confusion while you can.