This Friday we hied ourselves off to that acme of toddler exhaustion and height of style and cleanliness, the soft play area at Brixton Rec.
Soft plays are like catnip for Mums. All I have to do is to send a few texts suggesting a Friday morning in the padded room and before I know it a small army toting pushchairs and spare underpants is marching down Brixton High Street.
The problem with being in a gang of parents in a secure place, ie, a small, deserted soft play area with a guard on the only exit; is that it's much too easy to relax. Once we have taken turns sliding down the tube into the ball pit with our infants, it is surprisingly simple to just lie there cushioned by the balls chatting about this and that while one by one, our offspring struggle free of the pit like escaping sheep to gambol freely around. Occasionally one will re-appear at the bottom of the slide all by themselves to be cooed over by the mounds of plastic balls that once were their parents. Once you leave this algorithm running too long however, inevitably a child will trip, knock it's knees on a cushioned corner and have immediate need of its parental unit. There will then follow five minutes as ewe and lamb follow each other's bleating around the three-tier maze ("Can you see him? He's not in the tunnel, is he under the slide?") until they end up nosing each other piteously through a mesh partition while lamb presents various parts of its anatomy for a motherly nuzzle.
After all that stress, lunch in a cafe was a must and as by the time we left we were 5 Mums strong, we took over pretty much the entire cafe. Miraculously all 5 children were so starving that they sat obediently in their seats stuffing their faces with pitta bread and most of them were asleep in their chairs before we even paid the bill. Except my one, natch.
With this new, warmer weather the park has turned into one giant mud bath and Charlie has been taking every opportunity to enjoy it. Yesterday he jumped up and down in the perma-puddle in the playground until he had mud up to his waist. His boots, trousers and coat were soaking wet and brown and the minute I managed to get him out to take him home he hared over to the sand pit and jumped in. By the time we got home he was encased like a caddis-fly larvae in layers of sand and gunge with little pebbles and other items stuck on for show. When we got home I made him stand on the doormat while I stripped him down, threw all his clothes into the machine and him into the tub for good measure.
All is well however, two days of good sleeping and lo and behold it's Monday and time to do the week all over again. Hey ho.