Throughout my time with Max there has been one constant, and I’m not talking about our daily dose from Dr Phil, I mean our daily trip to the park. We consider ourselves to be park connoisseurs. There are a range of factors that separate a good park from a truly great park; the ratio of swings to slides (2:1 is perfect). All good parks need a theme be it aeroplane, alien spaceship or my personal favourite pirate ship, admittedly not every parent chooses to dress up but I just feel it adds to the experience. There needs to be the right balance between safety and danger, without the threat of imminent injury a park just doesn’t deliver. Finally there must be a good absorbent flooring, to absorb the impact of the falling children, to soak up their blood and mop up their tears when it’s time to leave. On average, and I’ve worked this out, we visit the park 3.33333 times a day, our record number of park visits in one day is 6 and we once visited 4 different parks in the same day. Some visits are brief, while some have been known to go beyond 4 hours.
Recently, and it pains me to say this, the park has not been delivering. If Max could talk I am sure his first words would have been “please tell me there is more to life than parks?” Even at his young age it is possible to have too much of a good thing, we were parkoholics and we had OD’ed. What was going to fill the massive park shaped void in our lives, we tried the library – too educational, we rode the tram to the city – too much excitement, we went shopping at the market – too practical, we stayed in and baked cakes – too messy, we went to the pub – too illegal. Someone recommended an indoor play centre and bereft of other ideas we thought we would give it a whirl, essentially it’s an indoor park we told ourselves, the comfort of familiarity with walls and a ceiling to make it different.
Our good friend Google sent us packing to Day Dreamers, it sounds a bit like a spa or a meditation centre, bring on the serene experience that is Day Dreamers. We followed the shrill of an army of over excited little people amped up on sugar and adrenalin until we arrived, handed over our hard earned money, doing our best to ignore the plethora of safety disclaimers and tentatively stepped inside. Around the perimeter of the room were a circle of designer clad glamour mums who seemingly left the house that morning with the intention of attending a fancy restaurant and as if by accident had arrived at a children’s play centre instead. Too busy sipping on skinny lattes and sharing tips on spending money to realise that little Jemima was submerged and gasping for breath in a pit of balls, don’t worry Jemima I’m sure Mum can relate.
First up was the race track, complete with tyre barriers and pit lanes. After wedging Max in through the window of his ride, I then watched the toddler in front open the door of his car and carefully step in – 1 – 0 toddler. After 10 laps, Max was in pole position and had lapped some of the slower (in both senses of the word) children twice. The race track was not for the faint hearted though, I witnessed two hit and runs, a head on collision that left one victim choking on his dummy and a carjacking. The race track was okay but we had had our head turned by the multi coloured, multi sensory, multi level obstacle course that climaxed with a white knuckle slide ride, rumour has it you may enter the obstacle course a toddler but you will leave it a young boy.
I couldn’t quite believe that it was suitable for either of us, me being too tall and Max being too small, but the cashier assured me the entire centre was fair game and who am I too argue with a 15 year old temp who didn’t speak very good English? We negotiated our way through a ball swamp, a cargo net and a balance beam and were feeling pretty good about life. Suddenly Jemima, who must have negotiated her way out of the ball pit, pipes up and informs us that this ride is not for big boys, my response was as absurd as it was infantile, “I’m not a big boy, I’m a man” – not my proudest moment. Leaving Jemima trailing in our wake we climb the Ladder of Doom, entering the second level and being thrust straight into a maze rumoured to be so complex that some toddlers have never come out, we make it look easy peasy and negotiate the pendulum swing in Indianna Jones style. As we arrive on Level three my back forces me to acknowledge that I am now crouching to such an extent that I am forced to adopt a commando crawl, Jemima was right after all this is definitely not meant for big boys or small men. As I continued through level three, I look through the netting and notice that the glamour mums are looking on at me incredulously, there may also have been some shaking heads and tutting but I was in the zone and couldn’t really tell, all of this only served to spur me on to reach my personal Everest, level 4. Stood at the top of the slide, I looked down, my life flashing before my eyes. A quick check to see that I still had Max, I close my eyes, say a prayer and leap into the unknown. I lost two layers of skin to that slide but it was worth it to see Jemima at the top, crying, too afraid to tackle it. “We did it Max, we beat Jemima, we won”.
At the park we would always follow up a slide with a swing, it was the perfect counter balance to all that adrenaline the yin to the slides yang. This place was all yang and brought out the worst in people, okay it brought out the worst in me. “Come on Max, get your coat, we’re going to the park”.