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  • Writer's pictureErin Carenzo

Hand Sanitizer and Banana Bites at the Indoor Playground

As I sit down to write, or shall I say, as I click on the proper tab of the 327 that are currently open in my browser to write, I am surrounded by screams, cries, shrieks and all the decomposed frivolity of children roughly aged 2 – 10 at an indoor playground. And if you’re down for a fun weekday challenge, and you haven’t bitten your nails down to the quick just yet, I invite you to join me.

I should mention that my kids are on winter break, which in adult years is the equivalent of approximately 42 months and a visit to the emergency room on a Friday night. We are looking for things to do and thus have been to this indoor Bollywood three of the last five days.

We come here because my children love to play on the bacteria-infested giant play structure, order $225 worth of food at the snack bar, and run around sweating so profusely that I am forced to hose them down with industrial-strength hand sanitizer prior to re-entering my car.

When another savvy parent hasn’t beaten me to it, I take over one of the un-booked child’s birthday party rooms where there’s an outlet, wifi, a miniature table and plenty of chairs almost big enough to support half a butt cheek.  

And as I “sit,” I can’t help but think of one of my girlfriends who would walk in the door of my semi-private room with no curtains, simply say “um, no,” and without the slightest hesitation walk back out to the car. And I smile. She doesn’t have cherubs such as mine and over the years I have tortured her with trips to various theme parks and child-friendly restaurants while she looks straight ahead unable to speak coherently, and I laugh so hard I almost pee my pants. And after 3 “healthy” children, scratch the almost.

No-school weekdays are a constant balance of keeping the ferrel children entertained in some way that allows them to burn off the equivalent of 10 espressos worth of energy while I try to get something done. Today I’ve managed to get through about 1/10th of what I had planned due to constant requests, but as we’re in public, I put on my best whisper-yell smile and tell the kids to go buy something else at the snack bar. Because what’s another $26 for a chicken quesadilla and some vegan cheese puffs?

An hour into our foray however, I look around my abandoned party room only to realize that my apparently parched offspring have ordered enough drinks to cover the crowd at a Jimmy Buffet tailgate, albeit drinks of the fruit smoothie variety as opposed to the green slushy variety with a little salt and lime. There is also a melting ice cream bar, chicken nuggets, fries, pizza bites, chocolate dipped banana bites and finally, a pack of gluten-free oatmeal cookies, because what can I say, my kids are health nuts.

When one of my heathens finds another heathen on this indoor rat-maze that he doesn’t offend for one whole hour, I search out the other ingrate’s mother and solicit her phone number so we can coordinate our next visit. And we give each other a wink as we part company both knowing that we can happily mind our own business the next time we come as our children entertain each other. There is no need to chat beyond that. It is a symbiotic relationship of the indoor playground ecosystem – you scratch my back and I’ll bring my kid to occupy your kid so you can scroll your phone and I can go through my emails semi-undisturbed in roughly 5 – 10 minute segments. It’s the closest thing to heaven this side of the un-booked party room.

And today after a brief conversation, I add next weekend’s playdate to my phone’s calendar in ALL CAPS.

But alas, we are coming to the end of yet another school “break.” The laundry is piled, the kids are sugared up, and a search and rescue team is currently on stand-by to track down the un-emptied lunch boxes and wayward backpacks of our pre-Christmas carefree ways. Come Monday, we will trade our slushies for sandwiches, our indoor playground trips for carpool, and our hand sanitizer, for well, hand sanitizer. Because, really. These guys are gross.

But if you’re free over Easter, I hope to see you in the un-manned party room. Just follow the trail of empty wrappers and vegan cheese puff crumbs

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