I sometimes go to soft play centres.
Not, I hasten to say, by myself. No, not at all, I take my son, mainly in an attempt to drain his seemingly endless levels of energy, so that perhaps later that day, for a minute or two, he might sit still instead of climbing onto my shoulders and attempting to yank my head clean off my neck.
If you haven't been to a soft play centre, it's basically a huge carpeted industrial unit full of padded scaffolding with slides and things that kids can climb up, slide down, plastic balls to throw, and essentially create various opportunities for them to hurt each other. It's like a cheerful version of Gladiators.
Now when you get there, rule number one is SHOES ARE THE ENEMY. No shoes. You get in there, you pay your money, and you pin your child to the ground - who has spotted a multicoloured slide and now has a burning ambition to throw balls up it - to allow you to remove their shoes so that they can be released like a greyhound after a plastic rabbit.
You might entertain thoughts that the soft play centre could even be a place to relax. There's a very nice cafe. You can order sandwiches, or pizza, or cake, drinks (even beer). Perhaps you take a newspaper in, and just glance every few seconds to see which child your child is terrorising (or to shout at any kids terrorising yours).
At some point, you will have to enter the happy scaffolding maze of doom, because your child will decide that:
a) They don't want to leave (and it's time to go),
b) They are tired and have gone to sleep somewhere in the structure, or
c) They are crying because they've been hit in the face by a swinging foam weight and need a hug.
You're acutely aware that you're too old to go in the structure. "UNDER SEVENS ONLY" the sign states and you attempt to perform various manoeuvres a gymnast would think twice about carrying out, in an effort to reach the distant location of your child.
You're probably readjusting your clothing as it rides up/down, unaccustomed to the strains that you're placing upon it. If you're me, there's a fair chance that your socks have one, or more, unwanted holes in, clearly showing yourself to all to be an unfit parent. And there is a significant chance that you'll get somewhere close to your child, only to discover a plastic mesh wall between you, and you have to double back to find another route.
Eventually, you get there, aching and tired - how do kids run around these things more than once? - and your son will sit up, smile at you, and run off, forcing you to go down the big slide by yourself, pretending to maintain your dignity while secretly enjoying the brief return to childhood.
And while other children throw plastic balls at you.
I love going to soft play.
PS - Thank you to everyone who has viewed this blog, we've passed the 600,000 view mark which is awesome indeed!