By: Tim Murray
It’s touted as the café parents take their kids to for a chance to enjoy a latte, a skinny cap or long black while the little ones explore jumping castles, slides and a random assortment of toys. The reality is a little different…
The first thing I notice is that the parents’ seating area stands like an island in the midst of a tempest. The tempest is the children: a heaving mass of swarming, running, screaming and jumping moving so fast that they are almost a blur. The noise is almost deafening. Off to the corner a lone girl on an acoustic guitar plays a selection of nursery rhymes to a small group that look like regulars, a scene straight out of Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man.’
Moving through the crowd of hurrying children, I take a seat on the edge of the island, feeling somewhat exposed to the elements. Gone are my hopes of a quiet coffee whilst my daughter expels her seemingly endless supply of energy. Gone too is my goal of actually getting through more than a few pages of the novel that I have been reading, or more accurately falling asleep to, for the past few months. It seems that since I have become a parent any night that I sit in bed and try to unwind with some reading ends quickly and inevitably with sleep, but that is another story altogether. Such is the noise and energy of the place that I struggle to sit still and relax, as if the spent energy is somehow hanging in the air around me and like some virus, and in spite of my exhaustion, I am somehow absorbing it. It’s then that I see them…
They cruise in on their tricycles; the distinctive rumble of plastic wheels on the rubber cork floor the only hint of their arrival. There were four of them, each riding the same blue beast with yellow wheels. The forks were a vivid purple.
They hit the ball pit first; a small area filled with an assortment of coloured plastic balls where kids could roll around and jump to their heart’s content. There were a few little girls and a boy playing in there but even in toddler-dom there is a hierarchy. The boy saw the gang coming and knowing he was outnumbered, quickly headed off to the safety of the mini play houses a safe distance away. However, some of the girls, perhaps even at this age drawn to the young and dangerous type, lingered a moment to see what was about to go down.
Playing up to the stereotype, the boys were bent on civil unrest and destruction from the outset. A moment ago the ball pit had housed a simple game of children taking turns of jumping into the pit. Now it was anarchy. They had brought crude implements: xylophone sticks, toy swords and the like and were now hitting balls, the walls, anything with something resembling the middle aged angst of the dad attempting to reclaim his youth through a motorbike and some leather.
The girls now looked anxious. The dangerous type was an exciting proposition in theory, but it seemed that reality was somewhat of a let down. As if by chance, a little redhead in an oversized Superman suit was picking his nose by the jumping castle nearby. But he didn’t intervene. It seemed the clothes did not in fact make the man.
And then, in an instant, it was over. Responding to some unspoken signal the boys stopped their violent assault, climbed out of the pit and swung their legs over their “machines.” In a scene reminiscent of a Western they turned and rode off (into the sunset), little legs pushing busily underneath them, but faces set in the rigid stare of the biker.
The girls resumed their game. The tempest continued to pulse and swirl. I ordered a flat white.