Friday, 3 April 2009

The joy of children

Given that I have a medium-grade lurgy, the only thing I wanted to do today was to stay in bed and sleep.

Ha. Fat chance. I was having a nice nap when I was woken by that dreaded sound of, "Look, daddy is sleep", followed by Monkey landing on the bed. I tried to bluff my way through it, but he was relentless. He finished off any hope of sleep by prying one eyelid open and going "Hello daddy".

Ugh. Time for a visit to the wear-out-a-Monkey factory.

Thankfully for us, an excellent new place called Corner Cubbyhouse has opened up not far from here. They've taken the top floor of a new office block and fitted it out as 50% cafe for mums, 50% fun stuff for kids. It includes a fairly large climbing frame thing where the kids can climb up about two storeys above the floor and then come down a terrifically fast slide. Even I like doing that.

We paid it a visit about a week after it opened. There were only about a dozen adults and a dozen kids there (all under the age of 4) in a place supposedly able to take 260. We had the place to ourselves, and Monkey thoroughly wore himself out playing with the other kids. He was so exhausted from climbing, he couldn't walk straight. The only way I could get him to stop and take a break was to bribe him with ice cream - which is when I discovered that they stock our favourite top-quality gellato in six flavours, and don't charge an arm and a leg for it.

It was so good, we had to go back again.

I took him again last weekend, and the place was a madhouse. Several different birthday parties were underway, the place was full and there were kids running everywhere. We still had a great time, and more ice cream (that is now a standard part of our visit - Monkey likes his routines, and this is now routine. Not that I am complaining). I also discovered on that visit that the adult food is top notch - I had by far the best quiche and salad that I have had in at least a decade, and it didn't cost a bomb either.

The coffee was rough as guts though, but still better than the mud they serve at our local cafes here in Five Dock. I hope they will improve the standard as they go along.

Since I was feeling pretty cactus today, and Monkey clearly needed a runaround, we really had no other option but to go back to the Cubbyhouse. I figured I could simply flop at a table with a magazine and he could run riot.

No such luck.

As soon as we walked in the door, we discovered that they had setup a large train track with two pedal train engines - big enough for two kids to sit in each, and another on the bonnet. Monkey is nuts about trains, so I spent the next hour trying to control 15 kids as they squabbled and fought over who go to drive each lap and occasionally ran each other over. The trains also derailed every time they crashed into each other, so I spent a lot of time lying on the carpet re-railing them. Bloody impossible to get the bogeys lined up with the tracks properly. There were a couple of brothers who did not get on, and they had a fist fight every few minutes with mum standing by going, "Joel, be nice to Harrison" as he socked him in the nose. After she toddled off somewhere, I had to break up a 3-way fight between 3 three year old's who all wanted the next turn.

Funnily enough, when I bark at my kids, they pay no attention. When I bark at the kids of complete strangers, they nearly jump out of their skins. I gave the three of them one gruff "Cut it out", and the next thought that crossed my mind was, "Oops, three nappy changes required".

Next came the climbing frame thing. Monkey balked at coming down a spiral slide, so guess who had to climb up inside it to encourage him to come down? Not once, not twice, but four times.

Given the slight fever I was running, I was sweating like a maniac by this stage. Clambering around inside gym equipment built for little people is hard work. Especially going up something that is designed for people coming down..

Then I witnessed the aftermath of two kids colliding head-on. Their respective mums had them in the kitchen and were trying to stem the flow of blood from split lips and conked noses. Seriously, there was blood everywhere, but they were completely unperturbed.

Just after that, Monkey was emerging from part of the climbing gym when a girl tore down a slide, spun around and punched him fair in the face with a lot of power (without meaning to). She took off as soon as he started howling, and that could only be stopped by treating it with ice cream.

Not long after that, some kids managed to run over the foot of another kid with the trains. Nothing broken or anything like that, but it certainly looked painful. They also ran over the feet or bashed the ankles of several dopey mums who were stupid enough to park their prams right next to the train tracks, and then stand with their foot a few millimetres from the rails. Idiots. Got what they deserved. Those three year olds can build up a lot of momentum and get a toy train really moving when they want to. I watched as one dozey mum landed on her arse after being collected by a kiddy driven train.

You know, those kids made better drivers than their mums. They paid more attention to what they were doing, and were focused on the task at hand.

The nice thing was that with all the minor scrapes and fights and accidental whacks, no one got upset. The odd kid would have a good cry when something particularly painful happened, but no one batted an eyelid. If this place was on the North Shore, it would have lasted a week before being closed by lawsuits.

The cars in the car park, and the quality of prams in attendance, tell me that the clientele of this establishment are well off. They're probably as wealthy as the North Shore princesses, but they are less precious. I was one of three men in the place, in amongst 50 or 60 inner west mums. If this was the north shore, their hubbies would be unemployed bankers and financiers.

Here, their hubbies are probably builders, the owners of car parts businesses and seafood vendors - but successful and wealthy builders and fish sellers. They all drive a big Mercedes, have a name like "Maria", are dripping with gold, have no taste or style - but sheesh, they are pleasant and easy to get on with and a joy to spend the morning with.

And afterwards, we went home and I went to bed and Monkey spent the whole afternoon running around and playing with other stuff. Living with an energizer bunny is not easy.

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