Just like the jungle, Le Tour de France and dogging, there are certain unwritten rules that govern how you should behave at Stay and Play. If you deviate, the consequences can be catastrophic; alienation, expulsion and, worst case scenario, being known by everyone as the parents who let their daughter take a sh*t behind the miniature kitchen. So for those of you having trouble navigating the fine line between acceptance and persecution, fear not….help is at hand:
Stay and Play: A Guide to Etiquette
Intended as a melting pot, where children from all backgrounds can get together, snatch toys from each other and cry, Stay and Play is a rich and diverse tapestry of race, class and culture. Fantastic! But this also means being aware that the sensibilities of other parents might not match your own. Follow these seven easy guidelines and you’ll be fine…
1. The Sign-in Sheet is an essential part of administrating the Stay and Play. Writing ‘Abductor’ in the ‘Relationship to Child’ column is neither helpful or clever. As you’ll quickly be informed by a member of staff.
2. Obey the line-of-sight rule. You wouldn’t stand between Tracey Emin and her Titians at The National Gallery would you?! Or between a chubster and the cake display at Gregg’s? Blocking a parent’s view of their beloved at Stay and Play, even for a second, is tantamount to murder. Imagine if something happened when they were out of sight?! IMAGINE!!
3. When your 9 month old daughter, cranked-up on raspberries and follow-on milk, approaches an occupied Little Tikes Cruiser, twitches weirdly and then proceeds to drag the 2 year old driver out by his hair, as if re-enacting her favourite scene from Terminator 2, don’t even think about laughing. You can allow yourself a brief, guilty moment of pride on the walk home, but in the meantime, discipline her sternly, “No honey! Remember? We don’t play the angry, car-jacking time-traveller game unless the other kids want to play too.”
4. “He’s a funny-looking little f*cker isn’t he! Bet you’re glad he’s not yours?!” is not an acceptable ice-breaker. Nannies, au pairs and child-minders can often be just as fond of their little charges as the biological parents. Similarly, women of all ages are having kids these days, so be very careful what you assume. “I wish my parents were around to help out more”, should only be muttered after having carefully studied the sign-in sheet.
5. Uncensored opinions, parenting suggestions and observational jokes should be kept to an absolute minimum. Sarcastically chuckling, “Never too young to sexualise them, hey buddy!” at the guy who’s 3 yr old is wearing a mini-skirt, will get you in a fight. Similarly, if your littlun is being chased around by a chubby kid in a police costume, don’t yell, “Back off you f*ckin’ pig! Back off!” Just smile politely. Before handing over any pills or weed you’ve got on you.
6. As difficult as it may sound, when photographing your child doing something funny/stupid/dangerous, make sure THERE ISN’T EVEN A TRACE OF ANOTHER CHILD IN THE SHOT! Seriously, what are you?! Some kind of paedophile?! Might just be easier to take a sketchbook. Or are paedophiles using those now too?! Damn paedophiles, they’re so wily! And don’t forget…they’re everywhere!
7. Don’t ever let your child take a sh*t behind the miniature kitchen.
Answers to the quiz:
a) Kurt Cobain and friend.
b) Mum. And a pretty good one I’m guessing.
c) Yep. She’s a mum.
d) Grandma. And possibly mum too, judging by the kid’s eyes.
e) Mum. Seriously. Click here…
f) Great Grandma.
In a new feature on Let’s Dad! our resident Agony Uncle, Dr George Pfaff, is on hand to answer all your dadding dilemmas…
Dear Dr Pfaff,
Last week, at my local Stay and Play, the group leader (a lovely middle-aged lady called Pamela) was reading That’s Not My Train to the class, offering the book to the kids so they could touch the fabrics on each page. After the third page, she offered the book to the class and asked, “Does anyone want to touch my rusty funnel?”
I burst out laughing. Not little whimpers either, but loud, uncontrollable heaves which drew outraged and disdainful looks from the assembled parents and carers. This didn’t help matters, as I just couldn’t stop by this point and was in fits of hysterics, with tears rolling down my face. At the end of the session my son and I left under a cloud of shame and we haven’t been back since. He loves that place, and it’s incredibly convenient, but I’m just not sure I can go back there. What should I do?
Firstly, let me assure you that you’re not alone. Children’s books are riddled with innuendo; barely concealed behind a mask of innocence and with the sole intention of plunging unsuspecting readers into the exact pickle you describe. However this doesn’t solve your problem. You need a solution. I’d say your options are threefold:
1. Pretend it never happened. Walk right back in there, tall and steely, as if Pam had never propositioned you with her pungent sweathole. Be friendly, engaging and playful, bring some extra fruit for snack-time and make a point of only raising socially conscientious and agreeable topics of conversation with any parents (who’ll actually talk to you). Never let your guard down or exhibit even the remotest flicker of acknowledgement or remorse for your outburst.
Repeat this tiresome display of conformity for the next 4 or 5 sessions, until the other parents and carers start to doubt whether ‘the incident’ (as it’s probably called behind your back) ever really happened. This will require considerable effort, but if being able to attend is so important to you and your son, then it’ll be worth it.
2. Apologise. Wait until the group convene for storytime and before Pam sets off on another innuendo-heavy adventure, offering up her gunky plughole to all and sundry, fire off an explanatory, and heartfelt, apology that manages not only to explain away your childishness, but paint you in a favourable light.
Maybe you’d been replacing the oil filter on your wife’s car that morning and you’d both had a chuckle over the rusty funnel you’d found in the toolshed? Perhaps ‘Rusty’ was what you called your dear, and recently deceased, Grandfather and you’d been using laughter to mask a deep, inconsolable sadness. You get the idea. Bounce your son on your lap throughout the apology and finish by mentioning the half-marathon you’re running for charity in a few months time. Don’t worry, no-one will sponsor you – because they know in their hearts that you’re a pervert who’ll probably spend the sponsorship money on coke and hookers – so you won’t actually have to run a half-marathon.
3. Relax. The cat’s out of the bag. They all know that you’re an immature twat…so enjoy it. You’ve been liberated! If Pam is manhandling her flaps during story-time, pipe up. Next time the surly little Ukranian girl is grinding around the dance-pole, wink at her mother, “Aaah, she just wants to be like mummy” and finally, after all the weeks of keeping schtum, you can tell the centre manager that the drawing on the fridge (by Ralph, aged 4) looks like a scene from The Human Centipede. Don’t hold back…be yourself. What’s the worse that can happen?
If you have a problem, issue or ailment you’d like to discuss with Dr Pfaff, email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Dear Dr Pfaff’ in the subject line.