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Mall madness at kiddie playland


October 31, 2013

I will do anything to avoid any mall in any large city. I don't know what possessed me to suggest the mall. It was a nice day. My 5-year-old granddaughter Lexi and I could have hung out on the waterfront.

For 25 years I had lived within 10 miles of the Silverdale Mall. Frequently, two or three years would pass without me needing to mall shop. But I wished to buy one more thing for my trip. A store there carried the exact underwear I wanted.

There is a "playland" center at the mall next to the food court where small kids can hang out while mom or dad dash into a store for that essential something-or-other. I figured Lexi could enjoy playing while we waited for her father. We three had plans for our day. He had phoned to let me know he would be late.

Mind you, I had never paid attention to this or any other play center. I'm truly a novice at taking a grandchild to the mall to "play." When my own children were small I never once said, "Let's go play at the mall!" Perhaps even now they are spending thousands of dollars in therapy due to my benign neglect.

This particular playland has a sea theme. That makes sense with the bay a half-dozen blocks away. So the play toys include a submarine, a whale, a sea monster, starfish, a boat, an "underwater" cave and other vaguely fishy objects. A low wall with a seating area for parents surrounds and defines the area. There is one entrance and hence, one exit.

Lexi hit the entrance running, her shoes flew off her feet, and she clambered atop the submarine, jumped down, ran circles around, into, through, over, under and out of every obstacle, leaping from high onto the padded deck wherever possible.

I picked up Lexi's shoes, and inched my way through the entrance and sat at the edge. I wanted assurance I could make a quick get-away if necessary. There were perhaps a dozen children of various ages playing, all at full tilt. I tried to track Lexi around, into, through, over, under and out of the maze. The motion made me feel slightly sick to my stomach.

Within minutes, it seemed the play center held 200 writhing, leaping, flying creatures. I know that is not accurate. It seemed that way.

The youngsters ranged in age from a tiny girl just barely able to walk who climbed up the back of a knobby sea monster and slid down, back up, then down for a solid hour with the help of her bigger brother, to three or four kids who were entirely too old to be playing on this equipment. The older ones didn't stay long.

The whole scene reminded me of a model of an atom with the sub-atomic electrons, protons and neutrons whirling and twirling like dervishes. I found myself holding my breath, afraid Lexi was in danger of losing life or limb or, worse, of the whole center exploding in a nuclear cloud of smoke.

All I could figure is that there must be an unspoken code, rules that these children are encoded with at birth. I saw not one collision. Not one accident. I could see no discernible pause or pattern. Believe me, there should have been tangled limbs, blood and mayhem. Well, to my eyes, there was mayhem.

By the time Ben arrived I was a wreck. My stomach was in knots. I had a headache. My last nerve had exited an hour earlier. Lexi was fine.

I would rather bungee jump into the Grand Canyon, parachute over the Himalayas, or swim shark infested waters than take a grandchild to the mall play center.

(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She found, upon her return, that things are a little different. Now, she's headed on a new journey. She's moving to Mexico. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)


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