Most parents, at one time or another, will be subjected to the horror that is the designated play area of a fast food restaurant. These places always seem to remind me of the zoo, filled with climbing contractions, monkey-like noises, and peculiar odors.
But these places can also be a lifeline to a traveling family desperate to release pent up energy, or an option for a break from cabin fever on a cold or rainy day.
Living in a small town with little offered in the way of entertainment for children means that I have frequented these establishments more often than I would like. During my visits, I’ve come to identify five mom (or dad) types that you may encounter should you choose to join us.
1 | The “Hanitizer” Mom
Hanitizer is my son’s way of pronouncing hand sanitizer. Incidentally, he’s the oldest and was subjected to it the most (the fear of germs is most intense with new motherhood). The Hanitizer Mom is the one frantically attempting to sanitize every inch of playground her child may come into contact with.
She is armed and ready with germ fighting wipes, a discreet sanitizing spray, and/or frequents the sanitizing dispensers. We all know these play-places are ripe with viruses – a sure-fire way to end up with a sick kid in a few days’ time – so it’s easy to sympathize with Hanitizer Mom. Sort of.
2 | The Velcro Mom
The Velcro Mom is always within arm’s reach of her child. She’ll station herself in the midst of every playground scuffle and is there with waiting arms to catch any stumble her child makes.
She can also be overheard questioning the whereabouts of parents who differ in their approach to caring for their children (see MIA Mom) when in the vicinity of playground equipment. Velcro Mom does not stop short of attempting to discipline such wayward children herself.
3 | The MIA Mom
You won’t even be able to locate MIA Mom. She’s usually in the separate (and more quiet) seating area of the restaurant. She knows if there’s a problem, her children will know where to find her, or someone else will step in to fix it.
MIA Mom is going to enjoy her meal, or caffeine, in peace, thank you very much. That is why she came to this wretched place to begin with – for a break.
4 | The Playmate Mom
Oh, how I admire the Playmate Mom. She gets right in there with her kids and actively plays alongside them. You may even find her climbing up those colorful claustrophobia-inducing tubes.
Playmate Mom braves germs, turns a blind eye (or nose) to rancid odors, and somehow enjoys herself. And her kids adore her for it – and expect it of her.
5 | The Mom Who is Trying to Get a Little Work Done
This is usually me, enjoying the free Wi-Fi and ready access to caffeine, hoping my children will stay entertained long enough for me to answer a few e-mails or do a little writing.
Also known as Stay-at-Home Mom, I utilize the fast food play area to the best of my ability: a snack or meal for the kids, a change of scenery from the house, a release of my boys’ endless stream of manic energy, and a break from routine.
Yes, it’s a zoo, but so is my house on any given day.
I think I’ve been each of these moms at one point or another. The fast food play area in some ways reminds me of all the different facets of my life as a mom. I parent differently now than I did in the beginning. I’m observing, learning, growing – and praying my kids don’t pick up that nasty stomach virus that’s going around.