Ball pit babysittingPosted by Lori Welbourne
When I was a kid my parents dragged my little brother and me out for an afternoon of shopping at a brand new furniture store called Ikea. It was the biggest store I’d ever walked into, and as we passed through the front doors for the first time, Jeremie and I were in a state of bliss. Not because of the huge array of household items that had our mom and dad excited, but because of something we’d never seen before: a gigantic ball pit.
Tugging on our father’s coat, my brother pleaded to join the young children inside of it. Instantly I felt jealous because I knew he was small enough to join in on the fun, and I was not.
As he flailed his seven-year-old body gleefully about in the large clear box of colorful balls, I had to slump my 10-year-old self around the big boring store with my folks. I was not a happy camper.
As the years went by, every time I saw a ball pit I’d think about that day. It was my first memory of feeling too old to do something that I really wanted to do. Little did I know that my time would come.
A couple of decades later indoor playgrounds had popped up all over the place, and as the mother of a toddler I finally found myself on the inside. Excited, I took my sweet little boy up the stairs and sat him on my lap at the top of a giant slide. Together we looked down at the beautiful ball pit below us and I whispered in his ear: “Are you ready?”
“Yeah!!!” he shrieked with joy and down the slide we went, flying into the balls like I’d always wanted to do.
It was just as fun as I’d imagined. Maybe even more so because I got to share it with the love of my life. But after a couple more times I’d had enough. My 18-month-old son, on the other hand, had not.
Like the Energizer bunny, Sam wouldn’t quit. It was exhausting following him up, down and around the large plastic structure, folding and unfolding myself into tiny nooks and crannies. Acute claustrophobia hit me hard more than once, and I went home with a massive headache, sore muscles and a bad kink in my neck. At the end of the day, it was not the experience I’d envisioned.
Yet as my kids got older and became more independent, play places like this one became my savior, and like an office to me.
“How can you work with all this racket?” one of my friends asked when she saw me writing a column in one such place last week.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t really hear myself think, but I find it oddly relaxing in here. No laundry or dishes to do, no entertaining the kids, it’s just me and my work.”
By that point I’d been sitting in the same spot typing away on my laptop for almost two hours. Every so often one of the sweaty kids I brought would interrupt and ask me to watch them do a cartwheel, or ask for some money for a much-needed drink. But even with all the noise and distractions, I was in a state of bliss.
The only thing that could have made it better is if they had an Ikea for me to shop in.
Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com