Personally, I am not the greatest fan of soft play centres. Most of them are torture venues with most of the space signed over to brightly-coloured cushion things for children to bounce on like lunatics. I can't help thinking children would be better off playing in the fresh air and making up their own games, building dens and so on. Or maybe if I am totally honest, I just hate sitting for hours on end in cramped areas buying over-priced refreshments whilst my eardrums get shattered. Plus as someone with a fairly fixed disdain for those of the male species, I despair of forty year old daddies trying to look cool as they throw themselves down slides invented for children. One saving grace is that although soft play centres are frequented by yummy mummies who must have had elective caesareans and a tummy tuck, they are also regularly visited by slummy mummies with baggy T-shirts and huge post-baby tummies. I fall into the latter category and am always relieved to see that I am now the only one who chose to enjoy the hospital food rather than do my post-labour exercises to get a super flat belly and stupendous pelvic floor muscles. Call me strange but I would feel really silly standing at the bus-stop pretending to hold a pee and let's face it, post 3 babies, you are usually actually trying to stop weeing most of the time and don't have to pretend at all!
In my valiant attempts to make new friends, I have started attending the local soft play centre. I must admit this is better than most in that there is plenty of seating for adults, good and affordable refreshements and a clear designation between the adult and the kiddy areas. As well as a good meeting point, it is also somewhere I could happily go and curl up with a good book whilst my thug on small legs rampages to his heart's content.
Yesterday, I went to meet a mum who responded to my lonely hearts advert on Netmums. I have met her once before and we seem to get on well. Getting on well in my land means that I feel confident enough to speak and hold a conversation. I don't know why I struggle to do so but in a large group, I seem to hide my dazzling wit really well and bore people rigid. Anyway, less of the negative self-talk and on with the blog. Ingrid is a really nice lady, very bright, works for the local authority and clearly finds parenting a mix of joy and challenge just like me. She is slim too but feels able to look at the disaster zone that is me. So things are looking good and I am meeting her next week for an adults-only trip to the theatre.
Major panic yesterday was that having arranged to meet her, the Netmums group also decided to hold a meet at the same place. How would I manage this? What is the etiquette is such situations. Oh my, oh my or in my case more like oh shit, oh shit!
When I arrived Ingrid gave me a wave and Krystal from Netmums came up to talk to me at the coffee counter. Ingrid was sitting at the table next to Krystal and Lucinda so I hoped it did not look too horrendously rude when I sat down with Ingrid. Now, my brain is saying all you have to do Kate is introduce these people but then I panic as the Netmums group is now an exclusive group and maybe that would not be the right thing to do at all and what if Ingrid wants to meet me on a one-to-one and not in a group and what is she turns out to be a Tory when the others are anti-Tory. Meanwhile, I pin a smile on my face and keep talking. About two hours later and a good two hours, Ingrid leaves with her children Michael and Emily for a lunch date.
By now the Netmums group has around 6 mummies and associated children and they have moved to a larger table. I sit there trying to look unfazed and again trying to work out whether I will look like a real cheeky bitch if I now go and sit with them. Louisa takes pity on me very kindly and invites me over. I spend a hour with them more listening than talking but at least included and that has to be a good thing and a big move forward for me. Try and say vaguely sensible or amusing things and have a lovely interlude playing with Betsy, Krystal's lovely baby girl who is sporting a Gucci number in pink with white spots. At this point, the thug on small legs that is my son turns up and throws a fit that I have had the audacity to move tables without a consultation exercise with him. He comes round with a cuddle and a sit on my knee.
We make our farewells and head for the charity shop for a bit of light relief before the school run. We buy "essentials" such as a bright pink sleeping bag and a V-Tech toy. Several attempts on the tombola with my son doing his usual and winning on nearly every tickets so we return home laden with shortbread biscuits, cuddly animals and the Holy Grail.
A good day all in all. Life is beginning not at 40 but at 41 and there is life in the old girl yet and more to come.
Thanks to all the wonderful women who are giving me a chance and making me welcome