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.