There’s a scene in Will and Grace when Karen walks into a pool meet and says “Why doesn’t someone just pee directly on me?” That’s my wife when it comes to public play areas.
Mall playgrounds, fast food playgrounds, or the bizarre thing that seems to be everywhere in Calgary – pay to play places.
Coming from a city that has weather good enough to play outside year round, I have never really ‘gotten’ the indoor playplace thing that seems to be the love of suburban parents on the prairies.
It boiled down to this: I paid $25 for my kids to play at a playground. That’s it. For an hour they climbed in a netted course, went down a slide, bounced on a trampoline, and played tag. The same sort of excitement we can get at any of half a dozen outdoor playgrounds near our house for free, I paid for.
On this gorgeous sunny Friday evening it was -5 and a brisk wind was whipping across our neighborhood. We could have bundled up and played near the house, but my wife was working late tonight so I decided to be Not At Home Dad, and take the boys to their favorite restaurant and then some running time to wear them out before bed.
It’s because winter lasts forever on this corner of the planet that these play places exist. It’s the same reason that West Edmonton Mall is a beacon in a 7 month cold and dreary winter. In a town filled with SAHM, these play places become the social centers of a cold community. Dozens of tables face a netted off climbing area where the kids are left to run wild while the Yummy Mummies chat and kibbitz.
The same sort of play places are at local malls where you have to sign up hours in advance for a 20 minute window to have your kid climb on some plastic breakfast food items. These sorts of indoor playgrounds are big business in Calgary. With snow likely on the ground from Halloween to Victoria Day, and temperatures averaging below zero virtually the entire stretch, SAHM need somewhere cozy to hang with their friends instead of death-gripping a latte in the wind at the park.
I get why they’re popular, but it doesn’t mean I have to like them.
If you are who you hang out with, then these screaming, crying, aggressive children were not the type of friends I’d want my kids having over for a playdate. The crowd of parents, especially the dads with flat-billed baseball caps, goatees, and huge hoop earrings, showed that an adventure this deep into the suburbs would leave me without peers. I’m glad I went to see what all the fuss was about, but it was an experience we will not be revisiting.
On Sunday afternoon, with the weather a similar sunny few degrees below zero, we packed up our bikes and went for a ride around the neighborhood nabbing 3 geocaches. We put about 3 kilometres on our wheels walking around the neighborhood and it didn’t cost us a dime.