Play Places are the New Bar

The most brilliant invention for parents of toddlers has to be coffee and play places. For those of you who may not have been to one, they generally follow the same layout. Relatively well padded play equipment is set up indoors. Surrounding the play area are comfortable couches, tables and chairs for parents to sit at, while a connected cafe provides drinks, lunch, dessert and snacks for the whole family. As far as I am concerned, anywhere I can enjoy a hot coffee while my son uses up energy during a long Edmonton winter is A-OK in my book.

The other day I was at a local play place when I had a sense of déjà vu; I had been here before. Aside from the play place itself, it all seemed, somehow, familiar. There is a cover charge at the door, I am being over charged for a drink that gives me a slight buzz, the afore mentioned drink has spilled on me, and I have a slight headache from all the noise. The room started to spin…Oh. My. God. It is a bar. The children’s play place is the new bar.

It is reasonable to say that in my youth, I may have occasionally visited a drinking establishment or two. They evolved from student dive bars to clubs, to martini bars to pubs. While the venue changed, stereotypes ran rampant. Once I realize why the play place is so familiar, the corresponding bar stereotypes jump right out at me.

I spot the 20-something first; The one I didn’t look anything like when I was a 20-something. She looks the same as she did in the bar; perfect hair, nails, makeup and looks like she sleeps eleven hours a night. She probably has four perfectly well behaved children playing in the play area. Who can look that well rested!? I decide I like her even less now then I did then.

Sitting close by is the 30-something. She is in a one shoulder sweater from Joe and yoga pants. Her hair is in a pony tail and she is fresh faced. Bar 30-something would look annoyed when 20-something was asked to dance, now she doesn’t give her a second glance as she corrals three children to snack time.

The Pack is taking up a whole row at the side of the play place. They are the group of women who move as a single organism, self insulating each other from men who may wish to approach them at the bar. They go to the bathroom at the same time, get drinks at the same time and ward off approaching men with an evil eye. These are the girls who used to dance in a circle all night, their sheer number warding off hopeful suitors. To their credit, no member of the pack was ever left behind then, and the same holds true now. One watches two babies while another picks up a crying toddler. A third is coming back from the washroom with two children in tow and a fourth is carrying a tray of sandwiches back to the table.

The Couple is off to the side. They used to cuddle on the dance floor, begging the DJ for a slow song. You would lament to your friends how that would NEVER be you, but threw jealous glances at them all night. They are the same here. Sneaking in nuzzles in between sips of coffee and spoon feeding baby. This time I am blatantly jealous, but for a completely different reason. They are both home during the day – meaning they are likely not out numbered – and two parents always makes these outings a lot more fun.

I think I spot the Player. She was the friend who cased the joint for potential future husbands based on a very strict criteria. She would lap the bar to see if she knew anyone, or for that matter, anyone better. She is the same now, only she is in search of a best mom friend.

In this version of the bar scene, I am the Singleton. I didn’t come with another mom and am hoping to strike up a conversation with someone new. I am drawn towards the seat next to the Friendly. She is the one that used to smile at everyone, chatted to whoever approached her, while politely turning down any offers to buy her a drink. She is outgoing and enjoys talking to new people. She smiles at all the moms as they walk by, and you feel like she is saying, “You are doing a great job.”

All that is missing is the tiara clad bride to be and her stagette crew. I guess some stereo types are best left in their place of origin.

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