There was really no contest for our Friday afternoon out this week. It had to be Bunny World. Or Mummy World, as I discovered it is in early March. I’ve never seen so many mums in the same place at once. We walked into the play barn and as I reeled back from the hot gust of oestrogen the entire place went silent and hundreds of mums turned in my direction. (I may be exaggerating.) There were mums there from 16 to 60. Mums with babies, mums with twins, mums with triplets. (I saw my first 3-abreast pushchair there: a knot of mums had formed around it like a group of men around a sportscar.) Fortunately my daughter seemed to feel the same way
“There are too many peeeeple daddy” she complained. So we fled through the nearest exit and went to find bunnies.
The bunny experience took a little longer then usual on this occasion, since my daughter had grazed her knee earlier in the day and was affecting a limp. So she limped from bunny to bunny offering them bunny food (it was nothing, really; in the league of grazes strictly Championship level), and twizzling their long ears (yes I had washed, Savloned and plastered it thoroughly).
Afterwards we visited the gift shop (a bunny mask, in case you are interested – and at 50p quite a bargain.) Then we ate triple chocolate shortbread in the cafe. Finally we returned to the play barn, now a lot less busy.
As we loitered, a friendly four year old came and introduced herself to us and invited my daughter to slide down the Astra Slide with her.
Taking full advantage of my unthreatening beardlessness I started chatting to her mum, who was standing nearby holding her one year old. All very pleasant.
Now, one of the clearest lessons my role is teaching me is not to share my childcare theories with mums. It’s tempting: my views are in no way controversial and God knows I’m sure mums spend half their time swapping ideas on the subject. I just don’t think they really want some beardy guy, no matter who he is or what he does, telling them how he thinks the world of children works. For me it’s just chat, for them I suspect it’s like listening to their husband coming home in the evening and telling them exactly where he feels they are getting it all wrong.
Many, many slides later, when both girls have finally had enough, they run off towards the gift shop.
“Come on, let’s get some sweets” says friendly girl.
“No, that’s not a good idea” my daughter replies in a schoolmistressy tone.
"Very impressive" friendly girl’s mum exclaims, looking impressed.
“Well, you know – I just refuse point blank to buy her sweets” I half joke. (In fact my daughter prefers chocolate.)
Friendly girl’s mum’s face drops. She suddenly looks crestfallen and utterly miserable.
“Well, you know, sometimes you just have to give in, don’t you?” she responds, pleadingly.
“Yes, absolutely, of course, definitely, completely” I gush.
After an uncomfortable pause and sensing it is time to go we head off smartly for the car park. As we near the Prius I look over my shoulder and see friendly girl dragging a harried-looking mum towards the extensive sweet display.
I ruffle my daughter’s hair ruefully and strap her in her car seat.