When we play, we are more like our children than we know. Here are the universal characters that pop up at both the playgroup and the pub.
Kid version- Sobbing is her middle name. So in tune with her emotions that even happy things, like fluffy bunnies and colourful rainbows, mean that tears slide down her plump little cheeks. But get on the wrong side of Little Miss Emotional and you will know about it. The next door neighbours will know about it. Everyone will know about it because it doesn’t rain, it pours. Wailing, howling and sobbing because Bernard took what was not rightfully his (give the guy a break , Bernard is a dog). Do NOT accidentally step on her toe. You will regret it for the rest of your natural life.
Adult version- A few too many Pinots and she’s everyone’s best friend. She ‘dings’ her glass, stands on her chair and makes emotional and heartfelt speeches about people she met 10 minutes previously. Did she mention that she ‘lurrrrves’ you? Don’t feel special, she just told the taxi driver the same thing. The more she puts away the less able she is to channel this emotion positively. Suddenly she’s wailing and howling on the dance floor about something ‘you just don’t understand’. You agree (although you did also smash your iPhone once and didn’t react quite so hysterically). Sidle away slowly. Do NOT accidentally step on her toe. You will regret it for the rest of your natural life.
The One who won’t leave
Kid version- Her fingers have to be prised off the park railings one by one because she ‘don’t wanna go home’. She can sniff hometime a mile off and takes the opportunity to camouflage herself in the fancy dress box at whoever’s house you are at, or scale the climbing frame and refuse to be talked down. You’ve done your homework, you’ve seen how Supernanny manages this shiz but you can be spouting 5 minute warnings and counting down from 3 until you are blue in the face, this one is not coming without a fight.
Adult version- Her fingers have to be prised off the nightclub railings one by one (by the bouncer) because she ‘don’t wanna go home’. She makes inappropriate suggestions of late night clubs or casinos to ‘get this party started’ despite the fact that it is 3am and everyone else has been ready to go home since midnight. She has never located her off switch so once she’s out, she’s out and she’s in it for the long haul. Everyone else is ‘BORING’ and she just wants ‘one more songgggg’. She is still dancing when the lights are on and the glasses are being cleared away. The DJ has refused to play any more music so she is gyrating to to the tinny sounds of her iPhone whilst her friends wait patiently by the door with her coat and bag.
The One who is a bit too old
Kid version– She’s a September baby, not at school yet and tall for her age so sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all the toddlers at the playgroup. People mistake her for a helper and when they realise she’s a child awkwardly offer her a beaker of juice and a biscuit. She doesn’t really fit into any of the play cars any more but she gives it a damn good go and eventually manages it with a leg dangling out. She is desperately proud of being the oldest one there ‘I’m four and a half you know’. We know. We can tell.
Adult version- She may have previously been ‘the one who won’t leave’ and just hung around for longer than everyone else. Like, 60 years longer. She is mistaken for a parent coming to collect their teenager at the underage night at the local club and when people realise she’s actually there for a ‘boogie’ they awkwardly offer her a shot and a line. She dances enthusiastically and is desperately proud of being the oldest one there ‘I’m 84 you know dear’. We know. We can tell. (When we grow up we want to be like you).
The Discerning One
Kid version- You have to elbow the other playgroup mums out the way at snack time because you just know that your child must have the blue beaker and the chocolate cookie. You didn’t make it. Gulp. The lady who runs the playgroup can be as enthusiastic as she likes about the last remaining biscuit (pink wafer) but that is not going to wash with this kid. Hell, if it’s not the right brand of cookie she’ll notice. You silently pray to whatever God you believe in that ‘the wheels on the bus’ will be part of the musical repertoire today as they forgot to sing it last week and she noticed. She noticed big time. Even an enthusiastic rendition of ‘Sleeping bunnies’ didn’t distract her. You hate yourself as you take the leader of playgroup to one side and ask that they please remember to sing ‘the wheels on the bus’ in order to placate your discerning accomplice.
Adult version- You have had to leave more restaurants than you’ve had hot dinners (in said restaurants for sure). The meat is not cooked right and the gin tastes off. Hell, if it’s not the right brand of gin she’ll notice. If the music in the club is not to her taste then you’ll have to leave. No matter that everyone has just paid for the cloakroom and got themselves a drink. 90’s music is soooo passé. If it’s not electro funk it’s not good enough. Specifically electro funk from 1977. I’m not sure either. No idea where this music will be played but looks like you are going to visit every establishment in walking distance to check. You hate yourself as you take the DJ to one side and ask that they dig out some 1977 electro funk from the archives in order to placate your discerning accomplice.
The Cautious One
Kid version- This kid loves a rule. The only thing ‘The Cautious One’ loves more than rules is if someone has broken the rules so they can report immediately back to you. Turns out they don’t notice that you couldn’t give a flying duck that Osmond is climbing up the slide so you have to half heartedly try to sort it out. ‘The Cautious One’ will always avoid the ‘rough’ kids (you know, the kids who are actually enjoying themselves and acting like kids) and will attach themselves to the person they believe to be the ‘sensible adult in charge’. Luckily, this is rarely you. ‘The Cautious One’ takes no unnecessary risks, such as climbing up the ‘high slide’ at soft play, and will therefore often be found in age inappropriate areas hanging out with babies.
Adult version– The taxis are booked weeks in advance, she’s requested background history checks for the doormen and she has completed a risk assessment in advance of your night out. She doesn’t speak to strangers so has perfected her charade for a martini. It’s pretty elaborate signing as is unfortunately not covered by Mr Tumble on Something Special (“you sign- maaarrrttiinnnii”) so you just go ahead and order for her. She is constantly on the look out for danger and often alerts you when she feels like the men you are speaking to are a bit ‘dodgy’. You thank her for her concern but point out that you are, in fact, talking to your husband.
So I guess the next time we complain about how our children are behaving when they are playing we have to think back to how we behaved last time we were ‘playing’. The very hands that complain about prising children away from the park may be the same hands that were refusing to put their wine glass down and leave the pub at the weekend. And I know that for a fact because those hands belong to me. Now roll on the next 15 years so we can be the last girls standing together. She’ll still be ‘the one who won’t leave’ and I can be ‘the one who is a bit too old’ and we can finally play happily ever after.