An Unfortunate Truth I've Noticed as the Owner of an Indoor Playground

An Unfortunate Truth I've Noticed as the Owner of an Indoor Playground

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’d like to first start off my saying this will not be my typical post detailing fun birthday parties or giving indoor-playground business advice. But this topic has been on my mind and in my heart for several months now, so I have to get this out. I’ll do my best to be brief.

I’d also like to preface this by saying that we at Climbing Vines Cafe and Play are so blessed to have an extremely kind, loyal, and respectful group of regular customers who do us the honor of visiting us weekly, and sometimes even daily. We love you. Thank you.

I feel so lucky, as the owner of this business, to have the chance to witness precious moments between parents and their children and also be a part of important life milestones like baby showers, first birthday parties, and more. I have witnessed babies take their first steps, I have celebrated newborns latching in public for the first time, and I have been a shoulder to cry on when an overwhelmed parent just needs a break. All of this brings incredible magic to my life and I feel grateful every day.

Side note: this post is also in NO WAY meant to be political.

Having said all that, as the owner of an indoor playground who hosts between ten and forty families daily (for the last 4 years!), I feel like I have seen and heard it all.

I often get a front-row seat to some of the power-struggles that inevitably ensue with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

And after four years, I have noticed something.

If a child is misusing a toy (whether intentionally or unintentionally) or another object in our facility, I have noticed that the way parents typically react nearly always falls into ONE of TWO schools of thought:

1) This thing does not belong to us, so that means we must be respectful and handle this thing with care

OR

2) This thing does not belong to us, so that means it is OK to be careless and handle this thing recklessly

Now, one more disclaimer before I dig into this. This is NOT directed at parents who do not clean up after their children at our facility. We are proud and honored to be a sanctuary where parents can bring their children for imaginative play and do not have to worry about running around tidying after them. We are happy to do that for you.

To give you an idea of the difference between “not tidying” and this “careless/reckless” behavior I mentioned, here are some phrases we hear on a DAILY (yes, daily) basis at our facility.

Real Phrase: “I didn’t buy that toy, so I don’t care if you stand/sit on it or throw/hit it.” (usually this is said right before a toy breaks).

Real Phrase: “This table is not at our house, so go ahead and color with marker on it.”

Real Phrase: “That’s not your book, so go ahead [and rip out that page]

Real Phrase: “Sure, eat and wipe your hands on that costume, I won’t be the one cleaning it”

And to reiterate, these are not uncommon. We hear iterations of these Every. Single. Day.

And this is not exclusive to kids’ behavior.

We have had cars smashed in the parking lot with no note, diapers flushed down the toilet causing thousands of dollars in damage, and furniture ruined by spilled coffee that no one alerted us to.

And don’t even get me started on the parents to signed waivers saying they would not bring in snacks with nuts and did anyway and tried to hide it-- causing us to downgrade from a nut-free facility for safety reasons.

I want to be clear here. It is in NO way my place to judge or teach parents how to handle their children. 

We simply provide the space for them to enjoy time together and do our best with our rules and policies to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable visit.

But here’s the thing.

That space, those toys, that plumbing-- all of that has been paid for out of my families pocket.

And yes, every customer pays admission.

But does that give everyone who enters the permission to destroy something that has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars and hours, and not to mention so much time, care, and love, to build?

This brings me to my point. It is neither my job, NOR my PLACE to tell parents how to raise their children. 

This isn’t even asking parents to teach their children to not break our toys on purpose (and I know it’s not the children throwing diapers down the toilets).

However-- to anyone who teaches their child that it is OK to be careless and even reckless with anything that is not theirs or does not affect them personally--

  • Do not be surprised when we as a society do not acknowledge a burning rainforest thousands of miles away

  • Do not be appalled when our leadership turns their backs to other families being separated 

  • Do not act shocked when our society feels entitled to bodies that are not their own “just because they paid for dinner/ drinks/ whatever”

  • Do not cry for change when our oceans are polluted from litter

Because the change HAS to start at home. With every family. With EVERY child.

If we are teaching our children that they should have an interest ONLY in their own selves and possessions, then we are to blame. We are the reason compassion in the world is dwindling.

Teaching this careless behavior can and will translate into all other areas of life. It won’t stop with breaking toys or books or toilets without regard. Those can all be replaced. And I replace them with a smile on my face (most of the time).

The planet, our fellow humans, the world’s wildlife-- they cannot. And they are counting on us.

Do you agree? Comment or let me know on instagram.