A few weeks ago now I visited a local indoor play centre. We are lucky enough to have two large ones within a 15 minute drive of our house and I probably don't use them enough as Mini Cheddar loves them.
They are never overly busy either, in fact once we had one of them to ourselves once.
I'll often go with a friend but sometimes Mini Cheddar and I like to go just the two of us. I love seeing her face light up as she realises where we are going and her excited shrieks and eagerness to get inside. She desperate to get her shoes off and start exploring and I love to join her on the bigger equipment and slide down the huge blue wavy slide together.
This particular day there were probably about 5 or 6 other Mums and Dads there with their children. A couple together but most on their own. Mini Cheddar and I went off to explore the 'big kids' area.
As we were playing a little girl approached us, not much older than MC (I'd say she was about 3 years old). She came right up to me and almost pushed MC out of the way. "Can I play with you?" she said holding up her hand to try and grab mine.
"Where's your Mummy sweetie?" I asked
"She's too busy to play"
"Are you here with your Daddy?" I replied, thinking Mummy was maybe at work.
"No, I'm here with Mummy. She's just too busy".
This little girl then proceeded to follow Mini Cheddar and I around the play centre all morning.
I didn't hold her hand, even though every part of me wanted to but I was conscious she didn't know me and that, essentially, she'd be holding hands with a stranger.
I felt awful about it.
All this little girl wanted was to play with an adult through the large and sometimes daunting maze of steps and slides.
As we all went down the big slide together, the little girl waved and shouted "Hello Mummy!"
I noticed a woman reading some trashy novel look up from her cappuccino. She forced a fake smile and returned to her book.
Later on, Mini Cheddar and I headed back to our table to get some lunch and the little girl ran over to her Mummy "Mummy, come play with us, it's fun" it she excitedly.
"I'm busy, go play by yourself and don't be annoying other people" came the reply, hardly looking up from her book.
I saw the disappointed look on the little girls face and I just wanted to give her a cuddle.
I haven't been back to the centre since. The memory of that little girls face still stays with me.
I'm not saying I'm perfect. I'm not saying I devote 100% of my attention to MC 24/7. I'm not saying there aren't times when I'm busy. I'm not saying that sometimes I will let the TV babysit MC for 20 minutes whilst I grab a break.
However, I'm not in the habit of letting strangers babysit my daughter.
This woman knew that her daughter had tagged along with us playing. For me, that would have been the point when I would have put my book down and given my daughter the adult attention she needed.
MC and I will return the play centre and I'll continue to play with her as much as she needs.
I just hope I'm there in the capacity of a Mummy and not as a Nanny too.