Sussex columnist: Being an embarrassing parent at a Lancing gymnastics club

​There’s always that one parent that likes to get involved at children’s parties or in kids’ play areas.​ And, full disclosure, that parent is usually me.
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Yes, I may be 39 (plus a couple of years) with hips and knees that could do with some WD40, but take me somewhere where there’s child-like fun to be had and I’m all in.

Worst of all for my children as they edge ever closer to the Kevin and Perry years, the older I get, the less I mind about embarrassing myself in the process.

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Which is why, last week, I could be found leaping about at Wickers Gymnastics Club in Lancing.

The biggest of big kids. Picture: Katherine HMThe biggest of big kids. Picture: Katherine HM
The biggest of big kids. Picture: Katherine HM

Don’t worry, I didn’t just gatecrash a session, my son had been invited to a party there.

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He seemed more than capable of navigating the gym equipment himself, but it seemed a shame for him to have all the fun alone. So I did suggest helping him by leaping into the foam pit with him…It’s a good job I don’t get too embarrassed about these things, as a grown woman trying to exit a foam pit does not an elegant picture make.

Foam pits are the gymnastics world’s equivalent of quicksand – the more you struggle to get out, the more those pesky blocks suck you back under.

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Fellow fun-seekers be warned – you are guaranteed to look like a flailing upside down beetle at some point, so if you don’t fancy that, then the foam is not for you.

But even with the perils of losing your socks (do all foam pits have 3ft of lost socks at the bottom?) and irrational fears around being stuck in the foam forever weren’t enough to put me off.

In fact, I wanted more. So, when the children were out of the way enjoying their party lunch boxes around the corner, you may or may not have found me and another mum racing each other across the bouncy sprung floor to run and jump into the foam pit and race each other across it. So. Much. Fun.

And it’s not just gymnastics clubs where I like to get involved.

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I almost got stuck in a tunnel slide when we visited Hever Castle a few weeks ago. I had to shout up to the children waiting at the top not to come down yet, until I’d executed a fairly undignified squeaky shuffling motion to extricate myself.

At any playpark, I’ll always wiggle and jiggle my thighs until I’m wedged into a swing enough that I can have a go.

Theme park rides – I’m there for them, too. Squeezing myself into the Jungle Jeeps and Hippobus at Drusillas. Taking a spin on the carousel and other small rides at Paultons Park. Count me in for all of it.

There’s just one experience I don’t want to repeat. I can’t remember exactly where it was, maybe Longleat, maybe Knockhatch, maybe somewhere else (maybe the memory is so traumatic I’ve tried to block it out?!).

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Anyway, I was in an outdoor play area with my children, themed like a castle. It had exterior rope tunnels that allowed you to climb up to the next level around the outside of the play structure.

Looks fun, I thought, so in I went. But I was wrong. Very wrong.

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It started okay, I guess, but as I reached the halfway point, I realised my back was seizing up and I just couldn’t keep bending the way I needed to to keep going. To make matters worse, some children started coming towards me in the wrong direction, but there was literally nowhere for me to move to let them pass.

As I recall the whole nightmare now, I’m actually sweating a bit. I had no idea how I was going to get myself out of the tricky predicament of my own making.

Just short of having a panic attack, and likely with many adults watching the crazy lady stuck in the children’s play structure, safe from their sensible position at ground level, I managed to summon the energy to crouch down and drag my knees painfully across the unforgiving ropes to haul myself out of there.

Afterwards, I was a broken woman, both physically and metaphorically. But one blip won’t put me off of joining in the fun with my children whenever I can.

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​You’d think my children would love a mummy who’s willing to join in, but when we visited Legoland a couple of weeks ago, both of them, on every single ride, wanted to sit next to daddy ‘because he’s more fun’. Typical!

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