Whenever I’m with my children at one of those germ-infested, indoor play centers – the ones where hordes of snotty-nosed kids run around like wild animals and every 90 seconds there’s a meltdown – I close my eyes and fantasize about leaving my kids there, if only for an hour or two. I’d grab a latte and read the paper in total silence (or, better yet, sit in my car and play Words With Friends). But then reality hits and I go back to being Mother Of The Year – shrieking, tantrums and all.
Not so for some parents, who really do leave their children unsupervised while they go shopping or run errands or, in some cases, head to work. According to a Herald Sun investigation, these parents – based in Victoria, Australia – are sneaking off and leaving their kids unattended for hours. It’s a disturbing trend that has police, social services and play-center staff concerned.
“I would say one in five parents try to sneak off,” Docklands Monkey Mania center supervisor Lesley Salazar told the Herald Sun. Police can confirm this. They told the paper they’ve been called in by at least four centers because children were left alone for several hours. One of them, a 2-year-old boy, managed to wander off after being left unsupervised by his mother for more than two hours (thankfully, a neighboring car wash attendant returned him to the center).
To be clear, we’re not talking about daycare centers here. We’re referring to indoor play centers, where parents are expected to stay with their children and keep an eye on them (to put it into perspective, it would kind of be like leaving your child alone at Chuck E. Cheese). It’s getting so bad that many centers told the Sun they’ve had to monitor entries and exits to stop parents from leaving without children. (Can you imagine?)
Of course, they’re putting their children’s safety at risk, and it’s also a big liability issue for the play centers. One center worker said she’s seen parents leave their children there with the expectation that they’ll walk home on their own (she personally drove one them home herself).
What’s sad, beyond the obvious, is that some parents are using play centers as an alternative to daycare. According to Community Childcare spokesperson Barbara Romeril, the phenomenon is proof that parents are struggling to find suitable and affordable care for their young children.
(Photo: Ryan McVay)