Wednesdays are playgroup day! We meet in one another's homes every other week, and we invade an outside location the weeks in-between. In the summer this is a no-brainer because there are so many parks and swimming pools to visit. In the winter, we rotate several indoor play gyms, playgrounds, children's museums or whatever they are calling themselves these days. These are choppier waters to navigate because it can be really hard to find one that everyone likes...in fact, it's impossible, that is why we rotate.
The place we visited this week would be a hands down favorite if it weren't about a half-an-hour drive for everyone in the group. There are a couple of things that make it worth the drive every couple months or so. For example:
1. It is all in one room with no visual obstructions.
2. It has a wide variety of activities, both physically active and quiet.
3. They specialize in sanitizing the environment as much as possible.
4. We are usually the only ones there.
5. AND...it is two miles from my husband's work.
Under other circumstances, that last criteria wouldn't matter. However, except for the time surrounding my pregnancy and delivery of my second child, I have always done the "administrative" tasks for the playgroup. This means that where we go during our "in-between" weeks is almost entirely at my whim.
Okay, time for some tedious background information. This play gym charges a fee for every adult and child. (Some places, only charge for the children.) The first time we attended I talked to the owner and explained that my husband worked nearby and he would like to stop by and see the kids play for 15 minutes over his lunch break. However, I was going to call him and let him know if he was going to be charged a fee for doing this. It would be a very expensive15 minutes otherwise. She was really supportive and said, of course, that there was no reason he couldn't stop in. That was the answer I expected to get considering I am
an example of the narcissism of my generation single-handedly responsible for inviting 26 paying customers to her establishment that day.
The last several times either my husband had a conflict those days or, in the case of the last time we played there, forgot to come. (You try explaining to two toddlers why they were not going to see Daddy after all after you talked it up all morning!) But, that last time I didn't know he was going to forget and asked her the same question I had the first time. She was very receptive, and as it turned out it was a non-issue.
So, here we are again. (I made sure this time I did NOT suggest to the children that Daddy was coming....just in case.) When we arrived I explained the situation. She, again, was supportive and said "oh, you've done that before, that's no problem." I paid the lady and as it happens she forgot to give me my change. By the time I realized it she was in the back room, I had my hands full, and decided it wasn't worth 50 cents to make her open the register again.
Apparently only Kal-El foresaw the impending crash (of wills).
Daddy arrived, as anticipated. I took advantage of his being there to run after the boys, to gossip with some of the other moms. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I notice the owner following him around and it looks like his in some kind of trouble. She was demanding that he pay the entry fee. He was handling it very nicely and reminding her of who he was, how long he would be there, etc., She was getting rather upset and really being nasty. So, I joined them and reminded her that I had talked with her about it in advance. She said, "He can come in to see the kids for 15 minutes, but he has to stand next to the door. If he passes the register, he has to pay. My husband would say 'If you breathe, you pay'."
I said very calmly and nicely, "I run the playgroup that is here today. Every other week I choose which play place we are going to visit. We have more than a dozen to chose from and this one is the longest drive. Some of us drove 45 minutes to get here today. There are 26 paying customers in my group that have the potential to attend whenever I schedule us to be here. One of the things that would motivate me to put you on our schedule instead of someplace closer is that my husband can stop in. If he has to pay to stop in for fifteen minutes he won't stop in and I will have less motivation to put you on the schedule. I wouldn't press the issue today, and would just pay and discuss this at another time except I checked with you when we arrived today and you said it was no problem. If you had told me it was a problem when I asked, I would have called him and told him that he couldn't come today"
Daddy playing "illegally" with Me Too
This of course ruined my husbands fifteen minutes with the kids. I wasn't able to get past it either because she came up to me three times in the next hour to harass me about it again. She argued that it isn't fair to other customers who are paying to get in. She said, "why should they have to pay and he can walk in right next to them and not pay?" I asked if anyone had complained about it, and the answer of course was "no." What Mom would argue with having the Dad be able to stop in and say "hi" at a playroom? She said, "what would I say if they said, 'can I bring a guest in with me too'? " I said, "you would say: Will your guest only be staying for fifteen minutes? Did you bring a dozen other paying customers with you on your referral? AND if their answers are 'yes' I suggest you let them bring their guest."
The kids had a good time despite any adult drama. Here is a picture of Me Too playing with his favorite toy of the day, an AMAZING parking garage, and blissfully unaware.
When we got home, of course, we were wondering if we are just total jerks. A lot of people would have just paid and not argued. For us it was a matter of principle. And ironically it was obviously a matter of principle for her as well. It IS her business and she can make any rules she wants. The problem for me is that she ran hot and cold on it, made us really uncomfortable, ruined the time we had there that I DID pay for. Regardless of whether or not we paid extra admission for this Wednesday, I was just trying to make her aware that she was making a bad business decision. Charging us for him to stop by was going to decrease her business considerably whereas letting it go would increase her business. Letting him peek in for 15 minutes is the cheapest advertising she would ever get.
I didn't remember that I had overpaid her anyway until I had left the parking lot.
So...I guess the burning question is "will we go back there?" Probably. Despite my glib statement that where we go is at my whim truthfully I schedule the group to go the places they like to go the best the most often. This particular establishment it on our rotation relatively rarely as it is because of its location. (HOW rarely that turns out to be is at my whim.) If it didn't have anything else to recommend it, I wouldn't put someplace so far away on our schedule at all. I'm sure none of the other moms care a whit about whether my husband can stop in or not. It won't be anytime too soon. A couple of moms are pretty irritated about how nasty the owner got with me and how she couldn't let it drop. One did say "I'm really mad about it, but I really liked that place!"