Bloody play dates. Yes, yes… I understand the benefits. They learn to interact, cooperate and collaborate. They grow socially, intellectually and physically… blah, blah, blah de blah. These are all marvelous when your child is ‘socially developing’ around someone else’s house but we all know that the day will come when you have to return the favor.
In the baby days, the Play date came with a parent. You would sit, drink coffee, eat biscuits and moan about life. The Play date would largely wail and whine at their parent and a large proportion of it involved asking your child to ‘share’ their toys nicely and to stop hitting/biting/screaming at their friend. It came with its own set of pain and stress but at least there were two adults to supervise the ordeal.
These days I have to go it alone. I spend most of the day hoping that they will cancel or simply forget. I avoid sending any reminders and wait for the fateful “still ok for the play date tonight?” text before I make any move. It’s then a mad rush to clean the house, organised the toys and consider ‘fun activities’ for the afternoon. Well, if we are going to do this, it needs to be the best it can be. I don’t want the boys to be accused of being boring / untidy / lame. I feel twitchy and arrive at school about 15 minutes earlier than usual to make sure all are present and correct. I am already exhausted.
Arriving home I am on edge and hover unnecessarily over their shoulder. I am extra smiley and mild mannered and my children seem concerned. They ask me if I am feeling ok as ‘you’re not normally like this’. All the normal house rules are thrown out of the window in the need to please and placate. Another bag of crisps, of course! A bar of chocolate, go on then. Haha, what a funny swear word, although I would rather you didn’t use that in our house (I gulp back the nerves – there has to be some limits!).
They disappear upstairs and literally get every toy/game out of the cupboard and dump it on the floor. Within 2 minutes they are back downstairs complaining that they are bored and hungry. ‘Where’s the Playstation?’ they ask. I feel a pang of guilt as my son explains they aren’t allowed one. The Playdate looks astonished and mildly uncomfortable. I over compensate by smiling and laughing for no reason as I ask whether Boy 1 has shown Play date the cats. They dash off, brandishing their foam swords. Lord, let them live.
Food is always a dilemma. You want them to eat, you want it to be easy, you do not want to have to suffer the humiliation of your food being thrown back at you with a look that says ‘yuck!’. However, it needs to have enough ‘healthy’ elements that the Play dates mum thinks you are a responsible parent with wonderful cooking skills. They are hard to correlate. I settle on ‘homemade’ pizza with vegetables hidden in the topping. A few cucumber sticks and a plate of grapes and we are good to go. I linger near the table, wondering whether I have to supervise or can have 5 minutes on Facebook. I settle on a strained conversation about their school day as I nibble on the left over cold pizza. They all get served ice cream despite Play date having barely touched his food. My ‘no treats unless you eat your dinner’ rule is ignore. Boy 1 seethes at the injustice.
I clock watch like never before. Still an hour to go before pick up and we are all clean out of ideas. Can we watch telly? I hesitate. Television is, of course, the answer but, the whole point of a play date is to surely ‘play’? I know I should say no and produce a creative craft activity. What would their parent think if I park them in front of the TV for last hour? In the time it has taken to deliberate, the TV is already on and a general argument has broken out about what to watch. I decide to hide in the bedroom with a chocolate biscuit and leave them to it.
I re-emerge at pick up time looking as relaxed and perky as possible.
“Yes, all was fine”. “Yes, they ate lots of dinner”. “Yes, they were a pleasure to have”. “Yes, it would be lovely to do it again soon”. The relief as they leave the house smiling and waving is overwhelming. Job done, everyone survived, no need to repeat for a few weeks. The euphoria sees me through the two hour clean-up operation.
OK, so the boys had a great time and it was quite nice to have another little force of energy in the house. I will continue to reciprocate the occasional playdate but just not too often.