Play dates. There’s a word I never heard before 2008. In my day you went to play at a friend’s house, but now it has it’s own ‘brand’. There are two types of play dates that I have experienced, the one where the mums comes too and the one where you drop your child off and pray to the great mother in the sky that said child will behave nicely, share well and eat their food without sulking, throwing it across the room or demanding more ketchup.
Of course in the latter case most mums are far too polite to tell you if your child has displayed any of those characteristics, instead they will say:
“Oh they played really nicely, yes lovely, right let’s get her coat and boots and you can be off.” (she was a total nightmare, the afternoon was an unmitigated disaster and please so kind as to never darken my door again.)
Or they might be genuine. Since in my experience my children are models of perfect behaviour when they are with Other People, it’s me they reserve their inner devil for. Which in a way is a compliment I guess and as the parenting books say it means they feel ‘safe’ enough to act like that. Which is a good thing, I suppose, although I’d rather not be such a pushover.
Then there’s the play date where the mum stays. Of course this opens a whole new can of worms particularly if, like me, you like to let kids get on with playing without too much interference. If your counterpart is of a similar mindset then it’s all fine and you can chat and drink tea and eat biscuits surreptitiously so the kids don’t see, intervening only when a fight breaks out. If they aren’t then it’s, well let’s just say it’s different.
But whichever type of play date it is the bit that has the potential to unravel into total disaster is the going home part. A tired child who’s been playing all afternoon has enough sugar and adrenaline running through their veins to completely transform into the type of Verouka Salt child you always hoped you’d never have. Shouting rudely at you, then (and I shudder in embarrassed horror) at their host’s mother, tears, screaming, running away the whole shebang. Heaven help you at this point.
You will appear to have no control over your child, which you don’t clearly, and what has probably been a nice afternoon ends badly. You leave muttering profuse apologies and if you have enough perspective on these things then you chalk it up to experience and pray to the great mother in the sky that this, like so many other things, will get easier.
Because it will, won’t it? Of course it will.