So apparently, sending out invites for Play Dates is a thing now. A card would save me the cringe-fest of saying the phrase out loud, I suppose, which totally makes my teeth itch. So twee! And it smacks of a type of hyper-scheduled, Alpha-parenting I'll never achieve.
'Can Sebastian come for a play date after Orchestra?'
'No can do, Veronica. He has Mandarin that day, then we all sit down for Family Meditation.'
But I guess the phrase is symptom of modern life. Today's parents work and worry more than previous generations, so even if we like the idea of spontaneous play, it's difficult to put into practise. Kids don't knock about together on the streets these days. All the playing happens behind closed doors.
Things inside are lot more complicated too. When I was a kid, having friends 'for tea' was just that. I don't remember any crafty activities or play-room envy. (Were play-rooms even a thing then?) Us kids would hang out in the garden, making 'perfume' from soggy petals while my mum whipped up the Angel Delight inside. Big thrills.
These days leaving the kids to it just doesn't cut it. Having a 'playdate' in the diary means it's an event, and an event needs entertainment.
The word 'playdate' also brings an element of judgement. When I think back to my single days, any 'date' no matter how casually arranged, always had high-steaks and the possibility of rejection. What if my son's chosen playmate doesn't want a second date? What if we don't? Awkward.
Still, like it or not, playdates are a part of school life I'll have to get my head round if I want my son to have any friends.
There are a few things you should know about playdates with us.
- Please know it isn't cute when your kid invites themselves back to ours like, NOW, with no warning at all. I haven't scanned the house for dirty nappies and dog fluff. Do you really want your child to do it for me?
- Know that if I have invited your child over, it's likely I've been stalking them for weeks. Not in a snobby way, honest. (I do my best to judge without being judgemental.) All I really want to know is that our kids genuinely get on, that my son's interest is reciprocated and there's some natural chemistry.
- I've probably indulged in a bit of light stalking around you too. Sorry! I'm not asking to be your new BFF, but it would be nice if we could pass the time while the kettle boils.
- Know that I've probably got an activity planned, but not in a 'Pinterest Parent' type way, honest. I won't be offended if your child tells me where to stuff my Play Doh. My son just plays better with a bit of a direction, somewhere to channel his nervous energy.
- I'm no Food Police. I can just about manage my own children's quirks (Bouncing Boy only eats cheese on Pizza. Baby Girl only eats it raw.) I'll do my best to encourage your child eat their Fish Fingers before their ice cream, but I'm not gonna get all Annabel Karmel about it. I'm not ashamed to admit I just want them to have fun and like us. #FunAuntyJude
- I don't mind if you want to dump and run, (you know how I feel about hosting) and genuinely hope you enjoy your few hours of freedom. Don't look back, sista.
- Please don't cancel at the last minute. It's likely I have been dangling the playdate carrot all day as a reward for good behaviour or something to cheer my son up in tricky moments. He's fizzing like shaken-up bottle of pop. Quite simply, I can't take the explosion alone.
- If we're lucky enough to score an invite back to yours, you'll be lumbered with me too, sorry. Call me a helicopter parent but I still shudder at the thought of leaving Bouncing Boy with anyone I don't know really well. He's not ready. Also, he's a messy eater, I'd rather it was me picking peas out of the carpet than you.
Sorry to sound like a total loon, but we're new to this playdate malarky. It's no child's play.
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