All hail the play-date!

Hey guys, I’m back!

So much has changed since I last wrote here. I got a new job! Boy 1 is now The Teen. The Toddler is now in junior school. The Girl is 5. America is governed by a circus peanut!

Seeing as we’re all caught up, I can get down to the serious business of parenting chat. Now that my kids are older, I have discovered the joy of play-dates. I don’t really remember The Teen having them when he was Boy 2’s age. Maybe it wasn’t a thing in East London at the time. Maybe I was so mired in dealing with a baby that was unreasonably demanding that I’ve blocked entire years from my brain. Actually, I do remember one. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I took Baby Boy 2 to the cat rehoming centre and we got two kittens. 

Play-dates have become a fixture of our lives now. Like any other cynical asshole parent, I mocked them. ‘Why’s it called a play-date? What loser kid needs his parent to arrange a meeting to play with other kids? Huh, when I was a kid, we’d just play at our friend’s houses!’ (I never played at other kids’ houses nor did they play at mine. Not only was I a cynical asshole, I was a liar as well.) Everything about play-dates annoyed me. It seemed yet another middle-class, needlessly complicated part of modern parenting.

Play-dates start off like this: your child breathlessly rushes in from school or after-school care and tells you all about their Very Best Friend. You know all about the games they played, their favourite foods, their pets’ names. As any parent knows, kids change best friends more often than Donald Trump changes his positions on everything. However, there comes a time when you hear one particular name. The stories about this kid become more and more fantastical. (“Joe has a trampoline that can bounce to the moon. I wish I could go to Joe’s house!”) It’s time to consider a play-date.

Play-dates are generally arranged by casually accosting the parent on the playground. While your children are practically tethered to each other, you have no idea who the parents are. Boy 2 usually trots on to his section the playground without giving me a second glance. His schoolmates’ parents could be emus for all I know. You are now in the position of looking for a person that vaguely looks like your kid’s friend.*  If you’re lucky, your kid will point out the parent. Usually, they’ve run off to play with their bestie, leaving you to look around like you’ve been stood up on a date. Finally, you locate the parent and you have a conversation that goes something like this.

“Hi! Joe and Jack really get along, don’t they? Jack never stops talking about Joe. Hey, why don’t we get them together to play soon?”

You are talking and walking so quickly (because you both have stuff to do and you’re speaking awkwardly to someone you don’t know) that you nearly don’t hear them say “sure.” You exchange numbers promise to text soon. You both realise you don’t know each other’s names. You put “Joe’s Mum” into your phone. You are likely in her phone as “Jack’s Dad.”

Sending those texts is a minefield. You want to sound friendly and casual, but not overly familiar. Do you use emojis? Do I put an ‘x’ at the end of the text?! I can’t kiss Joe’s Mum! You send a polite, emoji-free text with no kisses. You receive a polite, emoji-free text with a kiss. You fret over whether you are a rude ass for not putting a kiss in your text. The date is chosen and you’re relieved.

Boy 2 had his first on about a month ago at our home. I did the regular checks: allergies, food preferences, any health issues. Once we were clear, Boy 2’s best friend, a Pixar cute little boy in a knit hat came over with Pokemon cards. He and Boy 2 shot upstairs and played. They played with The Girl. The Teen played with them for a bit. They sat in the top bunk and read. 

It was bliss. I’m telling you, I was never more relaxed. There was no bickering, no tattling, no “he’s breathing on me!”. I got housework done. I watched what I wanted on TV. I drank hot tea. They just wanted drinks and Haribo. Pixar Kid never took off his hat.

I’m a convert to play-dates. I’ll enthusiastically host them. Will they all go as well this one? Possibly not. There’s always going to be some kid that is a little bratty, may break something,  will cry or something similar. (It could your kid!) Despite those risks, play-dates are worth it- if only for the hot tea and the chance to watch Judge Judy in peace.
*The Girl look nothing like me. She has her father’s entire face. 


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