There are lots of things about parenting that make me uncomfortable. Competitive baby comparisons at mothers’ group. The breast vs. bottle debate. Being asked to hold someone else’s child’s nappy sack while they just dash into the loo.
‘Just be a sec.’
But one of the main things that I can’t quite get to grips with is the playdate. From the very term “playdate” to the politics behind them. From the awkward organising, to the should-you-stay-or-should-you-go conundrum and the what-should-I-feed-someone-else’s-kid dilemma?
It’s like being back on the dating scene again. But without the wine. (Well, mostly.)
Give me a spontaneous can-Max-come-out-to-play knock on my door any day. But with three kids playdates are something I cannot escape. So when I see an article about how to have a successful playdate, I pay attention. Maybe I can learn something. Maybe there is a tip that makes the darn things less stressful and more relaxing.
Well it turns out there is. But unfortunately not the way I was hoping.
A recent series of articles and blog posts has blown my mind with just what lengths some parents go to for the playdate. You see it turns out I have been doing it all wrong. You don't just invite another child over and go browse Facebook, you need to participate.
You need to plan. You need to bake and create. You need to purchase glitter and glue, costumes and bunting. You need a theme.
I have read tips that recommend watching Martha Stewart videos, that advocate preparing areas for the child’s arrival. I've seen helpful suggestions like make-your-own-pizza dates and build-a-city dates. ( You just need lots of 'moving boxes' and 'markers' apparently.)
And many, many considerate recommendations for scavenger hunts, rainbow pasta jewellery stands and how to create ‘busy bags’ for the invitees.
Mums were urged to keep the children busy, to have craft stations set up and be prepared for a getting to know you game at the start of the ‘date’ to ease inhibitions.
Yep. All for a playdate.
Now, call me old fashioned but what ever happened to throwing the kids in the backyard, closing the door and hoping the child that isn’t yours returns unscathed?
Whatever happened to allowing them to create their own fun? Being bored and having to envisage ways to entertain themselves? Using their imaginations?
Our kids have forgotten how to play. They are so used to be scheduled and instructed and entertained that they haven’t a clue how to play by themselves. The minute they say they are bored on a car journey we stick an iPad in their face. The minute they say they are bored on a weekend we think up a fun and fascinating family adventure.
I think we need to vow to return to back to basics playdates. The anti-playdate. And here are my new rules I promise to instigate the very next time I have a child who isn't mine over to play. (Just after I sweep up all that rainbow coloured pasta).
My rules for an anti-playdate:
- Knock on my door sometime unscheduled. Say hi to ME. (Don’t just ask me for my WIFI password) and ask if my kids can play.
- Walk straight past the devices to the backyard and play out there. Pick up sticks, be loud, be noisy, wrestle. Make mud pies for fairies. Spray each other with a hose. Dance to songs you make up yourselves.
- Hell, climb a tree if you think your mother won’t mind. But do not ask me to assist you in your game. You are here to play with my child not me.
- If you want a snack ask me and I will give you an apple or a biscuit. I don’t cut up fruit for trays unless it's Christmas.
- If you are bored - use your imagination – think up a game - or go home. You are a kid you are meant to be bored.
- My oldest is of the age he can ride a bike, or play soccer in our cul-de-sac. Go. Be free, but come back before dark and don’t leave our street.
- If you want to play on a screen exhaust yourself first. Run, kick, jump, climb. And only then will I give you that Wi-Fi password.
Do you organise activities for playdates or do you leave your kids to it?