You know what’s most surprising about those years your beloved little person starts school?
You haven’t met this many new people since YOU started school.
Suddenly, you’re the one at the school gate who’s walking away, and there are whole new set of rules to learn.
What you quickly work out is that, when it comes to the politics of the school gate, it isn’t actually you who makes the calls about who “we” will be friends with, and who “we” won’t. It’s the kids. If little Tommy likes little Abby then you and Abby’s mum had better get along, or it’s going to be a VERY long year.
The kids don’t care how their parents feel about Abby’s parents. The kids just want you to leave them alone to play. They just want to be free to hang out and play, to just be, and they need a home to do it in.
Wherever your kids are on the schooling ladder, what matters to them (and their brains, according to many experts) is that somewhere in their busy schedules of piano practice, Chinese lessons, soccer Saturdays and homework, homework, homework, they get time to get out of our sight and get dirty, to rumble and play and generally behave like a pair of boisterous puppies.
Meanwhile, the grown-ups are tying themselves in knots stressing out about playdates. There are some parents who are very, very good at playdates. They always seem to have something warm and wholesome coming out of the oven, the art supplies are already laid out on the tables, an afternoon of improving activities is already planned, followed by a nutritionally-balanced dinner, right on time.
"They just want to play and your place is just a space to do it in." Image. iStock.
And then there are the rest of us. The ones who worry, just a little, about what our play date says about us.
If that's you, you'll find this list familiar. But just remember, all of these stresses are all about you. The kids? They just want to play and your place is just a space to do it in.
It was a big one for you, sending out that text message, ‘Dear... damn, what’s her name??? My phone only says Abby’s mum!!!.... "Would Abby like to come over and play with Tommy on Saturday afternoon? You’re welcome to stay, of course, but it’s fine if you’ve got things to do.” (Please don’t stay, please don’t stay, I’ve got a work presentation to write, and I really don’t know you well enough for two solid hours of conversation).
Press send. Cross fingers.
It's all good. She’ll drop and run.
It’s also best to prepare for every possible eventuality including the icky things kids can share between each other. Nits, worms, bugs and sniffles – preparation (and treatment on hand) is key. Inevitably, kids can share everything from toys to germs to worms, from physical contact during playtime. Lots of disinfectant and hand sanitiser can help, especially before tea time. If they happen to catch worms, having those deworming chocolate squares handy will be helpful, and save you the after bedtime pharmacy run.
2. Catering angst.
Uh-oh. Allergies. Everyone’s got one these days. Where’s that recipe for nut-less, flourless, dairy-less carob cookies? Yes, they’re tasteless too, but at least you won’t be responsible for hospitalising anyone. Better to be a rubbish cook than... Yes, you're right, maybe you should just shop-buy.
Sugar is no longer the go to for a play date lunch. Image: Sony.
It's all good, they devour every last one, grabbing them out of each other's hands and shoving them into their gaping grins.
3. The big clean.
You stand back and look at your house, as if through the eyes of a stranger. You know the kids spend most of the time on the floor, sharing toys, books, screens and tasteless cookies. How clean IS that floor? You’re sure you mopped it last week. LAST MONTH? Okay, better mop the floor.
It's all good, you needn't have bothered. Ten minutes after arrival there are grubby handprints all over your clean lino, and puddles of spilled drink, paint and... not sure what that is.
Your like Snow White without the help of cute forest animals. Image: Disney.
4. The fear.
Oh no, the doorbell goes and ABC For Kids is on. What if Abby's mum doesn't allow screen time? What if we think MTV videos are harmless, but Abby's mum thinks they're the devil? What if my tasteless cookies aren’t good enough? What if she thinks my charming pink plastic mugs are BPA-poison?. What if, what if...?
It's all good. Abby's mere presence distracts your boy from ABC2 within seconds.
5. And then: The fun.
That moment when you realise that every insecurity that you have as an adult, about your clean house, about your gluten-free snacks, is nonsense. Because at that moment your child sees their friend, and they can't believe that they are IN MY HOUSE!
For them, the playdate was about nothing more than spending time with their buddy, not impressing them by the size of their home, or the tastelessness of their snacks. The kids are making their own fun, buzzing at the pleasure of having one of their mates enter their own little world, see their "stuff", charge about their garden, play that questionable game in the bathroom that makes you wish you'd mopped there, too.
Kids just want to have fun. Image: Giphy.com
It's definitely all good. Your house is ringing with laughter. Your boy is whooping and laughing like you haven't heard for weeks. Why did you put this off?
6. The mess.
Oh. The mess. Small kids share everything through physical contact, from hugs and bugs to worms and germs to wrestles and play-dough. There is no greater sign of a successful play date than a very, very messy house. And one strange, pinkish stain that you just can't seem to get off the lounge.
It's all good. Life's too short for a clean house when happy children are around.
7. The long goodbye.
The kids don't want to leave each other. They are hugging and kissing like it's going to be months - rather than hours - until they are reunited at the school gates. Prying them apart might just be the toughest job of the day.
The long goodbye. Image: Universal.
It's all good, the farewell hugs turn into a rugby tackle on the carpet, the bond is broken.
8. The clean up.
Next time, you think to yourself, we'll just go to the playground.
Only, you know you won't.
It's all good.
What are your play date experiences?
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