We have another new columnist, ‘Mothership’ who is our Brit mum based in the USA raising ‘foreign’ kids, and this week she takes us through the agony and the surprise of the ‘playdate’…
‘Four’ recently invited a friend over for a playdate.
The other child was going to spend a weekday afternoon with us and Four excitedly planned all kinds of activities for the two of them, most of which made me want to stab myself in the eye with a blunt pencil due to the high mess factor involved, but I smiled gamely and helped her get ready.
Now donâ€™t get me wrong, I am glad that she is a social success. I want her to have friends and feel happy and comfortable in the presence of others unlike her mother who would rather skulk in a dark room with only the computer for company. However I am not always enchanted at the actual fact of having to supervise the playdate itself. Even the term â€˜playdateâ€™ is slightly nauseating with its precocious implications of complicated appraisal and courtship.
When I was a girl (admittedly LAST CENTURY) we had people â€˜over to playâ€™ or â€˜round to teaâ€™, but these days it seems much more complex. The kids might still play the same old games â€“ goodies and baddies, spilling food and grinding it into the carpet etc. But now, as the term implies, there is definitely an element of social sizing-up that occurs between the mothers before a couple of four year olds are allowed to play with a dollhouse together. Whatâ€™s even more alarming, it now appears that one may have to have the mum along as well on a kind of â€˜double playdateâ€™.
For me, the chief bonus of having another child in the house is that it causes mine to lose interest in forcing me to play endless games of â€˜Talk Teddyâ€™ with her, but with a Mom Chaperone this benefit is entirely lost because you have to endure a Spanish inquisition-like grilling on your parenting style/food allergy/guru preference while anxiously looking around hoping that she will not step in the Weetabix the one year old threw on the floor that morning or spot the empty vodka bottle loitering by the crusty blender from last nightâ€™s daiquiri-fest . This being California, the probing is all done in a very relaxed, have-a-nice-day sort of way, but make no mistake: If you put one organic, gluten-free foot wrong you will be put on the PTA blacklist sooner than you can say â€œTofu smoothieâ€ (note. It has just occurred to me that this may actually come in handy for avoiding meetings).
I just couldnâ€™t face an afternoon of Momtertaining. I was going to have to spend most of my time forcibly preventing One from interfering with the girls anyway â€“ he would be trying to muscle in on their fairy dressing up sessions (he loves a good tiara) and they would be trying to push him down the stairs â€“ so I really didnâ€™t have the time to sit around telling fibs about my holistic approach to parenting. Itâ€™s not like she wasnâ€™t going to see through me anyway.
This particular childâ€™s mother is one of those perfectly groomed, skinny jeaned, Ugg wearing, California Neo-Hippy-Mamas who look like they can afford to eat lobster every day but wouldnâ€™t consider it as they only eat one bean sprout for each meal.
They were due to arrive any minute.
How could I get rid of her?
Serve her something that had actual calories in it?
Say Iâ€™m ideologically opposed to yoga?
â€œTheyâ€™re here! Theyâ€™re here!â€ shrieked Four excitedly.
The little girls immediately abandoned us to run inside and play, One hot on their heels. This left we two mothers standing awkwardly alone to make pleasantries. Finally I said, grudgingly â€œWonâ€™t you come in and have some tea?â€
There was a pause. Then she said
â€œActually, would you mind terribly if I left her here with you? I mean, if youâ€™re okay with it. Iâ€™d just love to have an hour or two alone.â€
Oh my God! Sheâ€™d turned out to be human, just like me! She wasnâ€™t a perfect Stepford zombie who wanted to spend every waking hour with the kids or talking about them. I couldnâ€™t believe it. This was a first! I loved her!
â€œOf course, please! Yes! Go ahead, just come back in a couple of hours, theyâ€™ll be fineâ€
So after exchanging mobile phone numbers she skipped off happily down the driveway for her tiny slice of freedom. And you know what? I was kind of sorry to see her go.
Mothership is a former pop star, singer, composer, and writer from London who was abducted by aliens (a German one who promised chocolates and a cleaning lady) and brought to southern California to live in a small town by the sea with her son ‘One’ and daughter ‘Four’. Keep up with her escapades on her blog, Motherhood: The Final Frontier