The kids can see their friends at school, correspond via video game, or meet at a neutral venue that isn’t MY house. Time to return their whingeing, snotty-nosed BFF back to his five brothers , where he can redistribute germs, break HIS mom’s recliner sofa and leave a freshly deposited poo in HIS own recently bleached toilet.
I guess it was when I found a nit-infested nine-year-old boy (not mine) in my now broken washing basket wearing a pair of my thrush-encrusted belly busters (mine) on his head that I decided to ban the playdate.
On that particularly testing occasion – entertaining two of my own and two belonging to friends – the hide and seek casualties also included the total decimation of a row of carefully ironed shirts and a near journey to A&E when a human marble rolled down the stairs following a tug-o-war over a lone Wii remote.
The ketchup on my cream dining curtains and the barrage of interruptions while I was trying to work , “he’s lost all my saves on Zombie Battle Eight!” did little to ease the damage. My fine thread of sanity had been snapped by a pack of maurading Year 5s.
Although the name sure sounds like fun, why would any sane adult willingly surrender their home to such destruction and chaos? But thems the rules: the kids like it and you get to make a deposit into the reciprocol mom favour box.
If you can endure the rampant, masticated toddler years and the fear of finding a three-year-old sucking a plug socket like a Haribo, then you’ve survived.
I’d had some pretty challenging playdates up to the point of the washing basket incident:
- The friend who came to tea – with his baby brother. “Do you mind watching Harvey too?” said mom, as she fled to John Lewis. “The spare nappy’s in the changing bag.”
- Spoilt Bastard from Viz, who insisted that I swaddle him in a fleece blankie, while he commanded that my children furnish him with Lego and Oreos
- The biting. His mother said, “He’s never bitten anybody before, sorry!” The child said, “But Mommy, I bited Sally last week and she had to get a Tebatnus needle.”
So why, after a good six years of feeding, cleaning and chauffering, was I still barricaded in the kitchen, repeating, “what goes on upstairs stays upstairs”?
Beaten into submission, I decided that didn’t need the stress or the mess and that we would meet friends off-site, where everything is made of foam.
Ten reasons to ban the playdate
- It always ends in tears. Theirs. Yours. Initial tranquil play descends into anarchy and noises so high pitched that even the dog de-camps for the afternoon
- Pay it forward. Their parents take your reasonably behaved child just once, in exchange for you suffering little Chucky, every week for the rest of your life
- Feeding the five thousand. One ransacks your fridge and contaminates your emergency éclair, while the others demand you re-visit Iceland for more fish fingers
- Something gets trashed
- Somebody always gets hurt
- The Germinator. Mother neglects to tell you Susie’s gone viral. The next day you’re throwing a sickie and your whole family’s barfing up, Exorcist style
- The meter’s running. When will the clock watching end? Why has that two hour playdate morphed into a four hour torture session of back-to-back Cartoon Network?
- The stalking dread. You must follow them around the house in anticipation of a narrow miss with that valuable vase or chocolate fingerprints on walls
- She’s Lost Control Again. Your own children are aware of your tipping point and you may be able to control them with threats or bribes, but telling other people’s children off is a very sticky subject
- Breeding contempt. If you wanted more children than hands, then you would have registered as a child minder or Kerry Katona