My single friends complain about bad dates and the shortage of available men. I find it hard to relate to their experiences because dating is so far in my past I was still using old-fashioned letters to write to my overseas boyfriend when I was last courting.
But now that I’ve turned into a parent I’ve come to the realization that playdates can be just as awful as sitting through a meal with a man who only talks about himself and doesn’t listen to you. Or one who has bad table manners.
I don’t know when the word ‘playdate’ entered a parent’s vocabulary, but it seems to be the thing to do with children who have more active social lives than some adults. I was initiated into playdates some years ago when my toddler did nothing more active than sit on a floor and bang tupperware.
But as she’s got older, her playdates have progressed from an hour or two in someone’s house to hosting entire afternoons with cackling girls who need entertaining and an endless supply of food.
It’s bad enough trying to keep my two children from engaging in some destructive activity, but it’s worse when you add a third person into the equation. An entire television show was built around the premise that three is a crowd.
With three girls, everything is fraught with an undercurrent of tension. It’s like the Cold War being enacted in your living room.
The little one feels left out of the older girls’ games. They fight about everything, from doing their hair to playing in a ‘secret hiding place’. I end up as a referee with a perpetually loud shriek. It’s not attractive. If I raise my voice, I get accused by the kids of being ‘an angry elf’. They find this teasing hysterical; I try to keep it from turning me into Stalin in the last days of the Second World War.
One of the only positive things about a playdate, as far as I can tell, is that you might one day get someone to take your kids to their house for an afternoon, leaving you blissfully child-free. Reciprocation is what you must hold out for.
Of course, nothing is truly as bad as The Sleepover. Someone seriously made an error in relating this overnight activity to sleep because very little sleep tends to occur.
I loved slumber parties as a child, but I’ve come to regard them as an evil invention as an adult. My six-year-old has starting asking for them, and I’ve finally had to relent after months of procrastination.
So there I am, on the night of The Sleepover, sitting through an excruciatingly long evening in which the children don’t listen to me, and I might as well be talking to a pot plant. The four-year-0ld – one of the worse eaters on the planet – takes a dislike to her macaroni and cheese and ends up spitting it on her plate after about an hour of force feeding and threats.
Our guest for the night had previously told me – on one of her numerous playdates – that she was a vegan. Choosing to believe that she has no idea what a vegan is, I fed her the same macaroni and cheese (at least it was organic).
It’s no wonder I’m reminded of bad dates with men; but at least with those you can make an excuse after a couple of hours.
With The Sleepover, you are in it for the long haul. In fact, it’s the worst kind of bad date – the one that continues into the morning.