A Playdate? Oh yeah, sounds great (sigh). I'll bring the Gin.
Playdates, the very word puts fear in me. It sounds so happy and playful but the reality of a playdate is as far from that for the parents involved. As a Mum of a very boisterous yet very clingy at times toddler, playdates are quickly becoming the bane of my life. It's not that I do not enjoy socialising, I love it! Having a gossip and a moan about your kids with copious amounts of coffee and cake is a win win in my book. But they are so bloody tiring, emotional draining and at times traumatic.
Now, when Elijah was first born I whiled many an hour away in Costa with my mum partners in crime, or around each others houses eating bags of crisps. They understood about Elijah's condition and let me talk, cry or not talk about it at all. They made me feel like a normal mother. I used to dread going to baby classes or play dates with people I didn't really know as I knew they would pity us, and not really know what to say to us. It used to be really awkward, I just wanted to be a normal mum not the mum of a child who needed an operation. I sometimes said nothing at all and made out Elijah had nothing wrong with him as I couldn't face the questions or pity.
The only thing you would really need to worry about was that you had enough bottles and the odd poo explosion. You could sit and chat, watch a film on TV, granted this was normally done one handed with a sleeping newborn cradled in your arm but it was manageable. Looking back now it was oh so EASY! I do miss those days, the only major trouble being the occasional bout of colic or teething which a shot of gripe water or Dentinox normally fixed pretty quickly and you could move on to the next episode of Geordie Shore, stuffing your face with more cake. I could literally spend whole days away from the house with just one bag of stuff. I am pretty sure this is why I didn't loose my baby weight until I went back to work. I spent most of my maternity leave eating cakes and crisps with the other mums.
Elijah is now 18 months (going on 18) and is like any toddler; as demanding as Madonna. It is now a military operation to get us both out the house with enough supplies to pacify any potential kick offs. This tends to include as many snacks (normally stick shaped) that I can cram into his Monsters Inc lunch box, a shed load of toys (crap from Poundland) and about 100 teddies and dinosaurs stuffed in my bag. He apparently cannot go anywhere without Mr Penguin, Woody and now Iggle Piggle. So we have a dishevelled mum, a ticking time bomb of a toddler, enough food to feed a nursery and more toys than John Lewis all shoved into two bags which tip the pram up. Oh god and then there is the mode of transport one is using for said toddler who says he wants to walk but sits down in the middle of the path on his arse 10 minutes later. But when you offer to put him in pram he then becomes stiff, screams and won't bend his legs so you end up folding him in like a deck chair! All in the full view of some old lady normally who walks past muttering. Or do you take the trike you spent hundreds of pounds on only for him to get bored half way down the road and cry as you've run over his foot again. But we are finally OUT.
Then comes the TYPE of playdate you have been invited too. I believe they come in three forms; home visit (or you hosting) going to someone's house, out on tag when you go for a walk, park etc with the use of controlling devices such a reins and prams! Last but not least the incarcerated visit the most popular is soft play as those little buggers are locked in and cannot escape!
So, the home visit, is a full blown clean up operation unless it is one of your really close mum mates.I am lucky to have a few of these amazing ladies who if they come round and I am in my PJs they don't question it, they bring me cake without asking. They don't care if the house is a mess or if all I have in to feed the kids is Celebrations! I love these ladies very much and love that fact they don't look at my piles upon piles of washing around the house, the fact I ask them to help me scoop out dead fish from the tank or that I haven't cleaned my bathroom.
If you do not know them that well you then begin to worry they may judge the state of your house, the food you give their kids (is it organic? is it bollocks), what activities you have set up (does a Disney film count?) or the awkward mum chit chat you partake in while you gouge their reaction on the fact that you just dropped the F bomb whilst standing on a stegosaurus, and your son won't share his woody doll.
There is so much stress surrounding it, but I suppose if you are hosting at least you have the added comfort your kid shouldn't kick off too much if he's in his own surroundings, right? Going to someone's house you have the added worry of will you kid throw a wobbler? Is he going to share? Will he eat the food offered or be a fussy little bugger? Will he behave? Is he going to leave your side for 5 minutes so you can pee? Nope, he's coming with you, sigh. You now don't have the luxury of eating cake as said toddler normally nicks it and runs off gleefully.
You also have to play referee with the kids arguing over a Clip Clop Princess Castle. Do you get to sit and chat and watch something together? Hell no, one kid is chasing the rabbit the other has the cat and the poor baby wants to join in but is too little so is getting frustrated. Then one wants a cuddle, the other one gets jealous, they need a nap, they won't nap and then the baby has done a poo. They are all hungry. Plus they want to watch Peppa, then a Disney ON REPEAT. You now know all the words. You're both sitting there in tears AGAIN when Arlo's Dad dies in the Good Dinosaur. They are all now whinging (check the time it's heading towards the witching hour) so you shove a load of toys back in their box (showing your a helpful mum cleaning up!) grab your kid and all of his crap (you think you picked it all up, shit where is WOODY?!) and run the hell out of there!
Now, when you are out on tag and think feeding the ducks, or going to park you think it is a good idea as you it will knacker them out and they will sleep after all that fresh air. Think again. It's the home visit but on the outside. With lack of bum changing facilities you are guaranteed to have someone do a poo, they both want to go down the slide at the same time, and within 5 minutes say they are hungry. Oh Jesus and the falling over, someone will almost 100% fall over and bruise or cut their face or make a break for it across the other side of the park and try and join another family. My advice, wear trainers there will be so much running around! Plus there is no coffee, remember that no coffee.
I am not so patiently waiting for Elijah to bugger off and play on his own at soft play (otherwise known as baby incarceration) so I can sit on my arse and eat muffins. At the moment (yes I know I should be cherishing him and not wishing time away its goes so quick blah blah) I am still having to cram my arse into the plastic tubes and get stuck in the slides. You think I may be exaggerating, I am not. Last time I actually thought I was going to need my inhaler once I had gotten to the top. I was knackered. Then a kid got stuck behind my arse in a tube, and I put my back out on one of those bloody bendy slides! I lay at the top on my face wishing I hadn't brought him here as I am so unfit I think I may die. I still had to get me and him back down.Then there are the millions of kids at these things; one of them always being a little shit and firing balls at your sons head while he cries his eyes out. Someone always poops and you see all of the parents lift their child up and sniff their kids bums with relief on their faces when you know it isn't your child, and the horror spreading over a parents face when it IS your child that has stunk out the entire toddler zone.
With so many children in one place and as hyperactive as they can be, someone is bound to get hurt or misbehave. Then comes the tricky and very controversial subject of 'mum policing'. When is it appropriate to tell someone else's child off? How do you do it? What happens when said child's mum comes over to find out why you are shouting in her kids face and they are now wailing uncontrollably. Once at a playgroup another child spent a good half hour ramming a toy shopping trolley into little kids legs laughing with glee, while his mum sat in her kids pushchair on her phone not looking up once. It wasn't until my friend flew across the room and told him off for hurting her little girl that she even batted an eyelid. As mothers we are fiercely protective of our offspring, and there is something about someone else telling MY child off that does put me at unease.
I am all up for Elijah socialising and having playdates it's good for him and them to develop. However next time you invite me to a playdate? I'll bring the Gin.