You Know You’re Hosting an Irish “Playdate” When…

Years ago, talk of “playdates” would bring on a rivulet of sweat. My sister would say “Yeah cool, call around, but I’ve got playdates over,” as a roll call of plausible excuses would start unfurling. When you can barely tolerate the kids of blood relatives, how are you meant to deal with – horror – the child of a complete stranger?!
When asked how she dealt with it, she would respond “It’s only a few hours. If he gets an invite back it means a break for me and, if they play well together, it’s a win, win.” By “Play well together” I presumed he meant “disappear into the bedroom and only re-emerge for a snack.”
Now that I’ve kids of my own, there’s still “the fear” at the prospect of a playdate. However, as with most things, practice makes perfect; apart from continuously marvelling at how much better the child’s social life is, there seem to be seven certainties to every Playdate.
You know you’re hosting an Irish “playdate” when…
• You refuse to call it a “playdate”…
The same sister came back from “nannying” in America circa ’95 comfortably bandying the term about. Even then it instilled a rash, but mostly because it hummed of “let’s have some organised fun, kids!” We used to just rock up to each other’s houses unannounced, climb through a window and hang out undetected until your host smuggled you into the kitchen claiming you were always coming for tea.
So you send the text asking if “Siobhaaaahwn” would like to “come over for a bit of a play.” Other terms used include: “hang out” (generally for older kids) or “catch up.”

• You refuse to be your mother…
Mum wasn’t one for having anyone over. Ever. So when the bi-annual event of someone darkening our door occurred, all hell broke loose. A veritable whirlwind of muted cursing, J-cloths and rubbish bag rustling would take place. By way of rebellion, I still refuse to clean to such an extent. Instead of an entire morning of making cleaning utensils dance independently, my kids are treated to fifteen frenzied minutes of toys being launched behind the couch.

• You’re not sure when to offer coffee… 
Not to your young guest, obviously, rather to whoever is dropping them off. Will they want to get away? Or would they prefer a nose around your house or – worse – want to use your fuzzy bathroom?! Generally, I drop and run; there is plenty of time to consume beverages on pick up, when your child has lost everything they arrived within a vortex of LOL Dolls.

• Your afternoon will go one of two ways…
Five minutes into the “playdate” the course of the next couple of hours should become clear. They will either happily herd up to your child’s bedroom, slam the door and start tearing it apart. Or both kids will stand awkwardly in front of each other, slowly realising they have zero in common.

• You spend the first hour wondering how time has stood still…
More so if those partaking in the playdate have both gone through their ideas of fun unreciprocated. Or if one of them wanders down five minutes after herding upstairs and insists on hanging out with you.

• Let the games commence…
Painting, “baking”, impromptu treasure hunts, arts and crafts – all of which are suggested, dispensed and done with a mere 15 minutes later. On the upside, at least whoever is picking up little Dáithí will see how much activity they’ve had? Or just see someone who gets submerged in mess.

• Negotiate pick up…
Yay, you’ve all survived, no one has been injured physically, mentally or emotionally, AND you’ve managed to gather together most of the child’s belongings (apart from a sock). You then must strike the balance between having them suited and booted by the front door and roaming around, barefoot, bawling at the mere mention of coats. That’s usually when the offer of coffee is best.
To be entirely honest, “playdates” aren’t nearly as bad as I envisaged them being – and that’s mainly down to the luck of the draw. The parents and kids in our school are extremely sound, and that makes all the difference. If you can’t say the same, just know that time does pass, no matter how slowly!

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