Bewildered parents submit their questions
The ultimate goal in life (as we all know) is to get all of your kids invited out at the same time on the same Shabbos afternoon. And the only way to get this accomplished is to religiously and aggressively invite kids to your house and then hope for — nay, expect — a return invitation. Eventually, your complicated six-part Venn diagram flower will overlap, becoming the Shabbos afternoon nap of your dreams. And yes, it makes all the days where you’re the only adult supervising 14 children, ten and under worth it. But while you’re sowing the seeds, executing a successful playdate is like navigating a minefield while balancing a hot cup of coffee over a white skirt.
I made the grave, grave mistake of taking my baby upstairs to change him, an activity that took a total of 120 seconds, including travel time. I came back to what I can only describe as utter pandemonium, featuring an indoor carnival complete with marshmallow fluff smeared on the chair I just reupholstered, shaving-cream-covered balloons wobbling drunkenly on the floor, and that stupid flour and pennies game, which was obviously invented by a sadist who hated his mother.
You know what was nowhere to be found? The four rascals who quick-changed my dining room into A Mother’s Worst Nightmare. Does the mother of any one of these children owe me a cleaning lady hour?
It’s a cardinal rule of kid hosting to never, and we repeat never, allow imaginative kids to roam free in your house. You know why parents are “forgetting” their kids in your house, right? It’s because they want a chance to clean.
We love a free-spirited kid (from afar) but for safe playdates, invite the less adventurous kids over instead. Consider yourself warned, though: What you’re losing in heart-stopping crashes and soul-crushing messes, you’re gaining in hearing “I’m bored” on loop.
My 11-year-old son has friends who specifically come to our house to hock over what’s on the stove. Every Sunday afternoon you can find an uninvited crew of six of his closest friends sneaking pieces of leftover deli roll when they think I’m not looking. We’re on a budget here. Don’t their mothers feed them? Oh, you’re complaining because you know exactly where your child is, who he’s with, what they’re doing, and why? First world problems, honey. Thank Hashem they didn’t tell you they’re going to Leiby the Listener while really hightailing it over to some sketchy 7/11 with zero supervision. Add “feeding miscellaneous neighborhood children’’ into your budget and lean in.
Am I the only normal person on earth? Last week, I went to pick my daughter up after a respectable two-hour playdate only to be met at the door with a sheepish “I think they went to a neighbor…”
Twenty minutes later, I’d knocked on 15 doors but my kid was actually in the basement of the original house. Oh sure, no sweat. And today, I tried picking up my son from his friend only to find out that his friend’s father took them to a baseball game. Apparently, I was told, but in minute three of a five minute voice note. I’m sorry, but no. Just no.
Well, you might just be the only normal person out there. Sending your kids out into the wild is as much of a gamble as getting into your first-choice seminary without applying to backups. If you manage to find them at all, consider yourself lucky.
This just happened… We just finished a playdate with my kindergartener and her friend, Miri, who plopped down on the couch after an hour, and said to my daughter, “Ooh, Chayale, did you know I went shopping to buy a brand-new gown because my uncle is getting married? It’s pink and it has sparkles and it’s a real princess dress.”
Miri’s uncle is dating my sister. They went out once.
Don’t panic, but get Shani Leiman and Sara Eisenmann on the scene stat to put their heads together for some professional guidance. This is well beyond our pay grade.
As far as Miri goes, pump her for all the information she has, and make sure that when she’s over, every member of your family is aware of her (adorably) blabbish tendencies and is acting one thousand percent socially on. Send your tantrumming toddler out if you must, but decorum must prevail.
My son’s a real boy’s boy, not a kid who notices when he loses a fingernail or bruises a bone.
His best friend makes him look like a softie — I’ve seen him fall out of a tree and jump back up, laughing. Today, this kid hit a grand slam and slid home, and his black-on-black Tiros, that he earned with five months of shnayim mikrah, got a four-inch tear, leaving some serious road rash on his leg. I’ve been begging him to ice it for ten minutes, while he says “Ice what?” as blood slowly and steadily drips down his leg. Do I sew them up quickly before his mother comes or let him face the judgment?
Okay, rock and a hard place. We commiserate. On the one hand, it’s not your job to sew up some other kids’ pants to avoid the fallout of a (presumably) uptight mother. On the other hand, if you sew up the pants, that will very effectively hide the blood, and if you can’t see it, it never happened.
I don’t need to check the time when I have my daughter’s friend over for a playdate, because I can set my watch by her asking “C’I have a nooooosh” every three minutes. Every. Three. Minutes.
I’ll do anything to escape the neverending begging: Laundry? Sure. Scrubbing that gross line of greasy dirt between my oven and counter? Gladly. I was fixing a flat bike tire in the garage and guess who found me there. Little Miss Needy. How do I let the mother know that she did a bad job instilling a reasonable sense of what’s annoying in her five-year-old?
Use the clock to your advantage. You know when the next kvetch is coming. Whip out your phone and film a highlight reel of her best moments. Add a few genuinely cute moments as a red herring (and your exit strategy). Then send, captioned “THESE CUTIES!!” and hope the mom works it out.
Also good to note: If you’re getting pictures and videos of your cutie at someone else’s playdate, consider the subtext.
There she is: standing in her full face of makeup and heels on a weekday, looking down her perfect nose at the lived-in clutter that is my living room. I wish I could blame it on her kid, but but it’s been like this since before she dropped her off. Who am I kidding, it’s been like this since Shabbos.
When her perfect little Rosie (not perfect, by the way, I could tell you stories) runs to the door holding the fruit roll up flowers the girls made, she gasps dramatically and says “Wow, Rosie! You’re soooooo lucky!” and then adds, “Candy in our house is only a Shabbos Mevarechim treat” with a completely straight face. I’m not sure how I made it through her vetting system, and my question is, how do I get flagged and removed?
Few people know this universal rule: The judgier the moms, the more you have to judge about their kids. Power through the shame and realize she’s probably smiling but you can’t tell with all the Botox. Up the antics next time if you really want to be added to the black list. We suggest anything involving slime and/or glitter.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 767)
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