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perils of playtime

7 truly awkward parenting moments you'll experience at every playdate

Step one, attempting to use the word “playdate” without smirking, writes Sheena McGinley.

BEFORE I BECAME a parent, talk of “playdates” would bring on a rivulet of sweat. 

My sister would invite me over before casually mentioning she “had a playdate around” for her son. The thought of dealing with a stranger’s kids would have me listing a roll call of plausible excuses for why I suddenly had to cancel our catch-up. Surely one child was bad enough? 

Now that I have kids of my own, there’s still the fear at the prospect of a playdate. But I’ve gotten better, and as a result my child now has a better social life than anyone else in the house. 

Of course, there are some awkward moments to every playdate, for the parents at least. Here are just a few… 

1. Trying to use the word ‘playdate’ without smirking

My sister, the playdate fan mentioned above, came back from “nannying” in America circa 1995 with a whole new collection of parenting vocab. For me, words like “playdate” have always felt a bit to “organised fun”. Inevitably I’ll ask cobble something together about “coming over for a bit of a play.” 

2. The frantic 15-minute clean-up beforehand

Growing up, all hell broke loose when guests were coming around, with my mum cleaning the whole house top to bottom. I still refuse to clean to such an extent. Instead, my kids are treated to fifteen frenzied minutes of toys being launched behind the couch. 

shutterstock_766394050 Shutterstock / NadyaEugene Shutterstock / NadyaEugene / NadyaEugene

3. Navigating the drop-off

Should I offer coffee to the other parent? Will they want to get away? Or would they prefer a nose around the house or – worse – want to use my fuzzy bathroom? Myself, I drop and run. There is plenty of time to consume beverages on pick up, when your child has lost every toy they arrived with. 

4. Praying the kids will “play well together”…

Five minutes into the playdate, the course of the next couple of hours should become clear. The kids will either happily herd up to your child’s bedroom, slam the door and start tearing it apart. Or they’ll stand awkwardly in front of each other, slowly realising they have zero in common. 

5. …And if they don’t, figuring out a plan B

My nightmare? One half of a playdate wandering downstairs five minutes after being herded upstairs and insisting on hanging out far away from the other child instead. There’s a long two hours ahead… 

6. Remaining enthusiastic about the activities list…

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, right?

7. …And appearing calm and collected when pickup time rolls around

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!

More: ‘All it takes is one wrong chocolate bar or snack’: What it’s like to raise a kid with severe food allergies>

More: 10 new parent firsts that the baby books definitely don’t mention>

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