Dad-of-two Steve Cummins looks at play date etiquette – who knew there was such a thing?!
I was never very good at going up to a girl and asking for her number. I’d fantasise about doing it and practice for days but I’d always end up mumbling something unintelligible or chickening out entirely.
Now that I’m a parent I’m expected to be able to walk up to a woman I’m on bare nodding terms with and ask for her number to arrange a ‘play date’. I’m a grown man at a playground chatting up young mothers. How have I fallen so low?
It works both ways
Play dates are great. Well, they’re great 50% of the time. The other 50% is tainted by the dreaded obligation of reciprocation. I always try to ensure that I arrange the first play date to be at my house when the kids are hopefully a bit wary around each other and less likely to flush the family cat down the toilet.
That way when they’re more comfortable with each other’s mischievous ways my house isn’t the scene of the carnage.
You live in constant fear when you’re caring for someone else’s child. If they accidentally get decapitated by your wire clothesline and poor choice of trampoline placement then there is a better than fair chance that the parent who comes to collect them (or both pieces of them) might be a tad miffed.
I once had a friend of my eldest over for a play date and during the course of it, he crashed on my son’s bike and ended up with a fairly bad scrape on his ribcage. You can, I’m sure, imagine the jaw clenching politeness from his mother when I showed her the extent of her velocipedally challenged son’s injuries. She went to great pains to reassure me that it was no problem, that it could have happened anywhere and that it was just one of those things.
They left with lofty promises of more fun times in the future. I haven’t seen hide nor hair of either of them since. I think that they chose to move house rather than risk another visit to my home.
Parenting other kids
Play dates are great for you when they aren’t in your home and they’re great for your child either way. They get a chance to socialise with their peers and you get the chance to pass judgement on someone else’s kid. “Someone didn’t teach little Johnny to say please and thank you, hmm?”
I once had a six-year-old over and at one stage he walked up to me and said that he needed to “do a poo”. I pointed him in the direction of the toilet and left him to it. Five minutes later the door to the toilet opened and the child shouted, “I’ve done my poo”. I felt that he was a little over proud of completing such a basic and necessary function so I ignored him.
The next minute he called out again. This time he cried, “Come and wipe my bum,”. There was no way I was going to wipe another kid’s bum and especially not a six-year-old one. I simply called back, “There’s baby wipes in there and you know where your bum is. You’ll work it out.” I don’t know if he managed it but there was no noticeable smell coming off him afterwards so I feel that it was win-win.
So there you have it. Make sure that the first play date happens in your home, don’t wipe the strange kid’s bum and try not to wound them where the marks can be seen. See you at the playground.
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