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Playdate? Let’s just call it what it is…Fight Club

June 14, 2013

There are times when I’d very much like to be a 3 year old.  It’s most of the time, actually, when H is enjoying being waited on hand and foot and doesn’t have to worry about how to hide a week’s worth of vegetables in a cottage pie.

There are other times when I’m jolly glad that I’m not.  Yesterday I invited a friend over for a playdate.  She has 2 boys, one older than H (Boy 1)  and one younger (Boy 2), and one girl who is a very cute 5 months old.  Almost as soon as they were in the door, H hit Boy 2.  I looked at the mother in wonder.  Up to that moment, H had been perfectly well behaved.

After the requisite apologies and hugs all round, we carried on.  Boy 2, however, is a switched on little chap and, seeing that there were two boys older and bigger than him, decided to exert his authority over his sister by gnawing her arm.   Again, a brief stop for discipline, discussion, apologies and hugs and we carried on, pecking order very firmly established.  It’s all a bit feral.   I’m sure there’s a PhD thesis in there somewhere.

The whole playdate thing is fairly new to me.  Before we lived here we were living with family and H didn’t go on playdates so much.  So I’d gladly accept any suggestions on how to deal with the following:

1. What do you do when one of the mothers gives her children big sugary sweets but doesn’t have any for any of the other children (even if you’d want them to have them)?  I’ve never known this before as mostly people would just bring apple or something fairly worthy and healthy, and the children would not exactly be fighting over it.   If you ask her to stop bringing them you seem mean to the children (and it involves a degree of confrontation out of the comfort zone of the average Brit) but it just makes all the other children deeply unhappy and very disinclined to munch on a carrot stick, understandably.

2. Do you discipline other people’s children?  I’m very happy for people to discipline H (up to a point…). In fact, I’d much rather they said something if they are there on the scene and I’m not around – it’s much better than trying to remind H what he did wrong an hour later.  With close friends we’ve discussed it and we’re generally happy to mutually discipline our children, but what if there are new people there, or the children of parents you don’t know very well?   The truth is that I don’t seem to be able to stop myself getting stuck in if I see a little one doing something naughty, but I’m not sure that it is always appreciated…

Any views? Any situations that you’ve come across which I have yet to meet, so I can be prepared?!

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15 Comments
  1. Sara permalink

    I am totally with you! What you bring for one you bring for all and yes to the ‘light’ discipline of other peoples kids, especially mine;-)

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  2. And ditto to you my dear!

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  3. I have no children, so avoid disciplining other’s, even though I might want to sometimes! Love your writing.

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    • You have a restraint that I’m sure I didn’t have before I had children. Well done you!
      Thank you for the lovely comment. Am just off now to check out your blog.

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  4. Was Living Down Under permalink

    oooh tricky waters you’re treading here. Precisely why I hated playdates when we first moved to Australia. New mums, new kids, everyone with their own way of dealing with different situations. I was always so stressed out trying to make a good impression while dealing with a 2 year old and a baby. Agh.

    First off, I think it’s a little rude of a mum to bring treats for their children and not for others. I get that everyone brings their own snacks but treats are always for sharing. If I bring treats (cookies for example), I bring extra and if there’s not enough to go around, I will withhold them from my children until after the play date. Of course, if there is enough to go around I always ask the mum first if she’s OK with us sharing and if not, the treats are once more withheld until afterwards. If the mum brought treats and didn’t have enough to share, then I would say to my children that those aren’t for us, they’re for soandso and that perhaps later we can have our own treats, but for now, if they’re hungry they can eat the carrot sticks. Cuddles and empathy when tears inevitably ensue – but they catch on quick.

    Oh and on that note – did she bring treats to your house? That seems really odd to me. If you’re coming to my house for a playdate either you’re bringing something for everyone to share or I’m supplying the snacks. Unless there’s dietary/allergy issues at hand I suppose. One of my friend would always pack something for her son but that was only opened in case he didn’t like what was on offer at our house. He was a picky eater. I never did that – my kids just ate (or not) what was on offer. If we were meeting at the park, we’d bring our own. Either way, I think it’s helpful to have a conversation when you’re setting up the playdate. “Are you bringing treats for your children?” “Would it be OK if I brought some and shared?” and so on…

    As for the discipline… Where I might use my “mum” voice to correct my toddler’s behaviour, I might channel my inner (she’s in there somewhere) nursery teacher voice to correct your child – a voice full of sugary sweetness to distract them from doing what they’re doing or kindly reminding them that crayons are for paper or that might hurt the other child, etc. I might make suggestions as opposed to “telling”. I take my cues from the other mum as well – some are wound up a little tighter than others…

    I also learned to prep my children before the play date. Talk about appropriate behaviours if you’re going to someone’s home. And about how to be a good host if they’re coming to yours. Part of that is also, you know the rules in your house so you need to teach soandso because they don’t know. You’re setting them up for the future when they have their mates over and it’s their responsibility to make sure the house rules are followed.

    I think that about covers it… sorry for the long comment – hope I haven’t come off as an obnoxious know-it-all.

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    • Not an obnoxious know-it-all at all – it’s very sensible advice. How old are your children now? Have you started your blog yet (hint, hint)?

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  5. Yes, tricky waters. I like WLDU’s thing about house rules, and prepping children beforehand. I used to help my children put away any favourite toys they absolutely didn’t want other children to play with. One tip that I found brilliant, suggested by a nursery teacher, was to have a box of toys (from charity shop) in your house that are the playdate toys. They only come out for playdates and they’re “the sharing toys”. As adults, we forget how hard it is for children to share their own toys, and – actually – they have a point. How would you feel if someone was allowed to rifle through all your personal belongings, while you were told “it’s nice to share”?

    Am not convinced about hugs following apologies. I used to cringe a bit when my shy toddler was made to have a nice hug with the other toddler who he would honestly prefer either to run and hide from, or to snatch the toy back from. As a parent, you can require good behaviour, but you can’t require your child to like/love the other child. But I guess that does depend on the expectations of the other adults around. If sorry generally involves a toddler hug, you probably don’t want to be that mum who says “no hugs for MY child, thank you very much”.

    The whole snack thing is difficult, but I think it’s odd to take a snack only for your children and not offer them around. Especially sweets.

    As for disciplining other people’s children, I found it worked well to have a completely dark cupboard, and to chain them up in there for half an hour. Then they knew to behave next time.

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  6. Was joking about the cupboard, by the way.

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  7. Was Living Down Under permalink

    Ha Ha – Iota’s comment made me sputter my drink – in our house that’s what basements are for 😉

    The children are almost 7, just turned 5 and 2 1/2 (2 girls and a little boy) – thanks for asking.

    As for the blog, thanks for the encouragement – so far the only blogs I’ve written are in my head 🙂 How much do you edit your posts before posting? I have such a hard time hitting send or submit on comments or emails – I’m constantly editing and second guessing myself… Do you just get over it and post whatever comes out the first time around or do you send a lot of time editing?

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    • WLDU – the best advice anyone ever gave me about blogging was “Go for it!” You’ll probably edit a lot when you start, and then get quicker and brasher. I used to agonise a lot over posts, and now I just burble onto the page, re-read it and edit out a few things, and then hit “publish”. Blogging has been very good for me, for getting over my perfectionist self.

      So you have chains in the basement?

      (Sorry to crash your blog, Carrot Crush, and be having a conversation with WDLU on it!)

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  8. Feel free Iota – I love your comments. You basically said everything I was going to. WLDU, I do the same as Iota, just write it, read it through a few times, ‘Preview’ it, and then publish.
    Go on , give it a go – you know you want to…

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    • When you next come and see us, Iota will be invited for coffee… I think you’ll like each other… WLDU can come too if she fancies a trip to Scotland!

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  9. Was Living Down Under permalink

    Thanks for the the advice (and the support) – I tried to figure out the technology yesterday but didn’t want the blog to be linked to my email address – I think anonymity (for me) is the way to go. I’ll go home tonight and try to figure it all out again. It must be right coz I’ve got that giddy, excited feeling in my tummy. Sad state of affairs, my life – getting excited over starting a blog… I’ll let you know if I get any further 🙂

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    • How about opening up a new email account with the ‘wldu’ username and then you’re covered? And can I just say that opening up a new blog IS exciting. It’s been a lot of fun for me! One word of advice – it’s impossible to tell what people are going to read. I think my most popular post was the one on baking paper. Who’d have thought it? Certainly not me!

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      • And actually your actual email address never gets shown to anyone. My blog predated my having a plan b email address, and at that stage I really was anonymous, although that’s rather fallen by the wayside recently.

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