Thursday, December 13, 2007
I'm new to this playdate philosophy. Someone explain it to me. When the chil'rens were really little, I didn't have the time or energy to get together with other moms at the local Burger King or at the park to play and watch our lovely children enjoy each other's company. I stayed home, pregnant and exhausted, and tried to cope with three chil'rens under the age of three. And then later on, five chil'rens under the age of seven. And finally six chil'rens under the age of ten. I'm still coping, yo. So we missed out on the playdate scene, along with the little snack bags in the diaper bag, Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties and M & M rewards for a potty in the toilet. We did, however, have Sesame Street.
We're not complete savages.
So now that we are somewhat social and the boys have made friends at their co-op and at church, I am happy for them. But I'm still figuring out how to deal with friends who want to come over and play...or want my kids to go to their house and play. Uhhhhh. Sometimes it's easier being social misfits.
To the untrained eye, my home is a very loud and chaotic place. There is lots of running around, lots of doors slamming, lots of feet pounding on the wood floors. The kitchen is never closed. Voices are often raised, but not in hostility. Sometimes we have to yell just to be heard. But for a child raised in a very vanilla, one child home where there is always peace and tranquility, my house can be a strange place. Some might say, a scary place. Heh. Today we had the pleasure of having a boy over from the chil'rens co-op. He's a good kid and he exists on the outer circle from the rest of the kids when they are all together. And that is the kid who Noah befriended. I guess my boy is sort of an island himself.
So this boy was quiet, observing the home and people around him, trying to fight off six kids who want him to sit with them, play on the computer with him, read comic books with him, eat a snack with him, show them their toys, play with the dog and ride bikes outside. He was a little overwhelmed, to say the least. And everytime I would call out for one of the kids, he would get startled.
"Diego! Take out the trash!"
"Noah, pick up your socks, please! They are all over the floor."
"Put the laptop away, Solly!"
"No more snacks!"
"Turn down the volume!"
Seriously, he would get startled. I don't know if he thought we were mad or something, so I would have to reassure him that everything was okay. Geez..
Then there is another boy named Brian who lives down the street who likes to come over. This is the type of kid who feels a little too at home. I have to turn him away. On most days of the week, I can find his little brown face peering in through my screen door.
"Can I play with the boys?"
"Nope. The boys can't play today, Brian. They played with you yesterday, dude. And the day before that. Give it a rest!"
He comes over, uninvited, so often that I no longer feel bad turning him away. I laid out the rules for him on day one and he has always been respectful of them. He enjoys being in our home and I don't know if he lacks playmates at home or he enjoys our house with the noise, the love and the food. Yesterday, he dropped by with another boy I've never met.
"Sorry, Brian. The boys can't play today--"
"But I brought my friend with me so we can play..."
"Uh, sorry no. Maybe another time. The boys already have someone from school over and you were here yesterday. Give us a chance to miss you, dude!"
I often wonder what kind of parents just let their kid wander down the block and stay for hours. They have never attempted to come over and meet us--I don't even know which house he lives in. When it's time for him to come home, they will send his little sister over. They don't know what he does during all this time, they don't know what kind of people we are. And mealtimes...sigh. He doesn't get the hint when I call the kids to wash their hands and sit down for dinner and bid him farewell. He just washes his hands along with them and then sits down at my counter. I let this slide the first few times but when I realized he would drop in right at dinnertime, I got hip to his game. "No, Brian. The boys can't play. Go home." About five minutes after I told him this and he went home, I saw the same little brown face at my screen door.
"My mom said I could eat dinner with you guys." Uh, okay. I chuckled to myself because it wasn't like I sent him home to ask. But I welcomed him to our dinner table anyway. Last night he came over and sat there watching me make a homemade pizza.
"Why don't you just make one pizza with pepperoni and the other with the vegetables?"
"Because I want them to eat vegetables on both of the pizza's."
"But at my house we always get one pepperoni and one with other stuff on it."
"Well, here, we eat vegetables on both pizza's and we are thankful."
"Oh. I like just pepperoni pizza."
Today, yet another friend from the co-op came over to "play". That is code for sitting down side by side one another and not speaking, just playing various video games. I was moving throughout the house and cleaning up, so I wouldn't get sleepy and want to take a nap.
Little brown face at the screen door. Again. Only this time, two little brown faces and one of them was female.
"What's up, Brian? Is this your little sister? Hello!"
"Can we come inside and play?"
"Not today, Brian. The boys have another friend over and it's already a full house inside."
Sucks teeth. "Well, uh, can I, uh, come inside and see the PS2? I haven't seen it in a while."
Come on, brother, I ain't no sucker. "Why do you need to see the PS2? Nevermind that. Next time you come over, you can see it then, okay?"
Sucks teeth some more. Looks up at the ceiling, grasps at straws. "Can we just play out in the back yard then?"
"No, Brian. Goodbye."
I laughed to myself. He's a pretty tenacious little kid. I'm not mad at him for trying to exhaust all his avenues. It just got me thinking about what my home is going to look like when the boys are older and taller and stinkier and sweatier and eat more and all the friends that will be stopping by. I've decided I'll be okay if we have the "hang out" house.
I just hope by that time I'll have learned some playdate etiquette.