Another day, another playdate, another late afternoon wrestling with the dilemma: how much do I need to supervise these little monsters? When it’s just my daughter and her older brother, I’m content to let them disappear for ages, knowing that the older one will keep the younger from practising flying out of upstairs window, and the little one will tell on the older one taking scissors to the soft toys. But when it’s not your own children, the consent forms at hospital can be a bit tricky.
A big problem is that tiresome measuring-up-against-other-mothers kind of thing. You know when your child goes to their house, the children play outside in the sprawling garden while mum (it’s usually mum) and possibly the au pair/nanny/resident childcare slave as well oversee the action from the pristine open-plan kitchen. Your child comes back knowing new tricks or having learned how to bake bread, whereas theirs return with a few tips for effective arson.
My husband’s no help, as his attitude veers more toward the “no haemorrhage, no foul” school. And I hate to haunt the children’s social interactions like some Poindexter at the prom. They should explore free play, negotiate their own conflicts. Plus, six-year-olds’ game can be boring.
So I’m trying to explore the parameters of playdate supervision. Within earshot but out of sight is OK. What about downstairs when they’re upstairs? What about in my upstairs office while they’re in the garden? Do these rules hold when they want to try some facepainting or holding the pet gerbils?
So far the only problem we’ve had was the mysterious disappearance of a bag of sweeties. Is that something I can tolerate in exchange for being able to catch up on email and make some phone calls? Absolutely. (Just don’t tell their mothers.)