On Monday, we went to the McDonald’s Play Place to celebrate Martin Luther King Day with the rest of the free world. We all said, “Hurray for Martin Luther King, Jr. and his pioneering work! Also, it is a crime against humanity for school to be closed on such a cold day. All you kids go into these brightly-colored plastic tunnels and don’t come out until you feel copious amount of brotherly love!”
And we mothers sat outside the Kiddie Habitrail and chatted and drank our diet cokes and hollered the occasional encouraging comment to our offspring.
“Yes, I see you! Great climbing!”
“Inside voices, please.”
“DO NOT LICK STRANGERS!”
And so on.
It was during this lovefest that I managed to commit one of the cardinal sins of motherhood. The first–and most heinous–one is saying, “Little Billy is perfect and good and why can’t you be more like him?” The next few are things like saying, “I’m going to go take a shower” (translation: You now have 15 minutes to wreak havoc while I try to clear my mind) and “I can’t play with you right now because I’m busy shooting up” and having fewer cookies than children. But the sin I committed was the sin of the Playdate.
“Wow, they’re playing so nicely!” I commented to Curly’s mom. “And I know Chickadee loved going over to play with Curly a few weeks ago. Would Curly like to come over for a playdate this week?” It sounds innocent enough. In fact, what I was thinking was this: I may be on the verge of working again, at which time Chickie won’t be able to bring friends home with her after school. I wanted to make sure our Hospitality Karma was all squared away before that happened. Chickadee went to Curly’s house; now Curly must come to our house.
“That sounds great!” responded Curly’s mom. And then the whole world went into slow motion and my personal soundtrack screeched to a halt. It was that innocent, that quick. And I tried to deny what I’d done, yes. I pretended I didn’t realize it. But this afternoon there was no hiding from What I’d Done.
“Put your jacket on, please,” I urged Monkey as I collected his stuff from his cubby. “We have to go get Chickadee and Curly off the bus.”
His placid little face registered surprise which quickly turned to anger. The little bow-shaped lips I love to tickle deepened into a scowl as he threw back his head and wailed, “No fair! I don’t have a friend coming to play! I never have friends come play! Don’t pick Chickie up! LEAVE HER AT THE BUS STOP!”
And there it was. I hadn’t thought it through, and now I had to improvise. “Hey! I know! Let’s go to Dunkin Donuts and get some munchkins for a special snack!” Sugar cures all, you know. Well, not really, but it often makes the children too hyper to care much.
This was enough to appease him–briefly. He became incensed, again, when he realized he was going to have to share the munchkins with the girls. In a desperate manuever, I offered to let him eat a couple of chocolate ones as we drove back home… it would be our little secret, and the girls would never know.
Yeah, yeah. I teach the kids that in our family we don’t have secrets. But we make exceptions for chocolate. We’re not animals.
So now we’re hip-deep in the Playdate Circle of Hell. All three children are sugared up, Monkey is following the girls around and they are irritating and tormenting him as much as they figure they can get away with, and I’ve just finished cleaning the kitchen so that when Curly’s mom comes to get her she doesn’t think I leave dirty dishes in the sink for days at a time. Because I would never do that. Have a munchkin.
Also my daughter has responded to the privilege and joy of having a friend here by magnifying all of the most obnoxious and disrespectful aspects of her little personality, and I’ve had to pull her aside several times already to let her know that I’ll most likely kill her in the morning (name that movie).
Yeah, I’m really sad to think that this particular joy is going to be lost to me once I head back to the cubicle world. Uh huh.