This has been the Week of the Afterschool Playdate. Four of them. I’m not complaining. I like playdates. They’re all part of the fun of having a school-age child and long may they continue. My daughter gets excited about them for days beforehand. I get excited for days beforehand because I can use the cancellation of the playdate as a threat should her behaviour particularly rile me. There’s much to be said for carrot and stick parenting.
Call me anal, but when I host a playdate I do like to be prepared. I need to have a plan of action designed to ensure maximum happiness and minimum tantrums:
- Have a packet of chocolate fingers at the ready. (Plus a packet of wipes for cleaning the residue of chocolate finger fingers off the walls.)
- Disguise all evidence of slovenliness and practically Ofsted the house.
- Find out about any allergies the guests may have so that they leave my house intact in their parents’ car as opposed to in an ambulance.
- Purchase some kind of craft activity that will inevitably take only 3 minutes to complete and cause upset because the pompoms won’t stick.
- Shut the door to my bedroom – for all kinds of reasons. I did once find the laundry basket emptied and its dirty contents employed as fancy dress.
It was with some alarm then that I heard of the Dutch concept of afspreken: the impromptu playdate. Yes, impromptu. Unplanned. If you have any ounce of control freakery in your body then a shiver will have just run down your spine. Apparently, your child can appear out of the school gates with another child and tell you (yes, TELL you!) that Whatisname is coming for tea. Just think – you might not have had time to stock up on chocolate fingers or to run a check on Whatisname’s suitability for sharing the honour of a playdate with your little darling.
Is afspreken a step too far for the British sense of order? Quite frankly, I expect a handwritten invitation to be delivered several weeks in advance by a servant in a hansom cab. I will then respond in an appropriate manner and the date will be engraved on a stone tablet. Or just a text would do.
I should probably loosen up. Get used to the idea of not being able to plan everything down to the last Pom-Bear. (In the same way I should practice my ‘delighted’ face should my husband ever surprise me with a friggin’ hot air balloon ride.) Afspreken doesn’t appear to be taking off in our school playground. If it does, I’ll be ready – which will make a complete nonsense of it as I’m not supposed to be ready for it at all.