Why I say no to toddler playdates

When your children are still very small, by which I mean under three years old, you can mistakenly believe that you ought to be going round to others’ houses for playdates, or people ought to be coming to you. That is fine if your child is still a baby, happy to bat a few toys around, is not insanely destructive or into hitting or biting.

You will not get to sit and chat with the mother, you will simply be breaking up fights, calming down hysterical children, laughing in an embarrassed way, apologising … it’s just grim.

The same goes for the other kid – if no child is at the screaming tantrum toddler stage, you can do a playdate if you like. But between the ages of, I guess, about eighteen months and about three years, my advice is don’t go on a playdate and don’t have anyone else round unless you know them really well and see them all the time. Because it will be a disaster, the children will fight and be traumatised.

You will not get to sit and chat with the mother, you will simply be breaking up fights, calming down hysterical children, laughing in an embarrassed way, apologising … it’s just grim.

If you don’t enjoy them, if your kid isn’t enjoying them, don’t bother! Even with your first child you know, instinctively, when they are going through a patch when they will not play nicely with others. The fear for many, I think (it was for me), is that their child is unusually violent and unpleasant, and the hope is that playdates will socialise it – they are ‘good’ for your child. They won’t, they aren’t.

Time – and going to nursery – will socialise your child and stop it being so grabby, possessive and mad. Once your child starts to genuinely enjoy playdates, which it will, then they are good for your child, then everyone starts to see the benefits, and whatever you think about the kid or the mum or how much mess they make in your house, then you have to suck it up and do it. But before then, no.

Time – and going to nursery – will socialise your child and stop it being so grabby, possessive and mad.

You will know when it’s time for them to have little friends over – it’s usually after their first term or two at nursery, when they start talking about the other kids there, at which point the nursery teachers ought to tell you who their ‘best’ friends are and so on. Then playdates start to make sense.

They have a friend over and they, mostly, play together. They might even disappear off up to someone’s bedroom. And you can talk to the mum if you like, or corral the baby if you have dragged it along for the ride.

But until that point, if someone invites you over and you’re not sure, I would advise you to make your excuses.

This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. If you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here

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