At my first parent teacher conference when Anna was a whopping two years old, I was told she was a little introverted and that to encourage her integration in to preschool I should try and arrange 'playdates' with her peers.
I think those are the words the teacher used. What I actually heard was 'you thoughtless parent, a school is more than a place to corral your child while you earn money, you must talk to those terrifyingly aloof Bugaboo Moms with their 10 megawatt diamonds who sneer at your unchanging work attire and Pilates-free abs, and attempt to infiltrate their impenetrable clique.' Seriously, that's me in a nutshell. My insecurities raged as I used all my powers of small talk to corner a parent or two at drop-off. Eventually I beat S's Mom in to submission and we had Anna's first ever playdate at the Botanic Garden. S turned out to be Anna's first ever BFF and all was right with the world. I let out a huge sigh of relief and crawled back under my rock.
Playdates waned a little with Lucy's birth - somehow the idea of toting both children to somebody else's house, or round a playground seemed far too overwhelming for the first six months. Besides, Anna was thriving at her new school, her social calendar replete with birthdays and events.
Last Friday one of her many new friends, K, came round for a first playdate at our house. Prior to their arrival my biggest concerns were K's limiting gluten and dairy-free diet - but I had decided that we could pick homegrown tomatoes and the girls could either eat them or starve. I was also worried about our pigsty of a ghetto dwelling, but ha! little did I know that that would pale into insignificance once Dr. Anna Jekyll made her appearance.
I won't go into the full horror of the 90 minutes of hell. I will just leave you with a few choice quotes from my darling daughter:
"You're not pretty in that dress"
"My dress is deeper (read, longer) than yours and I am more beautiful"
"Stop following me"
"You're not allowed to play with that. Mom stop her touching my stuff"
"I want you to go home I don't like you"
Oh it was a joy. Then Lucy choked on her fistfuls of Cheerios and projectile vomited all over the carpet.
K's Mum was of course there throughout, 4 year olds being considered too little to 'fly solo' at a playdate. She was very sweet, and tried her best to be helpful. "This is why we have playdates" she cried cheerily. "It's just their age". I smiled and tried to communicate certain death to Anna by giving her Paddington's hardest stare.
After they left, or rather, fled, I waited the requisite 5 minutes in case they'd forgotten anything then sat Anna down for a serious talk. There were tears of uncomprehending rage. And from Anna too. She couldn't see anything wrong with her behaviour. She clearly felt she was just asserting her rightful ownership. In the end the punishment meted out was no TV for 2 days (I was the real victim with that one) and her Barbies were also confiscated for two days. I know! If only the UN took such a hard line!
We have had one playdate since, with a different friend, on neutral ground (Switzerland). It went well. Still I'm not sure whether I'm ready to replicate Annagate. At least not with friends whose mother's I am not on a drinking-relationship level with.
This parenting caper is far too stressful.