Then, your child leaves preschool and is in kindergarten. Let's just say first grade. Let's just say your child's name is Andy and has a wild head of hair and a history of poor decision making. Actually, I take that last part back. Andy's decision making is mostly sound. He is now out in the world and he is making his own friends, coming home and discussing other children in that excited tone of voice that adults usually reserve for landscaping or a good deal on a late model used vehicle. Right away, in first grade, Andy made himself a new friend, a young whippersnapper we shall call Ramone. "Ramone is always right," Andy said matter-of-factly one evening. Humorlessly, I laughed in his face. "No one is always right," I replied. "ESPECIALLY Ramone."
Nonetheless, having seen sweet cheeks Ramone out and about at school functions, I decided I really liked the always right, never wrong young man, despite his obvious ego situation. "Yes, you can have a play date with Ramone," I told Andy. "Let me just find his mom.... Oh, there she is." We exchanged numbers after an awkward hello. I've been told by other friends that when I start greetings with "Are you such-and-such's mom? This is awkward but..." it sounds like I'm about to pronounce that their kid was doing something shitty and NOT that I was interested in setting up a play date with their mostly UNshitty child. Ironically, my pronouncement of awkwardness once again makes things more awkward. It's as if my social life is a never-ending loop of eighth grade.
And so, three months later, young Ramone finally came over. These playdates can take a while to plan. The boys had a wonderful time after I laid down all of the ground rules. No being loud after Emily goes to sleep. No running or fighting or throwing. No crumby snacks on carpeted areas. But HAVE FUN, KIDS! And they did have fun! Alex too, who announced, "Ramone is my friend, too!" Ramone came back a week later, and then Ramone's mother invited Andy over.
"I want to go, too!" Alex yelled excitedly when I told Andy he was going to Ramone's house. I got down to eye level with Alex, which is one of those parenting tips that really only works if you're delivering good news, not bad news.
"You cannot go to Ramone's," I told Alex. "Only Andy was invited. Ramone is Andy's friend from first grade."
At this point, Alex was sobbing so hard and so loud that the neighbors were dialing the first few digits to DCFS. The across the street neighbors.
"You will have your own playdates with your own friends," I said, struggling to be heard over the sound of misery. I racked my brain, the pictures of the boys in his preschool class spinning through my head like images in a slot machine. Chucky. Ivan. Harry. Jackpot! "I'll talk to Harry's mom. Please stop crying. Please."
He did not stop crying. His wails continued as we all piled into the car, Andy grinning from ear to ear, and went on until we got out of the car three minutes later at Ramone's house. I listed all the reasons why Alex could not go to Ramone's too. I offered to go buy him a Wendy's frosty. Or take a turn at his Batman Lego game and get him to the next level. Anything! We all got out of the vehicle- me, Andy, Emily, her pink puppy, and sobbing Alex. At the doorway, Ramone's mother swung open the front door and said, "Hello! Does Alex want to stay and play too?"
"YES!" Alex screamed, wiping away the last of this tears, kicking off his shoes, and running off joyously into the depths of the house.
"Wow," I said to Ramone's mother. "That is so nice of you." Silently, I told her, "Just so you know, you've sealed your fate and made this into a package deal from here on out. Sucker."
The boys had had a wonderful time at my house the week before. But they had an AMAZING, MIND BLOWING, JUST GODDAMN INCREDIBLE time at Ramone's. It was truly the House of Fun. Kids running everywhere! Being loud! Eating candy! Making crumbs! Throwing things! It was a child's paradise! When I finally picked up the boys two hours later, they both declared Ramone's house THE BEST HOUSE EVER!
"Ramone's house is so much fun!" Andy exclaimed, sinking down into our sofa.
"Our house is fun, too," I replied defensively, looking around our own crumb-free family room, which was forever dimly lit as to set a quiet, studious mood. "Lots of fun! Stop wiggling so much. I mean, it's SO much fun here!"
Going to bed that night, I had a small panic attack. What if my house just wasn't fun enough to keep the kids captive? What if they loved me less because I didn't want them swinging plastic swords around my neatly painted walls? What if they ran away one day because I wanted their volume at a respectable five instead of a headache inducing, toddler waking ten? What if I LOST MY KIDS FOREVER?
|This is where I drop my kids off.|
The next week, the boys (both of them, of course!) went back to Ramone's. I felt sick again afterwards when I picked my children up, inspecting their blue tongues (Blue candy, Mom! And we had pop, too!) when we got home. The following week, I anxiously suggested we invite Ramone over. Afraid the boys were going to try to twist their playdate into another fun-filled afternoon at Ramone's House of Rowdy, I suggested all the great things they could do. Play video games! Set up the Gotham City toys! Get out the Crayola animation kit we hadn't opened up yet! Have a sugary snack! (No crumbs, though).
Finally, dinner was over and Ramone was at our door, busting through the doorway with the glee of a child truly happy to be in my home. And the kids had a good time, I reassured myself. Such a good time, with just enough rambunctiousness that I decided to silently retract my offer of sugary snacks and instead slipped a little Benadryl into each of their juices. I'm kidding of course! Ramone's mom, I would never do that to your kid! Never.
Watching Ramone and his mother drive away later, and watching my kids tuck themselves into the sofa to play a quiet, relaxing game together (Batman Lego video game), I decided that any new friend and house was going to shine with the novelty of being different. It was okay. I was not going to lose my six year old and four year old to somebody else's good time party shack. Probably.
And, yes, it was working out with Andy picking his own friends instead of me directing the selection like I could still do with Alex. It was working out very well. Because, as I may have mentioned, I get to drop Andy AND ALEX off at playdates. Package deal! Two for one! BOGO half off! Free with purchase! Et cetera.
Young Ramone will stay in our lives for a very long time.