Level 2 Chi Kung.
Well, I was seriously out-manoeuvred today. Regular readers will recall that I am reluctant to have Katie’s friend X for play dates. It is a truth universally acknowledged that most children behave better for other people than they do for their own parents – sensibly choosing to exorcise their wild side in the secure environment of home. X is the opposite – I see her whining around mummy like butter wouldn’t melt, but at my place, she is horrible: incredibly rude and disobedient, lies about what she is and is not allowed to eat, demands food and then doesn’t eat it, and generally trashes the place. And what’s worse, after she has gone home and I am desperate for a bit of normality, Katie tends to copy her bad behaviour.
After last time, I had vowed that there would be no further play dates – at least not at my place. However I was caught on the hop a bit last week when X’s mummy asked if Katie could come to theirs for a play date. She asked at school pick up time, in front of the girls. Katie was jumping up and down and saying ‘Please, please’, Sherlock was pulling on the lead, and we were in a hurry to get home for Dash, so I said something non-committal and off we went. That evening I got a text asking when K could come over. After that, the texts went like this:
J: Well, it’s a bit difficult as Katie now does something every night of the week. I guess after film club and before trampoline on Thursday would work. Or after yoga on Friday?
X’s mummy: No, that won’t work, X isn’t doing any after school clubs this term and it’s awkward to do two pick-ups. Maybe a Saturday after 11:30?
J: Ok, I could drop her round in the afternoon if you like, but are you sure you wouldn’t rather have a quiet weekend?
X’s mummy: We have family time at 3pm, so bring her after 11:50 and pick her up by 3pm.
X’s mummy [a few minutes later]: New plan. Actually tomorrow I am starting a new babysitter to give us a rest on Saturdays. So let’s leave it a few weeks.
J: That sounds much more sensible – you need a break and Katie needs to chill on the weekends.
X’s mummy: [obviously being nagged mercilessly!] Thinking about Thursday, I could get my assistant to pick Katie up from film club and then you could just collect Katie from trampolining.
J: Ok. Sounds fine.
X’s mummy: Morning! A favour please. Any chance you could pick up X and X’s sister and Katie and bring them home to me and I’ll do the rest? Or better still, can you drop X’s sister home to me and then have X at home with you until trampolining?
J: [wondering if there is an emoticon for heart sinking] Ok.
X duly walked home with us, refusing to hold hands as we crossed the busy roads, making personal remarks about my hair, and teasing poor Dash mercilessly all the way. We got in the front door and, although I had heard Katie reminding X on the way home that they would have to play downstairs, X headed straight up the stairs.
J: [firmly] No girls, play downstairs please.
J: [curtly] Because I don’t like the mess you two make when you are out of my sight.
X: [running up the stairs]: Well I’m going up anyway.
J: [thinks longingly of violence, nurturing fantasies involving rolled up magazines and damp tea towels, breathes, counts to 10, counts to 100, gives up bloody counting and goes upstairs] WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
X: [rolling wet play dough on the carpet] It’s called playing. You’ve heard of play haven’t you?
J: [through gritted teeth] Go downstairs please. Now. Right now, please. Now!
Late for trampolining, on account of X refusing to get her coat and boots on, and the only three parent chairs are taken, so spend the next hour perched on a wooden bench eight inches off the ground, fuming.
I’m way too old to still be getting manoeuvred into situations that I know, in advance, are going to be horrible, but even in hindsight, I struggle to see how I could graciously have achieved a better outcome.