One of the most traumatic experiences of parenthood –and as well all know too well, there are but too many- is the modern phenomenon of playdating.
The way we live now means there are no hoards of cousins and cousins’ cousins who share our blood and genes for our children to play with, in the dusty sunny courtyard of our ancestral homes. Our children play with the children of strangers. In strange houses where we have never set foot. Talk about nightmares.
…So, on a Saturday afternoon, we drove up a strange road, searching for the house of “Sam”, the golden boy’s best friend, for their first playdate. We found the house number, and the golden boy and I got out of the car. Before we had a chance to knock, “Sam” shot out of another house, right into the street, holding a ball. The golden boy freaked, and screamed ”Don’t run in the street!” Sam’s mother came out of another house. “Don’t worry”, she smiled, “these streets are perfectly safe. Sam plays here with the neighbour’s child all the time. We’re so glad you brought the golden boy”.
We were not. We debated driving up to the top of the street, parking, and then crawling back down behind the hedges so we could keep an eye on the golden boy and Sam and the completely unknown element, the neighbour’s child. After all, we are downtown city apartment people, unused to leafy quiet safe suburbia. But we decided against this strategy, chiefly because we were afraid if the white Canadian parents of Sam and the neighbours saw us, they would think us rabid crazy immigrant araby barbarians. So we drove away, fear in our hearts, counting minutes until the playdate was over.
Yesterday was our turn. Sam’s mother delivered him. There was a nasty gash on his chin, with cut threads dangling from it. Sam’s mother explained gaily “Sam banged his chin yesterday, and needed stitches- nothing to worry about”.
I did worry. I listened to Sam and the golden boy whooping and wrestling and throwing pillows at each other, and with each blow, I felt the chin wound opening and blood pouring out. I croaked “Don’t you want to play with lego, boys?” They didn’t seem to hear- the only time they took any notice of me was when they asked for more cookies. Sam ate a whole boxful. I understand middle-class Canadian mothers only give their small children raw broccoli and spinach to eat, and Sam was ravenous for more and more Walmart cookies. I was afraid he was going to barf. The minutes of the playdate crawled by, and I sat, paralysed with fear and dread. When his mother fetched him, after almost three hours, I almost cried with relief.