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kids playingSchool’s in. Gone are the lazy days of late breakfasts and beachy dinners. Gone too, sadly, are summer camps and played-out kids who’ve all day, every day had someone to play with, something doin’ waaay better than sitting in this borrring house all day, as my kids will tell it. I tried not to run from the drop-off gate on the first day of school. I promised myself that I would not burn rubber through the crosswalk. I couldn’t sleep all night, so excited for the first day of school! FREEDOM! I could almost taste it, and it tasted like a Burke Williams massage with a side of no TV and its dastardly drippings of canned laughter.

And then: Aaaandrea! Hiyeee! See, I was not running from my kids (ok, a slow jog), my flight was from the “gatekeepers,” the mothers that linger at the gate long after the kids have been herded into their new classroom lines, even after they’ve cleared the schoolyard, to see who came back, gossip about who left, add their two cents about why. You can’t get in or out of the school without one of them knowing about it. The gate was theirs and they’d caught me with my hand just within reach of my car door. Their call let me know that it was also opening day of Playdate Season.

Because of two many gone wrong (and I do mean TWO) I decided not to do playdates. Period. My daughter’s reinterpretation of this was my mom hates other people’s kids when declining an offer from a classmate. That spread like wildfire among and beyond the gatekeepers so, guess what? Not only do I do playdates, I am THE play-date maven (of a select, tried and tested, few). We have 4 more years at this school, what was I to do?

Given that, I’d like to offer a few points of courtesy that will keep your child in play-date rotation.

* First, and this is probably the most important,.we don’t walk on tables or jump from balconies in my house. Not judging, just saying. Make sure your children know the difference between your house and mine.

* Unless I have included a meal in our date, plan to feed them before I get them, or after I bring them home. I am your entertainment, not your nanny.

* Don’t promise my kids a meal and give them a snack. And, while I’m on it, enough with the grapes and pretzels already! My kids are ruined on grapes.

* School nights are never a good time to get together. By 3:00 p.m., I figure they’ve been together enough. It doesn’t matter that your kid reeeeeally wants to. Go home and deal with that.

* If you leave your kid at my house, this is where they will be the ENTIRE time; likewise, I expect mine to be at your house the ENTIRE time. I can’t even imagine the liability of a truckload of kids, driven by a woman without the common sense and clarity to make a call saying that she’s taking your kid somewhere other than where you left them.

* I’m an understanding woman, and I’ll often offer a mercy play date for a girlfriend ofr acquaintance in need of a break. I am more than willing to allow you a little time to catch your breath and come back to your senses but, when you tell me you’ll return at a certain time, whether it’s one hour or three, you’ve got a 15 minute window past that time without a phone-call. If you were paying a sitter you’d be on time and dock her if you’re early. More than that, it’s just rude.

* For group play dates, Don’t be the trifling one in the group. Don’t bring toys that no one’s allowed to play with. Don’t bring a sick kid. If you’re expected to bring a snack, bring it and bring enough for the group, not just for your kid. Bring your own must-haves: wipes, anti-bacteria gel, water. You can skip the magazines, knitting, book you’ve been reading, phone-calls to catch up, travel pillow, etc. This is a playgroup not a baby-sitting co-op.

So let me clarify what my daughter meant by hate. It’s untrained people, young or old that I dislike.

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