The one about playdates

2 May

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On Saturday, in my incapacitation and with the weather resembling day 20 of the forty days and forty nights of precipitation endured by Noah prior to launching the Ark, it seemed like the best idea to invite a mate for each of the Ls round to keep everyone amused.

I love having the kids’ mates round to play and if I didn’t work full time we would do it a whole lot more.  It gives me unrivalled insight into how things are when they’re not with me, when they’re at school, at the childminder’s, at other friends’, when they’re living their lives out of our realm of control and observance.

I love picking up snippets of the conversations they have; seeing the way they interact together when adults aren’t directly around; and sitting with them at mealtimes just having a chat when they’re all together, telling you stuff – a fantastic way to pick up some of the flavour of their lives and the relationships they build and nurture when you’re not around, and play is undirected.  It also helps, I suppose, that the Ls’ friends are to a person fantastic – lovely little kids with lots to say.

It’s also genuinely fascinating to see how activities have changed as they’ve grown.  L1 and friends use the same base materials – the dolls’ house, the Barbies (some remainders from my own childhood, how the Barbie shape and accoutrements have changed in – give or take – thirty years!), the baby dolls – but the games are ever more sophisticated and the worlds they inhabit increasingly many-faceted.  The imaginary landscape in which these fundamental figures exist has changed, developed, grown and widened.  They’re only in the play-houses as a temporary thing now: they’re out and about, at work, at the cinema, visiting friends – a play world that is an ever-closer mimic of the world they observe and in which they are more and more active participants.  Imaginary independence is coming to the fore.  ‘Teenage’ Barbies are off to the shop, buying chewing gum (gasp!), and diet Coke (double gasp – not decaffeinated, either!).  My girl and her friends are playacting their next stages, making it familiar in their minds before it could ever become familiar in their realities.

On the other hand, the worlds created by L2 and friends, year R, don’t need any finesse.  On Saturday, wonderful to watch, it was two Transformers and the boys’ ability to run that was all they needed.  The boys themselves didn’t exist as little boys any more: everything was directed into these two teeny action figures as they flew, dive-bombed, ‘transformed’ and drove from A to B, apparently the same game for us unenlightened observers but, for the boys, different every time and endlessly occupying.  My experience is that with children of that age if the imaginations gel, play will last as long as is possible.

Three hours passed in a flash.  Yes yes yes, I did have a little nap, circumstances etc, leaving M to police events, but frankly no policing was needed – as he said to me just before tea time “I am, basically, redundant here” – which, I would argue, is the sign of the most perfect playdate.

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