Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Playdate Stalker

Growing up, I lived in a house on a lake nine miles out of town. Oh sure, it sounds great to live on a lake. I get that. But before I turned 16, I spent a lot of time reading books in my lovely lake home while my friends all rode bikes to each others houses and did fun things that I heard about later, thus giving me mental problems from which I am still clearly recovering.

But I'm not bitter, and that's what's important.

My children, on the other hand, live "in town" (as I used to call it to myself as I sat rocking in the corner in a fetal position in my lake home). They have friends whose houses are actually within walking distance. This alone makes me a fantastic mother. So I feed you Cheetos for breakfast, and only clip your toenails in even-numbered months and don't let you use wire hangers - NO WIRE HANGERS!! ...you can WALK to your friend's houses, can't you? So quit yer complainin'!

Youngest Daughter, who is six but incredibly diabolical, has been working on her play date skills lately. She wants someone here Every. Single. Night. It makes me wonder about her motives. Does she feel the need for a witness in the house? Does she strive to control other people? Is she starting a cult? I'm never sure, because when the play date victim arrives, they are shut in YD's room.

I picked the kids up from school on Thursday last week, and YD asked if she could have a friend over, but this time, she tried to work me.

YD: "Can I have someone over to play?"
ME: "No, if we are decorating the tree I have some work to do first."
(Translation: Facebook ain't gonna check itself!)
YD: "Please?"
ME: "No. Next week."

Fast forward a half hour. YD is eating a graham cracker contemplatively.
YD: "Mommy, do you know WHY I asked to have a friend over?"
ME: "No, why?"
YD: "Because I want you to be able to work without me disturbing you. If I have a friend over, I will play and not ask you for things. Plus, Katie eats a lot at home, so we wouldn't bother you for snacks either."
ME: "Well played, YD, but the answer is still no."

This morning, after she left for school, I was cleaning her room. (Translation: Looking for drawings of her hurting Mommy, or leftover chocolate from Halloween.) In her big plastic box of 2000 Crayolas, I found 24 letters. They were written to each of her classmates. They were folded awkwardly and stuffed in envelopes. They had been addressed, properly mind you, and STAMPED. I opened them, like so many future teenage private diaries, and they all said something along these lines:

"Dear Friend, How was your Christmas? What was your favorite toy? Would you like to come over to my house to play? I will have my mom call your mom. Love, YD"

It felt a bit like the part in The Shining when Shelley Duvall stands at Jack Nicholson's desk and sees the hundreds of pages that say "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". I grabbed the other children, ran outside and drove our snowcat into the hedges.

But I also realized that my first grader had completed her first direct mail campaign. If she gets the standard response percentage, I will have one first grade visitor here after Christmas. Or I will have to schedule twenty-four separate play dates in January. I hope they eat a lot at home.

In the meantime, I'm going to start pricing lake homes.


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