Learner Dad: 'It’s not unusual for someone to go home in a different pants to the one they arrived in'

WHAT did people do before play-dates? From what I can remember, this is how it played out in our house.

Me: Mum, can you drive me over to Donal’s house for two hours?

Mum: Don’t be daft Patrick, no one ever does that. There isn’t even a name for that kind of carry on.

Thankfully, we have a name for that kind of carry on now. 

In fact, we have a play-date lined up for our five-year-old this afternoon and everyone is looking forward to it.

He’ll get to meet his buddy who he hasn’t seen for a while, and check out his new shoes. (Is it just my guy, or are boys these days obsessed with their shoes?)

While he’s there, I’ll get to spend some one-on-one time with my daughter, which is always a treat. 

And, best of all, I get to check out his buddy’s house when we head over to pick up my son.

I’m nosey about other people’s houses. So are you. There is nothing we can do about this. 

Now, if I was to turn up at someone’s door and ask for a look around the house, they’d probably press some kind of panic button. But when I turn up with my little guy, they ask me in, give me coffee and show me their new kitchen. 

What a result.

This isn’t just nosiness. We’re half planning to put an extension out the back of our place, but I’m useless at 3-D visualisation, so even when someone sketches out a design, I can’t really see it. 

What I need is someone in a similar place to us, with a similar sub-Dermot-Bannon budget, where they had some work done. Guess what — all the parents I know from school are having work done. 

(On their houses. One of two might be having work done on themselves, I’ll keep that for another article.)

Anyway, these play-date invitations allow me to do a lot of before-and-after gawking around people’s houses. 

And it’s a reciprocal deal — you show me yours and I’ll show you mine — when your kid comes over for the return date.

I genuinely like it when other kids come to play with mine. Particularly when my wife is looking after the kids so she has the tricky job of trying to get someone else’s kid to eat their lunch.

The downside is I work from home, and the noise level can get up to mega-shriek because kids tend to get very excited when they meet a classmate out of school. But I love watching my lot interact with people their own age.

Honestly, my biggest worry for them is they get excluded or find it hard to make friends. I’d say I’m not the only parent who thinks this.

It’s reassuring to watch them with a friend. I love the way they stare at each other for a few awkward seconds at the start before they share a quick giggle and head off to make an outrageous mess in our front room.

 And, yes, there are squabbles and it’s not unusual for someone to go home in different pants to the one they arrived in.

If I was to give one tip to play-date newbie parents, it would be keep your other kids away if possible. 

It can get very messy when someone arrives to play with child A, only to decide she’d rather spend time with child B, just because he has nicer toys.

Another tip is to make sure to say, ‘Ah go away out of that’ when the other parent offers to help tidy up the giant mess in the front room before taking their child home.

Yes, their child contributed to 74% of the mess by your reckoning and now you’re probably going to kneel on some Lego (ouch), but the deal is the visiting parent gets to walk away.

Don’t worry, you’ll have your walk-away moment at the return play-date. Just don’t forget to check out the work they got done in their downstairs toilet before you leave.

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