I have a confession to make: I have come to dread hosting 'playdates'.
Oh, it was fine when the boys were little, and little friends would come round accompanied by their mums, who (hopefully) were my friends too, and we could gossip and drink tea while we supervised our offspring's play. And to some extent it's still fine with Littleboy 2, whose friends still find it exciting to play with Lego, scale the bunkbed ladder and spend hours bouncing on the trampoline.
No, the problem is with Littleboy 1's friends. Sweet boys, generally, but many of them seem to have the attention span of gnats. Primarily, they are usually dismayed when they find out that we have neither a Wii or a 'DS' in the household. I am starting to feel almost cruel for not having this equipment, but then I have to remind myself that my son is only six and actually, he's quite happy without it.
We do, however, have an iPad, and sometimes I relent and let Littleboy 1 play Angry Birds with his friends (although he's only supposed to have one prescribed play on it after supper). But I don't want them to spend the whole playdate on it, so I restrict the time before kicking them outside or suggesting they play something else. But this is easier said than done. We had one child recently who wanted my son to open every single board game we own, only to announce after two minutes of each that he was 'bored of this now'.
The kids here always want to 'see the basement' too. This is because many of them have large, converted basements which are like extra playrooms. I have to explain to them that yes, we do have a basement but it is grotty, spider-ridden and home to only the washing machine, tumble dryer, ancient TVs belonging to our landlady and some random storage boxes. But sometimes they are so determined that we have to venture down there, at which point they look horrified.
The trampoline usually keeps them amused for a while, but then it's back to mooching indoors. Littleboy 1 doesn't help by constantly asking them if they want a snack. I'm happy to give them food, but what do you do if a little guest keeps asking for more and more glasses of milk and more and more pretzels? I'm sure his mother won't be pleased, but on the other hand I don't want to become known as that mean British mother who keeps the food under wraps.
I've always had a rule that there is no TV on playdates - why go round to someone else's house to watch television? - but the other day after two hours of 'I'm bored' I gave in and let them watch cartoons. I felt terrible, but there really did seem to be no pleasing this particular friend.
I don't know. I think I'm fairly hopeless at this playdate business. If anyone has any tips on how to make it more bearable without being the kind of mother who does wonderful creative crafts and painting when other kids come round (I am just not that woman), please advise.