We have enough toys and games in our home for any self-respecting little kids to lose themselves in our playroom for days; certainly enough dolls, dress-up clothes, ride-on toys, sports equipment and art supplies to keep a troupe of preschoolers entertained and satisfied. In my mind, we’re the cool house for the five- and-under set. We have that going for us.
However, as I found out recently when Ava (our 9 yo) invited two of her good friends over for a play date, when it comes to activities to entertain the young tween set, our house is decidedly uncool (according to me).
From the minute her friends walked in our home, I was anxious. We don’t own the latest tech gadgets; the ones I imagine ALL of Ava’s friends have (and of course, all of you have also!) – iPads/iPods for everyone, Wii, Xbox, Smart TVs.
With nothing but our treasure trove of Polly Pockets and Bitty Babies, we are not the cool tween house.
Sure, I had good food on hand, but the girls came over right after lunch and didn’t touch the spread of quesadillas, guacamole and overly-frosted cupcakes I lovingly set out. They wanted to play. And I panicked.
What would they do for two hours? How fast could I get a Wii set delivered and set up? Who offers that service? Anyone? Best Buy?
I’m a big believer in free play, and we limit our kids’ screen time, except when my my daughter’s popularity is at stake!
Not one to let go and trust without a fight, I went into control mode. I offered idea after idea of how they could spend their time together: Play Trouble! String friendship bracelets! Put together a 4000-piece puzzle! Put on a Broadway-caliber show (I’ll make costumes!). See, we’re a fun family! Really!
My ideas were endless, my interference bordered on ridiculous. Why did I have to work so hard? Why did I need these kids to be entertained?
I’ll tell you why. Because I like these girls and I want them to like Ava and I want them to want to gather at our house.
Did the fact that these girls already like Ava and apparently enjoy her company enough to hang out with her on a Sunday come into consideration? No, no it did not.
I want Ava to be popular and happy and never feel embarrassed or less than … and …. and… Hmmm. Who wants to be popular, happy and never feel embarrassed or less than? Me?
Perhaps I need a hobby other than controlling my daughter’s social life and reliving my own childhood through her?
Growing up, we never had the cool house. My parents, Italian immigrants, didn’t know cool from cavatelli. My mom and dad didn’t have the financial means or interest to invest money in gadgets and technology – no Atari, VCRs or cable for us.
We did; however, always have an abundance of food. And supervision. My mom hovered; continuously asking my friends if they wanted a slice of her freshly baked onion pie. Or a cannoli. Good god, the embarrassment! Somehow, despite this depravity, I survived. And had friends.
How likely was Ava to say the same? How long would the riveting game, “Stay Away from Ava’s Lunatic Mother,” hold her and her friends’ interest?
I finally surrendered. I told myself Ava and her friends would be fine, this was my anxiety (can you say “b-a-g-g-a-g-e?”), and they could twiddle their thumbs for a couple of hours and probably have fun doing it. Or maybe they could play charades?
When I finally settled down and attended to my own lunch needs (I make a damn good quesadilla!), Ava and her friends settled in too, choosing to huddle in the family room and sing karaoke. (Good thing I bought that karaoke machine last Christmas – my genius finally paid off!)
After a few minutes, I heard them playing with the microphone – pretending they were broadcasters interviewing each other for their school’s television show. They happily did this for more than an hour before belting out songs like miniature Beyonces and melting into giggles.
Perhaps we are still in the running for the cool house after all? Just in case, should I order a Wii?