I've never been a fan of "new parenting". I remember the clowns that used to run the playground circuit when my kids were young. Today's crew has evolved into something that makes yesteryears freaks seem almost normal.
My younger brother called out of the blue last week to ask me if I'd ever heard of the term "play dates". Just the mention of those two words makes me laugh. Seems his daughter received a "play date business card" at the park. Obviously she was "up to snuff"--and had a card to prove it.
The card contained all necessary info on a primary colored/child friendly font card~the kid's name, parents' names, proud siblings' names and ages (just in case cross referencing of the kiddos at home was necessary), nanny's name and cell number, parent's phone numbers-cell, work, munchkin's address, and of course my personal favorite--DAYTIME AVAILABILITY. Like I said, the freaks have evolved. In my day, there were play date INTERVIEWS.
It seems like yesterday when we were blessed with the call from The Bumbletons. Seems their boy was bored with his regular play date posse and he was looking for some fresh meat. I'll admit we were curious. A play date was something new to my soon to be second grade boy. Sure he played with kids on the block, but an actual invite that didn't involve a birthday present and treat bag from a kid in his class at "What Would Jesus Do Catholic Elementary Day School" was an entirely new experience for us. We hopped onboard immediately...we didn't want to chance them changing their minds. The big event was planned for the very next day~Sunday at 2 o'clock sharp.
We arrived at 2 o'clock on the dot. The boy and I got out of the car and walked up to the front door. The house itself looked absolutely perfect...hedges trimmed in perfect boxes...lawn freshly cut--the diagonal pattern still evident--front windows so clean and clear that I could only imagine the amount of birds flying into them daily and, of course, the sound of the deadly thud that usually follows. The boy had his swimsuit in one hand and his goggles and towel stuffed in a plastic Jewel bag in the other. I'm sure most kids had a kickin' beach bag to bring to such events, but as you already know, we're amateurs.
I was a bit nervous dropping him off to swim because he really wasn't all that good where that skill was concerned. Sure, he knew enough to paddle to the edge in case of emergency, but if he jumped off the diving board--he'd be sunk--no pun intended. Even so, my intention was to drop and dash. I had a 3-year old at home napping with my husband, a mother recovering from 3-week hospital stay following a heart attack, and I wanted to budget my remaining ME time wisely.
They answered the door--all three of them--together: The mister, the missus, and the kid. I knew the kid's "type" all too well...he made Eddie Haskell seem like a choir boy. I know he was only seven, but he was just too confident. I'd seen him in action when I had volunteered time at school. He was an overachiever, a bragger, a real pain-in-the-ass. But a play date is a play date and we were going forward.
I should have known by the uneasy smiles plastered on his and her faces that this was not going to be the drop-off I had anticipated. I noticed him, Mickey, first. He was uneasy, disheveled, with a glazed look in his eyes that seemed to scream, "I haven't slept since this kid was born".
Mickey had the bathing suit pulled up to about chest level, and a pair of flip flops on his glow-in-the-dark-white feet, and a white muscle (what muscle shirt was enhancing is anyone's guess) t-shirt with bright blue letters stating "SUPER DAD". The shirt solidified my first impression--Mickey's middle name had to be Mope. Somehow Mickey was just a shadow of his better half.
She was, like the house behind her, simply perfect. A perfect version of a perfect housewife in a perfect time warp. Her hair was fashioned in a tightly wound bun--the irony was lost at this particular moment, but later I'd realize and appreciate the humor. She had on a 1980's fashionable salmon colored jogging suit that looked like it might have been dry cleaned, the pointiest, whitest Ked's tennis shoes I had ever seen, and her make up was as perfect as the pronunciation of her words.
Have I mentioned her speech? Perfect. Each vowel, each consonant, pro-noun-ced (emphasis on the D) as Merriam Webster intended...and really s-l-o-w...as if she were speaking to a four-year-old...a really slow four-year-old. Now, if Mickey's middle name was Mope- Joanne's was "Very Thorough". She was the type of gal that if you asked her for a phone number she'd recite the phone book.
In Joanne "Very Thorough" Bumbleton's tightly clenched fists were two things; a clip board--containing what I now imagine were the interview questions and a "What Would Jesus Do Catholic Elementary Day School" Family Directory. I could only assume the florescent colored post-it was holding our family's info at the ready. The first thing to strike me strange at our first meeting was her constant referral to our children's school by its FULL name. Most parents, myself included, referred to the place as WWJD...just seemed easier. But for my new gal pal "Very Thorough", she said and of course pronounced every last word in the school's title. It was the proper thing to do.
First things first...I was taken on a tour of the home where our boy might some day be invited to play. Again, I had figured I'd drop this kid and hit the road, tour of the home took me by complete surprise--but hey, I was new to this play date thing. Upstairs housed four bedrooms and 2 baths. All rooms impeccably decorated.
The Bumbleton Brat had a room that resembled Toys-R-Us. Adjacent to his bedroom was a study/gaming room. Again, all the latest gadgets, all the whistles and bells; onto the guest room, another bathroom, and then the master suite. Lining the walls across from the king-sized bed with the calico bed spread (who has THOSE anymore) were 11x14 portraits of the Bumbleton Brat, wedding portraits of the happy couple, and framed diplomas.
They had four diplomas between them. My sense of inadequacy was becoming evident. I couldn't imagine either one of these people having the sense to come in out of the rain, let alone conquer undergrad work. Master's Degrees??? Truly shocking.
Oh, well, down the stairs we went to check out the lower level. We ended up in the kitchen and I sat down at the table while the missus went to get me the can of pop I agreed to...I only had to repeat my request three times before she understood what I had said...I wondered if she might be hard of hearing.
I sat on one side, and it seemed the Bumbleton's chairs were across from me. The Bumbleton's were arguing by the fridge...quietly. Seemed Mr. Bumbleton put the pop cans away upside down AGAIN and "Very Thorough" was crouched down trying to put them back up right, the whole time shaking her head and questioning how she could possibly open them now that they've been stored upside down. Surely, they might explode.
My mind raced back up to the master suite and the four diplomas I had just seen hanging on the wall. These two can't possibly be for real. I was wishing my husband had come along--I needed someone to kick underneath the table--this was stuff that you couldn't make up. Mickey apologized over and over to Very Thorough and then took a seat at the table.
It took Very Thorough about five minutes to decide which pop she would like to drink and another five to get the can's contents poured over her glass of ice, watching her take ice out of the tray was actually painful, then of course the glass had to be placed just so on the coaster. Not sure what the purpose of the coaster was as there was a plastic, flannel-lined tablecloth covering the kitchen table that had a glass top protector; it had to be at least 20 years old. What they were protecting it from was anyone's guess. Mrs. Bumbleton started out by asking me about my husband and questioned his absence...she never went anywhere without Mickey, he knew all the directions (yep, she was proud recipient of the two master's degrees hanging on her bedroom wall btw).
When she told me she was disappointed and had hoped to meet the boy's father as well as his mother a light bulb went off in my head--a real Oprah aha moment...I thought I might be being interviewed.
Seems Mrs. Bumbleton feels she can get a real "read" on the parents of potential friends when she sees them interact as a couple. The next few questions were fired rapidly. She used "What Would Jesus Do Catholic Elementary Day School" Family Directory as a reference - What Subdivision did we live in? How long did we live there? Where did I go to school? Was I a practicing Catholic? Where did we worship? What Mass did we attend? Did we prefer Sat. evening or Sunday morning? Were we active at Church? How long had we been parishioners? Holy Crap!! I AM being interviewed.
I was asked to explain my reasons for filling out application for enrollment at What Would Jesus Do Catholic Elementary Day School...did I pray for the acceptance result as she had? She asked what enrollment number we were assigned as well as which first grade class my boy had been in. Where did the boy attend preschool? Did he like it? What kind of friend was my boy? Who are his friends? Does he get invited to other children's homes from the What Would Jesus Do Catholic Elementary Day School? SHE WAS TAKING NOTES!
I was just about to put the breaks on this freak show when I apparently answered the "who are his friends" question completely wrong.
The next half hour was all "Very Thorough". She spoke in great detail about why the boy our boy was friends with was no friend of theirs. Then she told me about the non-friend's parents and why parents like his had no business at a Christian school in numbered detail. I did everything I could to keep my chin off the flannel covered tablecloth. My mouth was dry and she was doing all the talking. I wanted another Diet Coke, but couldn't get a word in edgewise.
Mickey sat there nodding his head, seemed to me he'd heard this all before. I do believe he nodded off once or twice, but somehow her shrill voice brought him right back to where he belonged. At that point the boys had come up from the basement. Mrs. Bumbleton told my boy that she enjoyed meeting us as a family, but we would have to cut our visit short. Seems she and Mr. Bumbleton had some things to take care of and today was not really a good day for the pool. There was a slight possibility that the Jr. Bumbleton may want to contact him once school starts--maybe they might be in the same room this year (oh, yeah, my fingers were crossed).
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was just interviewed for a play date and got the hook. I was so completely shocked I didn't know what to say. I was so excited that we were getting the go-ahead to leave; I stood up and told the boy to get his things. Surprisingly he didn't seem to mind. We walked out the door, walked down the driveway past the shiny minivan with the "Beep if you Love Jesus" Bumper Sticker on the back, and got into our car. I started the ignition, put the car in gear and drove home. Completely humiliated, yet pleasantly relieved. Play dates aren't all they're cracked up to be...lucky for us we didn't pass the interview.