I’m writing a musical. It’s called Playdate! and its heroine, Ziggler McPhee, is a young ingenue who has a series of unsuccessful play dates with ungrateful, non-sharing and meany-faced frenemies but who is eventually victorious at Being Right All The Time and Winning All Arguments. There are a few choral numbers, such as ‘Let’s Dress up As Princesses!’ and ‘Yay! We are Horsies’ but the majority of the songs see our heroine wistfully singing lilting ballads with titles like ‘Alas! She Did A Mean Face,’ and ‘But She Won’t Play with Me.’ A powerful conversational duet called ‘Who should open the front door?’ comes just before the final number, which I haven’t written yet but will probably be entitled ‘Everybody’s sorry, Ziggler is the best’ or something.
I asked my sister, Sausage, what play dates are like in her 2 boy household. ’Fine,’ she replied. ‘They just go off and play’. Not so here. As my planned Broadway Spectacular suggests, play dates in our house consist of tears, traumas, dramas and disagreements and finally everyone leaves and Ziggler remarks with a sigh upon what a nice time they all had. And usually adds that she misses one or other of them, in rather a tragic tone.
The other day I looked after Ziggler’s best friend Daffodil and her sister Tiny as an emergency favour. At home, there were less than usual arguments because I’d hastily got some biscuits and icing and dug out some only-very-slightly-past-their-sell-by-date-honest sprinkles together so we did a Biscuit Decoration Activity (for Pickle and Tiny this mainly involved licking icing off a big spoon and decorating each others hair with it and sprinkles, but they enjoyed it). Indeed, it was not until the journey to nursery that the squabbling began.
It was a bit rainy. They didn’t want to walk. I thought we could sing some marching songs to chivvy them along a bit (a trick taught to me by my ex-youth-worker dad who got me through a long hike thus, after I’d fallen in a bed of nettles. Aged 17). Daffodil requested ‘The Grand old Duke of York’. Ziggler whinged she’d wanted ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’. I tried a medley but was greeted with general grumbling dissatisfaction. I suggested Old McDonald. Great. He had some horses. Yes! We sang and marched along quite happily. ’Pigs!’ commanded Pickle from the front of the double pushchair. ’Sheep!’ and ‘Cows!’ shouted Ziggler and Daffodil simultaneously. I went with cows. ’I said shee-ee-eep!’ bleated Ziggler. ’I wanted cooo-oo-oows!’ moaned Daffodil. ’Let’s have cows next!’ I suggested brightly. ’Noooo Sheeeep,’ wailed Ziggler. ’Yes cooooows,’ cried Daffodil. ‘I want NO SINGING AT ALL’ yelled Ziggler. ’I want SINGING!’ retorted Daffodil. Pickle and Tiny oinked cheerfully from the push chair. ‘Shall we have ‘Twinkle Twinkle?’ I suggested timidly. And so it was all the long, long way to nursery, with various arguments erupting over one person walking too fast and the other too slowly, one doing a mean face and the other laughing horribly, and so on and so on until I finally hit upon being horses and we galloped the last 2 metres to the nursery door where I could finally say goodbye. Then Pickle and Tiny and I had a very pleasant afternoon during which they played happily together and shared beautifully. I am too scared of my sister and others to suggest that this is because they are second borns and therefore sharing comes more naturally (tee hee).
So Ziggler had her nursery review and obviously she is brilliant, but while her algebra is advanced and she’s doing a extremely well in her deportment lessons, apparently – astoundingly – she’s not all that good at asserting what she wants with her friends. After I eased my agape mouth closed I asked what we could do to help. Then I suppressed a long, loud and anguished ‘noooooooo’. The answer? ’More playdates,’