Why I don’t invite my kid’s friends to tea

There’s one thing that it is very hard to turn around, and that is the problem of eating at other people’s houses.In my experience, children under five years and often older really, really don’t like doing this, unless it is a house they know very well and have eaten there before.

I’ve decided, based on no scientific evidence at all, that children have acute senses of smell and taste and while someone else’s house might smell to us anodyne and harmless, to a small child the smell of someone else’s house is overpowering and bizarre. They might as well be on another planet. (It’s why kids bloody love McDonalds. It’s always the same.)

To a small child the smell of someone else’s house is overpowering and bizarre. They might as well be on another planet.

When Kitty first started at nursery and we had playdates with her little friends, I would invite them to stay for tea and it was always a total fucking disaster.

I thought Kitty was the only one who wasn’t crazy about eating at strangers’ houses, but it turns out none of them especially want to do it. But no parent wants to say, ‘Sorry, JoJo freaks out about eating in other people’s houses,’ because it makes the child sound nuts and like they think your house is horrible.

I thought Kitty was the only one who wasn’t crazy about eating at strangers’ houses, but it turns out none of them especially want to do it.

It made me feel incredibly sorry for the world’s under-fives. Being a ‘bad’ or ‘picky’ eater, i.e. not eating everything in sight, seems to be the source of such shame for so many families, when in fact it’s just normal. You might as well be embarrassed that your baby’s done a poo in its nappy, or because your toddler tripped over.

So I have stopped inviting Kitty’s friends to stay for tea. They arrive at 3pm and leave at 4.30 to get home in time for fish fingers in the comfort of their own homes – and it suits everyone just fine.

And I don’t expect Kitty to eat at their houses, either. It’s just too stupid.

This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. We’re going to be serialising it over the next few weeks but if you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here

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