Playdate facilitator arrived. She's lobbying for more 1-on-1 with T. I'm not happy because I am paying for playdate facilitation, NOT more adult-child time. My kids get too much adult-child time already. Other family arrives. I deploy the pre-planned 10 minutes on the iPad then you have to play with the other kids for 15 minutes ultimatum to the oldest arriving boy, J. J. is good with this, because it means iPad now. Middle kid, Z., wants to watch J. play, but is distracted by facilitator to go do other stuff upstairs with my children. Littlest, A., is running around having a good time.
10 minutes in, I pull J. away from the iPad and we all play for about 20 minutes, so that went really well, then it's back to the iPad. I'm playing with A., but there's a whole lot of let's get J. back off the iPad and then figure out how to transition him out the door at the end of the hour. Too much distraction for me. A. wanders off. *sigh* Snacks are deployed. Z. plays on the iPad for a while next to her brother J.; my kids check in with them and continue to engage with the adults. After the time is up, I pull J. off the iPad and a tantrum occurs. I let that go for a while, and there's some discussion about what to do next that doesn't seem very useful to me. Eventually, I pursue J., with the goal of converting his high-energy I-want-iPad/I-don't-want-to-leave tantrum into something more entertaining: the Monster Is Gonna Get You (always a good game). Whenever I'm about to catch him (frequently -- it's my house and I'm fast), I stop, and do Monster: roar, stand up tall, lean over, make a face. J. finds this hysterically funny (duh. Like there's a kid who can throw a tantrum who won't find this hilarious).
Meanwhile, J.'s mother and the facilitator have gone from discussing how that is not going to work (but not stopping me. Yay!) to OMG I can't believe that worked. We Discuss. It was a really great discussion, but somewhat surprising, because the facilitator Totally Got my theory (converting high energy negative to high energy positive) but had not believed it would work with a kid who was that emotionally disorganized (you should have seen him; he was a mess. Adorable, but totally lost it. I've been through much worse with my own kids, so no biggie. I've been through _much worse_ as a person, so _really_ totally got this one). So we talked a while about rough housing, and the trickiness of negotiating boundaries in this kind of interaction and so forth. And the facilitator Really Really Got It. But also had not believed it would work.
So I called my sister, and she did somewhat recognize the technique and has used it on occasion herself (altho not as often as I do), and she knew other people who used it (altho she couldn't come up with them offhand, we did think of them together). We even put together a theory about where we learned it from (a maternal uncle is our best candidate -- it's very much in his style, and he was around a lot when we were young, and his children use the same technique as adults on children). But we suspect that it's kind of a dying art. Professionalized child care can't really do this, because it's a high risk/high skill exercise. The litigation risk is probably crazy high -- plus, when you do this, you really look like a total fool until it works, at which point you go from zero to hero so fast that some people have trouble believing what they just saw happen. And so many people have kids late in life and not in a lots-of-kids-around context, so it's hard to imagine how the technique is learned. The reason my sister and I knew it is because we babysat a ton when we were young, so we hadn't forgotten it being done to us and we were able to flip it.
I'm happy this worked out, and I was pleased to get the chance to discuss it and it's really nice to get some credit for some skills. But I'm a little weirded out still that this is not a Normal Parenting Technique.