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Play Dates: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Play dates. If you’re a parent, you are familiar with this set up…your kid goes to another kid’s house, you hang out with the parent, the kids play, and then you go home. Or vice versa. As IF it was that easy! First you have to set-up the play date.

Let’s stop right there. Does anyone else feel like setting-up play dates is actually kinda like dating?! Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? I am not imagining this.

I’m new to this play date thing. Hard to believe seeing as though I have a 4.5 year old. But you see, when we lived in Chicago, my husband and I worked every day, so our weekends were for family time. We figured our son had enough play time with his friends at daycare that we didn’t need to set up play dates on the weekend. Ok, we set up a FEW play dates but nothing compared to what it’s like now that I’m a stay at home mom.  My son is home every day after 12 noon. It’s a lovely time for us to catch up and for me to scour together a haphazard craft project.  There are days when we both need a break. Enter the play date.

Like I said, first you have to set-up the play date. You see her, she is at swim class sitting right next to you. She’s chirpy, smiling, and your kids seem to like each other while they sit on the edge of the pool dangling their tootsies in the over-chlorinated water. You turn to her, make some charming comment about the weather, and the rest is history.

Well… sometimes. Why is it so dang hard to say, Look, you seem like we might have some things in common, and our kids are smitten with each other, can we hang out?”  Or, “hey, we just moved here, I’m lonely and don’t have many friends, do you think we could have a play date sometime?” I guess it’s not that hard, but it’s hard for me. I’m pretty good at making conversation. But at some point, when I’ve asked you twenty questions about your life, and you’ve asked me none about mine, I start to feel like the sleazy guy standing at the bar. I was quite the dater before I met my husband. I think that perhaps I’m too worried about getting burned.

Moving along. So what happens after you finally get the proverbial balls to set-up a play date? It can go four different ways.

  1. Your kids love each other and you love the other parent. You leave the play date feeling triumphant. You’re hi-fiving your kid for acting in-line and sharing his toys.  You go home and let him watch at least 2 hours of TV as a reward while you catch up on your pinteresting and facebooking. And just like any good date (play date) you wonder…how long should I wait to call her again? A few days?  Too desperate. A week? She’ll think you didn’t have a good time. Sigh. The trials and tribulations of a neurotic mother (pointing the finger at yours truly in case you didn’t notice).
  2. Your kids hate each other but you still love the other parent. See, this is a doozy. This unfortunately has happened to me several times.  Play dates with this particular child and my son are always like roulette. And let me preface this by saying that both children by themselves are wonderful sweet kiddos.  But some play dates Henry and this child argue constantly. It’s torture. My friend and I are like referees. I like to call these the referee play dates. You stick out the play date for the sake of your friendship with the other parent. And because you’re so starved for conversation (albeit, interrupted conversation because you are constantly disciplining your child) you hang in there. You love each other. You love her company. She makes you laugh (which you need at this point in your life).
  3. Your kids love each other but you don’t care for the parent. Oh gawd. This reminds me of a date I had years ago, where half-way thru the meal the guy tells me he prefers blondes (I have brown hair). Uhhh, check please?  The problem with this kind of play date is that you don’t see it coming. You realize you don’t like the other parent right in the middle of the play date. Oh sweet bejesus. What do you do? You can’t ask for a stiff drink when you’re on a play date at 2pm in the afternoon. You’ve got to stick it out for the remaining two hours because your kid is too old and smart at this point to cajole him into saying he has a bout of diarrhea (see, there I go again with talking about poop in all my blog posts).
  4. All parties involved dislike each other. This has only happened to me once. Talk about a hot mess. It was awful. The entire play date with riddled with children picking at each other and the other parent and I didn’t get along. We certainly didn’t throw duplo blocks at each other, but we weren’t sharing our deep dark parenting secrets either (like how I call tofu, white steakie, and my son gobbles it up).  Those type of play dates suck the life out of you. And you wish you had seen them coming your way…much like a bad date.

Making friends at 35 is hard work. It’s hard for me at least. Asking someone and their child out on a play date can make me feel vulnerable sometimes.  It’s amazing how my son can walk in to a room and instantly become friends with kids he meets. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. If only adults could be so “mature.” Tonight, here in Burlington, is the “Mom’s Night Out” event.  I am really looking forward to going and meeting more moms. Who knows, I might just ask for her number at the end of the night too.

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8 Responses to Play Dates: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. Nissa January 28, 2013 at 8:47 am #

    Love this Heather. Making friends as an adult and then adding kids into the mixture can definitely be hard!

  2. Tasha January 28, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    I’ll admit it, I despise play dates. Always have!

  3. Shannon January 28, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Play dates are pure torture for me. I am not a social person but I know my kids may be. At this point my son is 6.5 so his friends usually come over to play without the parents which is MUCH easier for me. I have always been a person that has a very small group of friends and that has remained through adulthood!

    Not to mention ASKING for a play date is hard! I get the same feeling I got when I asked that boy out to the dance in 10th grade where if I don’t just blurt it out without thinking, it just won’t happen!

  4. June January 28, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    So true, so true!!! Social navigation for our kids… it’s treacherous 🙂

  5. Jayme January 28, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    Ugh. So true about how comparitively easily children befriend others! “Will you be my friend?” “Okay.” Commence playing 🙂

  6. Katie January 28, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Playdates saved me before I was back to work full time! And now I miss them so much. I find ways to sneak them in by leaving work early whenever I can. I always ask the other parents if they’d like to come over for tea sometime. And then we do, in fact, have a tea party once they arrive. 🙂

    It is a bit like dating, as you say. But fortunately, the stakes are much lower. Usually people who say no to playdates are just not that into playdates. 🙂

    Oh, and one thing that helps a lot is that I have my business card with me, and I hand that out to them when I invite them over. “Would you like to come over for tea sometime?” “That would be fun.” “Here’s my email. Let me know when you’re free in the next few weeks.” It works like a charm. I honestly wish I’d started carrying these cards around long before I had any “business.” It’s so helpful to have a card to hand someone with your info already on it. I think everyone should have them, whether they work outside the home or not!

  7. Trish January 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Heather! Sooooo funny and sooooooo true!!!!! Laughing, laughing, laughing! Perfectly said!

  8. Beatrizer
    Beatrizer November 16, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    I LOVE playdates LOL. I kind of lived for them when my daughter was little. that and moms groups.. Le Leche league, MOPS, cross connections, ALO, etc! Admittedly, I am more a social person and I thrive in those kinds of situations and my daughter is even more social than I. Without my groups and playdates, I would be pretty lonely as we are loners in the state with no family etc!

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