friend recently disclosed that she’s been going out of her way to avoid setting
up play dates with a specific group of mothers in her town. "They’re boring as hell, and their kids are
kind of annoying," was her reasoning when I asked why she’s been dodging
these parents. Despite how it presents, this woman isn’t a natural ogre. Quite
the opposite actually; I know her to be friendly, sweet and sincere, and she often hosts
fun, theme parties at her house throughout the year. But when it comes to play dates
for her kids, she’s confessed that it all makes her feel anxious and irritated.
I’ll give my
friend points for honesty. There seems to be a fair amount of politics and
pretense and moving parts involved with something that you would think is pretty
simple: Kids playing together. I know I’ve
felt low-key dread when I’ve been forced to entertain or visit with a mom who
I’m not that fond of just so that our boys can play together. The question quickly
becomes: Uh, so these solo play dates we were promised in the brochure, when do
Somewhere along this ride, things changed, and now it feels like we’re almost expected to become friends with the other parent.
I think about my childhood play dates. (And, no, this is not a
Get off mah lawn–style rant.
Honest.) It was all so easy. Either we rode our bikes to the park and played
there or you’d just show up at your homey’s house, ring the doorbell and head
straight to the basement or wherever the toys lived. Although my mother knew my
little buddies’ parents and exchanged pleasantries on the phone, they were not
friends. No one was setting out cheese platters and coffee for the other.
along this ride, things changed, and now — specifically with the 6-year-old-and-under set — it feels like we’re almost expected to become friends
with the other parent. To be clear, I’m not saying parents should avoid direct
eye contact. Not at all. Friendly is nice. Friendly is welcome. But forging a
true friendship is more involved than, "Hey,
you have a boy-child who likes soccer and apple slices? Me too! Let’s be
friends forever and ever. Pinky-swear."
The other potential stressor around play dates is the scheduling.
It can get complicated to the point where, through various back-and-forth
texts and emails, you’ll find yourself setting up a time for your kids to play two or three weeks out. Add that
to the already over-scheduled child’s life filled with after-school activities,
sport teams, music lessons, language lessons and homework. Man. It’s got
Excedrin written all over it, amirite?
It makes me grateful for one of the best play dates that my
son has ever came upon (so far). Last year when we moved to our new house, my
son and I were out playing on the front lawn, when a little boy, his mom and
newborn baby brother came strolling by. We said hello, they said it back. The
two boys instantly hit it off and started tumbling and running and giggling
right there on the grass. The mom and I had a great conversation, too, the kind
that’s effortless and lovely — just aces. I invited them all inside. The boys
kept playing, while the mom and I kept talking. They
live on the corner of our street and we've become good friends over this last
year, as a whole family. We hang out in different combinations quite a bit and often
impromptu. No pretense. No politics. No pressure. Everything that play should