said yes to anyone who reaches out to me or my children for a playdate. Always. It was my policy. My theory was that it was my job to be open
to opportunities for connection and socialization on behalf of my
children. Even when my children
befriended neighborhood kids whose parents intimidated me or with whom I had
nothing in common, I always responded with a sincere, “yes, let’s get
years of adhering to my ironclad, open-door playdate policy, I finally uttered
my first no.
actually had playdates with this family before. Two, actually. During the first one, I found myself turned
off by the mother’s negativity. She told
me how she “hated” the school where we were sending my son to preschool and
made several disparaging remarks about the ability of men to parent. In the course of an hour, she unfurled a long
list of things that make her “really angry,” including Fox News, the price of
soy milk, misogyny in higher education and bad drivers. I can’t say I love any of those things either,
so I tried to relate to this angry woman shaking her fist in fury at my kitchen
counter. I knew my values didn’t align
with hers, but our daughters really enjoyed each other’s company.
I held on to the image of our girls
playing dress up together gleefully and made excuses for her mother. Maybe she was just having a bad day. We’ve all been there.
playdate was awkward, but in totally different ways. I offered them a snack, not knowing they were
vegan. I fell over myself apologizing
for offering cheese and quickly sliced up some apples. It was unpleasant to receive a lecture about
deleterious and unethical consequences of animal-based diets in the middle of a
I didn’t want to get together ... I thought of the fun my daughter would have. Shouldn’t I suck it up for her?
I’m all for honoring other people’s
choices; I just want mine honored in kind — especially when I’m standing in my own kitchen.
A few weeks
later I got an email requesting another playdate. “It will be so fun to see you,” she
wrote. I couldn’t help but wonder why
she wanted to see me. I mean, my diet is
repugnant to her, she blames my son’s school for half of society’s ills, and I
don’t hate with nearly the same level of vigor that she does.
want to get together. My stomach twisted
in knots when I thought about spending time with her. I ignored the email, hoping to bide my time.
a second time. “Did you get my email?
I tried to
make myself do it. I thought of the fun
my daughter would have. Shouldn’t I suck
it up for her? Maybe, but I couldn’t.
In a burst
of ingenuity, I suggested she drop off her daughter so I could watch the girls
for a few hours. Perfect, right?
wasn’t ready for that. “I’d prefer to be
there,” she wrote.
I love my
daughter, but subjecting myself to several hours of toxicity is no way to prove
it. I want to teach her to be open to
other people and to expand her social skills, but I also want to teach her that
life is short and she should concentrate on relationships that nurture her, not
I waited a
few more days. When I finally responded,
I told the truth. “I’m sorry but that
won’t work for me.”