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I Don’t Want to Have a Play Date With Your Sensitive Kid

Three young brothers playing in the grass together
Photograph by Getty Images

Play dates stress me out.

There are a lot of reasons for this. For starters, they A) involve other kids coming over to my house and making giant messes or B) bringing my kids to other people's houses where they make giant messes and trying to keep them from breaking things or C) watching multiple kids who appear to be intentionally seeking out ways to send themselves to the ER as a result of a playground apparatus while simultaneously pretending you are listening to the conversation you are having with your friend since we all know there's no way either of you can hear over the loud shrieks of your children.

Basically, it's a recipe for the opposite of fun.

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The other reason that play dates stress me out is because my kids aren't exactly the most gentle. Don't get me wrong, they're sweet and we don't just let them run amuck and behave like complete banshees or anything, but they're definitely energetic and no strangers to roughness. They can often be found pushing, provoking and pestering one another like it's their job. We try our best to teach them manners and the importance of being kind to others, but they still certainly say and do things that are embarrassing at times.

I try to remind myself that this is normal kid behavior and that sometimes siblings just bicker, but it can be easy to forget this sometimes when we spend time with friends whose children are a bit more of the "delicate flower" variety and a little less of the "rough and tumble" variety like my own.

...whenever we have play dates with friends who have more calm, quiet and sensitive kids, I come away feeling exhausted from trying to put out all the fires.

I love my friends and their children, but if I'm honest, whenever we have play dates with friends who have more calm, quiet and sensitive kids, I come away feeling exhausted from trying to put out all the fires. You see, these sweet little souls tend to get their feelings hurt super easily over typical kid stuff. Things like negotiating over toys or choosing an activity may end up resulting in tears because one of my kids chose to resolve the issue with a little push or shove or by being a bit on the bossy side.

I really do want my kids to learn to consider other people and their feelings and we're working on cultivating more gentleness in their interactions, but until these things are more developed in them, I've decided that I'd much prefer to have my kids play with other "rough and tumble" kids who are a bit more like them... kids who can hold their own.

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Sure my kids might get pushed a bit more often and they might be around a kid who treats them unkindly from time to time, but they'll figure it out and I won't feel as strong of a need to spend the entire time intervening and mediating every single slight between the children. I'm not saying I'm planning to let a toddler Hunger Games'esque, fight-to-the-death scenario play out, but being able to be a little more free range and a little less helicopter would certainly be welcome.

So friends with sweet and sensitive children, please know that if I seem hesitant about scheduling a play date with you it's not you... it's me (or rather my kids actually.) We love you, but we're still a work in progress. If you have more boisterous kids like mine? Well, then please give us a call and we'll get a trip to the park scheduled with you!

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