My 9-year-old daughter has a friend in our new neighborhood. So, she has been spending less and less time with her 2-year-old brother. After countless hours of him sobbing near the door wanting to play, I decided to schedule a play date with another toddler.
I work full-time, so many of the play dates my stay-at-home friends organize don’t work for me. The more I thought about the play date process, the more I wanted to avoid it.
First you have to find new moms, introduce yourself and hope they think you would be suitable for a play date. You don’t want to have a play date with a mom you don’t like because that can become awkward. At this young age, it is more important that the moms get along than the kids. It’s a process similar to dating, and let’s just say I was never a good dater.
Once you have found a suitable play date partner, you have to coordinate schedules. These days, toddlers take umpteen different lessons, so finding an hour when everyone is well napped and not at an activity means scheduling months out. When you finally have something set the real work begins.
You have to clean the house to company standard. Of course no 3-year-old is going to raise an eyebrow at the 4-week-old dust or clutter in the corner, but his mom might. Then you have to think about snacks. Have you called to see if the new friend has any allergies?
When they finally arrive for the play date, tell the mom that your toddler didn’t nap very well – even if he took a four hour nap. This will help explain any naughty behavior that may pop up.
Now it’s time to relax and let the kids play…or not. You will spend every moment getting the kids to play nice and share. Remember that you can’t use your crazy, mean mom voice. You have to try to parent like a civilized human being when your child beats his friend with the stick horse. You don’t want the other mom to think you’re a nutball who runs around yelling at her kids all the time. Then there are the diaper changes and snack time with the fresh fruit and hummus that the kids refuse to eat.
Getting to know the other mom is nearly impossible considering you’ll both be busy wrangling uncooperative toddlers while using phony, nice mom voices. You’ll be lucky to remember her name by the time they leave, and she may hope you don’t.
Eventually the play date will end in someone’s tears. As you walk your new friends to the door, try to sound sincere as you say, “We should do this again when he’s had a better nap.”
When you’re looking for a new play date partner (because the first family pulls the drapes closed when they see you walk by) give up on all the things you used to impress the first mom. Leave the house a mess, yell when you need to yell. Offer fruit snacks and crackers for snack instead of the fresh fruit and hummus. And to really seal the deal, have a bottle of wine for the moms.
Cat Koehler is married with two children. She works full time. Read her Mondays on momaha.com