Playdates: 5 Kinds to Avoid
Let's face it. The life of a modern mom would not be complete without the playdate.
While at work, we get a voicemail from Playdate Penny who would love to pencil our child in for an afternoon of organized extracurricular activities and we "accidentally" forget to call her back for days. Then there are the times when the babysitter calls in sick and we're desperate to find the Post-It where we jotted down Playdate Penny's phone number.
For some moms, scheduling playdates has become a full-time job. They have it down to a science, organizing and planning everything from the kids to the carpool to the heart-shaped sandwiches they'll serve as snack. We applaud these women. They do an amazing job and are the queens of playdates. Now, for working mothers, it's a different story. We already have full-time jobs and are stretched so thin that we usually don't have the time, energy or sanity required to plan the perfect playdate. Let's call those two hour chunks of socialized, structured play what they really are -- all work, no playdates.
But the truth is, as much as we try to avoid them, the playdate is here to stay. For those of you new to the game, here's a simple guide to help you survive the pitfalls of playdating, the ones we loathe and the ones we love.
Because if you can't be with the one you love, playdate with the one you're with.
Playdates We LoathePlaydate Desperado: A lonely mother who is new to the neighborhood will stalk you and your child until you agree to come over to play for an afternoon. The truth is, she's the one desperate for a playdate and is using her child as bait. Out of pity or exhaustion, you finally give in and accept the offer, only to find you have nothing in common with this woman. To add insult to injury, the kids get into a major brawl and before you can grab the doorknob to make your getaway, she's already asking you for a second date and you desperately search your library of excuses to think of a believable reason as to why you can never return. Incidentally, contagious skin rashes work like a charm.
Playdate Cliques: On the rare occasion you do drop your child off at school, you see them gathering in the parking lot. Sporting trendy workout clothes, hair tied back in a ponytail, light makeup application, the keys to their Lexus SUV in one manicured hand and their pig-tailed child's hand in the other. Meet the playdate clique or the "witches of preschool" as we like to call them, comprised of women who do everything together, be it coffee, tennis, gym and, of course, playdates. If you happen to take a day off from work and have a run-in with the witches, they'll be sure to pretend not to know who you are and will intentionally box you out of their conversation. While you overhear them chat about their plans to take their little princesses to an afternoon origami workshop, don't feel bad that you're not on the invite list. Smile to yourself because you know that tomorrow, while they're chasing their kids at Chuck E. Cheese, you'll be back at work lunching and laughing with one of your favorite clients -- who just happens to be a working mom just like you.
Peculiar Playdates: Your kids get along great and your child begs, pleads and moans to have a playdate with their newest friend. Only one problem, you find the parents kind of weird. It's like visiting the Addams Family. They were always friendly, but something was always just a little off-center. It's not like they've got "Cousin It" or that creepy hand named "Thing" bunking with them, but the mom is sporting that 1970s long-haired Morticia look, and the place seems to have a spooky Halloween feel to it, and its only March. The peculiar playdaters phone constantly and if you still don't have caller ID, run, don't walk to the nearest Radio Shack to pick one up or you're doomed.
Playdate Piranhas: Jimmy seemed nice enough, but after inspecting the bite marks on your son's left arm, you discover it might be best to keep your child away from Hannibal Lecter-in training. Biters, punchers, sword fighters and swashbucklers can be scary when your child -- a rule abiding, Raffi loving moppet -- enters their world. Suddenly, your peaceful pixie starts picking up those bad habits and the next thing you know, he's biting the dog. Rule of thumb for biters: if they break the skin during a playdate, they can't come back until they break the habit ... if that doesn't happen until middle school, then sorry, but it's been nice knowing you.
Playdate Paranoia: This is the most stressful playdate by far. The mother brings their child to your house with a laundry list of things the kid can't eat, wear, smell, swallow or touch.
Are you kosher? Is this a nut free environment? Are those crayons nontoxic and do you use pesticides on your lawn? Is that coloring book age appropriate? We don't believe in television, and video games are out of the question. What about the beverages? If you don't have 2 percent growth hormone-free organic milk then he'll just have water, not bottled, fluorinated tap water "that's been filtered, of course."
You smile politely and make a note of the checklist. But what you're really thinking is -- are you kidding us, lady? Are you intentionally raising your boy like John Travolta in that plastic bubble movie, or do you really want to allow him to have any interaction with our kid, whose favorite pastime is proudly proclaiming the booger he just picked is especially for you?
Playdates We LovePlaydate With a Pal: This is by far the best kind of playdate. In this scenario, you are taking your child to see one of his or her closest friends and their mom just happens to be one of your friends, too. Simple, enjoyable and as close to heaven as humanly possible.
This always happens after work. You bring your kids over in their pajamas and they proceed to try on about 40 different costumes. Arguments are kept to a minimum, your wine glass is continually refilled and you get to catch up on the latest neighborhood gossip. Husbands are also invited to these playdates, since they're the designated drivers.
Playdates in a Pinch: You're about to close the biggest deal of a lifetime when suddenly your cell phone starts buzzing in your suit pocket. You fumble for the phone and your megawatt smile instantly fades as your babysitter informs you she has to leave immediately to take her 6-year-old to the doctor.
You know you can't reach your husband because he's working late, too, and your mother-in-law has dinner plans with her colorist.
Who can you call? That's simple: the most reliable and by far the coolest mom in town who doesn't mind picking up your tots, bringing them to her house and serving them a well-balanced dinner. Big shout out to the moms who've been there for us in a pinch. Without you, our cats would be babysitting our kids. (Just joking ... we're not that nuts ... cats can't figure out how to stick a straw into a juice box or work the DVD player).
Palatial Playdates: Let's be honest. These are, hands down, our favorite kind of playdate. Who doesn't want to check out that gorgeous center hall colonial down the street that you've had your eye on since you moved into the neighborhood? Going on a palatial playdate is just like going to a real estate open house, but you don't have to worry about leaving a fake name and address because you know you can't afford to buy anything.
We admit it, sometimes we are the proverbial nosy neighbors or as we like to call ourselves, the "decorating detectives." We'll jump at the chance to check out the home of our new neighbor who just moved into the McMansion down the road. "Of course, Rebecca would love to come by and swim in your gunite swimming pool ... No, we don't have any other plans," as you quickly pick up your cell phone to cancel a playdate with the "Peculiars."
Mentally taking note as you walk into the grand entrance hall, you marvel at the expansive floorplan, admiring everything from the dentil crown molding to the marble mantels to the custom-made mahogany cabinetry.
Unfortunately, our kids can sometimes sabotage our interior investigations before we've even had a chance to check out the master suite. In one memorable mansion, Beth's daughter launched into a screaming fit with her 3-year-old hostess, fighting over toys and pretty much ruining the playdate before Beth even had a chance to finish counting all the bathrooms.
Role Mommy Reality CheckBe careful what you wish for. While dialing up a playdate may seem like a quick fix for your busy life and your bored kids, proceed with caution. Make sure your child's companion has the pedigree of a UN Peacekeeper. Once the tables are turned, the last thing you want to do is host a devious troublemaker from down the street who manages to find the only markers in your house that aren't washable and decides to graffiti your playroom walls with the memorable phrase: Timmy wuz here.
Excerpted from "Peeing in Peace: Tales and Tips for Type A Moms" by Beth Feldman and Yvette Manessis Corporon. Copyright© 2007 by Beth Feldman and Yvette Manessis Corporon. Excerpted by permission of NK Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.