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Nov
24

It’s been 3 months since kindergarten started, and so I recently decided I was ready to scale the Mt. Kilimanjaro of child-parent socializing. Yes, it was time to set up a playdate with a parent who was not actually a friend of mine. A blind playdate, if you will. This had all been suggested by my child’s teacher after my 5 year old had a few social problems at the start of the year. “Set up a few playdates with kids from class,” she urged. “It will do wonders.”

I went to the school’s Fall Fest loaded for bear, sussing out the other moms in their natural habitat.Β  I looked for the mothers who seemed most down-to-earth, and immediately crossed off a woman who was shouting into her blue tooth cell phone during the entire festival while her three children ran up and screamed into the other kids’ faces.Β  Putting that horror aside, I swam through a sea of parents and kids, my son in tow, looking for likely playdate prey. I noticed that quite a few of the other moms looked a little A-type and high strung. I know my own shortcomings: there’s no way this B-type mom could ever make it through an afternoon with someone who is going to notice the food stains on my pants and disapprove when I tell my son that yes, he can eat the brownie that fell on the floor as long as he plucks the dust bunny off first. (A little dirt is good for the system, right?)

And then I saw her: The mom of my dreams. Relaxed, down-to-earth, the mother of three. The best part was that her son and mine got along well in class, according to our kids’ teacher. But how to approach her? I introduced myself and we chatted, but I was only half-listening as I plotted how to set up our sons’ first playdate encounter. Should it be at our house or theirs? Should I wait for a few days to call, or set it up the next day via email? I didn’t want to seem too desperate, but my son was feeling left out at school. After a week of nail-biting, (“Um, you’re being really weird about this,” my husband Joe observed from behind his laptop one evening as I paced back and forth across the living room, phone in hand. “It’s not a prom date. Just call her.”) I finally decided to heed his advice. I got the mom’s answering machine and left a message that sounded something like this: “Hey, errrr, yeah, it’s me, Elisabeth. We met at the Fall Fest?…I thought you guys might want to come over for a playdate some time soon. Call me.”

I waited anxiously for the phone to ring, and finally got a reply on our answering machine. The playdate was on for that Friday.

I cleaned the house, made brownies and even put on lip gloss. Then I did what I always do when I’m freaking out and need mothering advice — I called my friend Dr. Joan in a panic. “I couldn’t tell from the mom’s message if she really wanted to come.Β  Maybe our kids don’t like each other any more. Oh, maybe I rushed this. I should have given it more time, been a little cooler,” I wailed. Joan, the ever-practical mother of three, talked me off the ledge as I dusted places around my house that hadn’t seen a dust rag since my son rode around in a Baby Bjorn. “Listen, if this woman didn’t want to come over, she wouldn’t,” said Joan. “She has three kids, right? When you’re that busy, you don’t have time to go on a playdate to be polite. And besides, most parents would never make their kid go over to someone’s house if they don’t like them. Don’t worry, it will be fine.”

By the time the doorbell rang that afternoon, I had calmed down. Our kids had a great time, and my original impression of Playdate Mom was correct — she was down-to-earth and nonjudgmental. The kids had a ball and I could see that their friendship was really blossoming as they jumped from Alex’s bunkbed ladder onto a pile of comforters and stuffed animals on my son’s floor. The date, I daresay, was a hit.

At the door, our sons hugged good-bye and then spent a few minutes seeing who could lift the other one up off his feet. I considered hugging my playdate mom, but then went for the arm squeeze and a “Let’s do it again soon,” as she and her son left. “That sounds great. We’ll have you guys over next time,” she promised. Playdate success.

Now all I have to do is wait for the phone to ring. I’m sure she’ll call. Right?

Any playdate stories you’d like to share? And what’s a surefire playdate success, at your house? Any advice welcome!


     

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  • Julie Says:

    You’re lucky — I haven’t found any other moms (other than the one I already knew and am friends with) who I would be comfortable having in my house for any length of time. They’re all either Type A or Type…C, as in “Completely Different from Me.” I’d be fine having a playdate, but can you say, “Would Jimmy like to come over for a playdate? You can just drop him off. Really. Please don’t stay.” I haven’t set up any playdates because of a fear of not properly getting this point across, and either coming off as a complete witch, or having the mom come over, and having to spend an awkward two hours suffering uncomfortable silences or befuddled looks when I try to make a joke.

    But it definitely sounds like your playdate went well! I think it’s huge for a kid to have someone that they’ve had outside-of-class experiences with. It’s very comforting for them to be able to say, “Remember at my house when we…”

  • Christina Shaver Says:

    My son — who has a hole slew of diagnoses — has had very successful playdates with another boy who also has similar issues. What’s nice is that his mother and I are very understanding of each other’s kids and their ability (or not) to socialize.

    We also know that either of us can cut off the playdate with the snap of a finger if one of the kids aren’t behaving and neither of us think twice about what the other mother thinks.

  • bwgrants Says:

    It is like dating again. The rush, the uncertainity, akwardness, hope…

    Nice story. Thanks for the laugh. Glad to hear that it worked out. I particularly enjoyed your husband’s response.

    Keep us posted if you get to second base.

  • Marsha Says:

    I was hoping that in elementary school one cojld make playdates without the parents. Probably one of the harder things about parenting (for me) was that in order for my kid to have friends, I had to make friends. Ugh!

    Wouldn’t that work? It’s much easier for me to let the kids play than it is to have to sit and visit as well.

  • Teresa Says:

    I am NOT looking forward to this! I am an extreme introvert by nature (as in SERIOUSLY), and I couldn’t make friends easily when I WAS the kid. In fact, I was so socially awkward I had to join a dating service in order to meet my husband!

    Luckily, HE is the stay at home dad, and less of an introvert than me, so he will be the one who has to navigate the play date minefield. That being said, he is already finding it very difficult to find play dates for our 15 month old, because the stay at home moms (in our area at least) appear to have a strong prejudice against stay at home dads. So not only will we have to navigate the regular social stuff that goes with this, we will also have to deal with the sexist prejudice too.

    Did I mention I am NOT looking forward to this?

  • Brie Says:

    My daughter’s teacher did suggest some friends to have over – this week is hectic with Thanksgiving so I am putting it off until next week. Your article is funny, I am having the very same anxieties – mostly that they’ll reject me and say no :) So silly but truly what I am afraid of! Finding the right playmate for your child who also comes with a compatible parent for you can be tricky! Keep your fingers crossed for me

  • Elisabeth Says:

    Brie, the first time is the hardest. I think it gets much easier after that…(I hope!) Good luck. And like Marsha mentioned, as our kids get older, we won’t need to actually socialize with the other parent during play dates, right? Pretty soon we’ll graduate from playdating and it will all be over…and who knows, maybe we’ll make some friends in the process.

  • Susan Says:

    Sounds like yours went well! I also had a similar thing. I invited over a mom whose son is in my son’s class. the boys played well together at school and on a recent field trip his mom said “we should get together soon”. So I called and set it up for my house. They came, the boys played well and seemed to have fun. That was two months ago. Sigh. It hasn’t been reciprocated by her nor has she said a word to me since. I am racking my brain trying to figure out what happened? Oh well….

  • Elisabeth Says:

    Susan, that’s so funny, because I was just thinking the same thing about the playdate we had at our house! I find myself questioning everything as if I’m 18 again and wondering why the cute guy isn’t calling me back when I thought our date went so well. Sometimes you just have to laugh.
    Saying that, I think part of what’s going on is probably due to the fact that everyone is busy around this time of year, so playdates just kind of fall off the map. I’ve decided to ask other kids over, too, and see how it goes. My son has a long list of classmates he wants to invite over, so I’ve decided that there are more fish in the sea — and we can always ask the first boy over again some time, even if the playdate invitation is not reciprocated.
    Good luck. Let us know how it goes on your end!

  • meanmom Says:

    A couple of months ago, I did the same thing, set-up playdates, by the way,thanks for sharing your feelings, I thought I was alone in dreading the whole deal. Last week, on the 3rd playdate, a great mom and her son showed up and my oldest son answered the door. My oldest (17)looked at the woman and said, ” what do you want?”
    to the poor lady – I asked him what his problem was and he said,” she is the cop who arrested me for a curfew violation the other day!” Talk about embarrassing moments!!!!

  • Lynda Says:

    O my god !!!
    It is really wierd. On Saturday we finally had a playdate for my 2nd grader and a boy from his class. His mom actually mentioned when we met over my son’s birthday couple of months ago , that her son wanted to have a playdate with mine. So , here we are, finally and the next step to have a playdate in our house yesterday. Do you think it ever happened . NO way. The other mom even did not call to cancel . For me it sounds really rude , for her, who knows. I thought it is my problem to schedule playdates . I’m a foreigner, total stranger to some of moms. But , hell , how dare this situation. Poor kids they should accept these really stupid rules and stay alone at home. Social skills , how they can get it ? During scheulded activities ?
    Frustration , nothing else.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Lynda: That’s terrible! I’m sorry to hear that the other boy didn’t show up. I feel so badly for your son. How did he take it?
    This playdate thing can be so tricky. I’m still trying to figure it out! My new strategy is to pick a day and let my son choose a friend he’d like to invite over. We’ve just been inviting kids as often as possible, to see what sticks. (Kind of like throwing pasta at the wall.) It’s been good — I think my son and I are both less anxious about it than before. So I guess my advice is, don’t give up. Eventually your son (and you) will find friends who you click with, and who don’t stand you up on a playdate! Maybe next time, do it at the other person’s house, so you can be sure that it happens as planned. P.S. Are you going to say anything to this other mom? And do you think she forgot?

  • Lynda Says:

    I posted my message as frustration. Did no think anybody would answer . :)
    It is funny with this mom. Could you imagine. Every time we meet, and it has happened several times over last 2 months , she is asking about a playdate. When they did not show up the first time, my son was upset, He had been waiting , looking at the clock, then finally called the boy’s house. Boy’s older sister explained , that their mom forgot about some activities at school, scheduled beforehand. But, still his mom did not call or sent email to apologize.
    Really frustrated. Why to initiate something , especially in form of both kids and then just not show up.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Lynda, I think you should consider (if you haven’t already) telling this mom directly how her actions (not showing up for the playdate) upset your son. It’s up to you whether or not you want to give them another chance. She sounds like someone who is not very responsible about time or appointments, but maybe she is just over-scheduled. (Still, I agree that an apology or email was in order.)

    If I were you, I’d just move on to other kids your son likes. That’s also a good lesson to teach our kids, don’t you think? I’ll bet he won’t ever do that to one of his friends, because he knows how much it hurts!

  • Lynda Says:

    Elisabeth , thank you for advice.
    I know that we should move and find somebody else. I hate this situation. My son is not so shy according to his teachers . They think even opposite . Still , it is not always easy for him to initiate conversation. I strongly believe there is an issue , since we are not americans and our language not correct. So , we are still strangers in this country, despite the fact that our son only speaks ENglish . He is bright and cheerful , but today he was so upset talking to me about the lack of friends . It makes me cry.
    Your first post about the playdate setting was very funny, but still it is so sad , that even you native to the country have so many issues just to schedule a trivial playdate for your kid.

  • Marie Says:

    Great article. It reminded me to laugh a little at the playdate scenarios I get myself into.

    My son is 5 now, and since he is an only child, I have been doing playdates for 3 years with many moms. It’s interesting because I am STILL having problems. I can’t believe how rude some moms (well, just one) and how some moms that you think are good parents are giving their kids nothing but sugar and leaving the tv on all day and allowing potty talk. I find it hard to find moms who have standards that I consider to be merely reasonable and then the other barrier is to find boys who my son connects well with. If they live relatively close by, then we’re in business. There are so many factors that I really think it is a much easier course to have 2 kids and just forget play dates altogether and let them just play with each other.

  • Katie Says:

    I totally understand this anxiety over “mommy-dating.” My daughter just graduated from a very nice preschool and made friends very easily with the other children in the class. Her teachers even called her the “mother hen” because she drifted so easily from one friend to another and liked everybody.

    My frustration is that I’m having such a hard time with playdates despite all of this. My daughter is very outgoing and I am introverted, but I have done my best for her sake to arrange playdates. But there is definitely a clique of moms and even though their kids like my daughter, my daughter is excluded because the other moms are such good friends and only make playdates with each other. I am a nice, friendly, educated person and I swear I don’t think I have any seriously visible flaws!! The moms are nice to me, but don’t go out of their way.

    I made one playdate with a woman who is always so friendly to me and our kids are good friends in class. I thought it went extremely well. (I mean, it was the first playdate, but give me a chance!) Then she never called to reciprocate, even when her daughters asked to set up a playdate with my daughter. I’m thinking, what happened? I casually mentioned that we should set up another playdate and she said yes but never pursued it. I’m certainly not going to ask again. I feel so bad for my daughter. She gets invited if it’s a park get-together, but otherwise these moms just have their exclusive playdates with each other.

    I’ve tried reaching out to others with some success, but mostly it feels so awkward and I never know if it’s “too soon to call”- as if we’re dating!! I’m always asking myself, “What’s so wrong about me?” I’m not looking for a best friend, just some companionship. I seriously don’t see how they are any better than me. I feel like I’m in high school with a “Not Popular- Don’t Include Me” sign on my head!

    I have confidence that my daughter will make her own friends that don’t revolve around me. It would just be nice to have some friends of my own.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Katie: I hear you! I think that moms do tend to form groups, and it’s hard to get in there and be part of it if you’re not a “member of the club.” One thing that’s helped in our case is that I’ve kept in touch with moms from my son’s pre-school which is located one town over from ours. It’s great because I’m not so dependent on the people in our own town, and we have a bigger pool to cast our net in for playdates. You might want to think about doing playdates with someone from your community group, your daughter’s classmate in karate or dance (if she takes those kinds of classes), your house of worship, etc. The best thing you can do is find other moms who parent the same way you do, and whose kids get along with your daughter. So hang in there and keep trying — I’m sure you’ll meet a like-minded mom with a child who your daughter likes, too! :)

  • Catherine Says:

    I am having the same types of dramas, I feel like I am dating again. My preschooler and I used to have regular playdates every afternoon with two other moms, but then they stopped wanting to do playdates. My daughter is so sad because we no longer get together with her best friend. Her best friend’s mother is social climbing, I may have called too much, but I know one just doesn’t like me. I keep wondering what I did wrong. I’ve even checked out etiquette books to make sure I didn’t make any major blunders. When we see them at the park they whisk their children away with excuses about needing to nap. How do I help my daughter cope with losing her best friend and how do I pevent this from happening again? The kids still like each other, it’s me the moms don’t like ;-( BTW, i do have other playdates, but it’s hard to start a whole new group.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Catherine, I feel your pain. It sounds like these other moms aren’t very friendly for some reason. I think you should stop questioning yourself and find some more relaxed moms. Groups tend to form organically, anyway — try hanging out with the people you like and who your daughter likes. It really does get easier as your child gets older. Hang in there!

  • Paula Says:

    Catherine I know exactly how you feel. I had the same problem twice. Its hard not to take things personally. These mothers in question seemed to have it against me from the first day but the kids adored each other. I had play dates with each (separately) at my place, each initiated buy me, but neither reciprocated. I feel so sorry for my daughter as she never goes over to anyone’s house. She still plays happily with these kids. My blood boiled the other day when she mentioned that one of the little girls mentioned a sleepover with another classmate on “news” day. It makes me sick. Im even thinking about moving schools as I now have so many negative feelings about these women, I dread facing them at school activities.

  • Mexo Says:

    I know what you all are talking about. My son is in 2nd grade and has had a couple of playdates with a guy he calls his best friend. However, the boy’s mom does not feel so especially us being foreigners and black and the boy being white. I guess she allowed my son play with her son because he had no friends then. Now she has found friends for her son and does not want them to be friends anymore.

  • Monika Says:

    Hi. here are my experiences. We live in a town that is very diverse, and the school is filled with kids
    who’s parents are from another country. Our daughter is in 2nd grade and wanted to have a playdate with few kids from her class. I called one mom right before xmas and left her a message if we can arrange somehow for the kids to get together during the holidays. She didn’t return the call. After the
    holidays, the kids returned to school and as soon as she saw me she appologized for not returning my call and asked if my daugter can come to her home for the playdate. I said sure, and told her to let me know when. It’s been almost three months since than, and the mom still hasn’t approached me with the date. I see her everyday, when we drop off and pick up the kids. She passes by me as if she doesn’t see me. My daughter keeps asking me to ask the mom again, but I don’t feel comfortable. Once, I even overheard her daughter telling her to ask me about the playdate, but I couldn’t hear the mom’s answer. My 2nd experience blew my mind away. I approached a mom for a playdate and she politely told me she only does playdates with families from her country. I was so flabergasted that I didn’t know what to say and just starred at her. Than I thanked her for being honest with me, and walked away. It is sad but true. We want to move from this area.

  • Irish Says:

    My granddaughter had a playdate and I think the little girl stole my granddaughters I pad. What should I do?

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Dear Irish,
    Wow, this is a tricky one. I would first sit down with your granddaughter and have a talk; make sure she didn’t lose it or leave it at the other girl’s house by mistake. Then, I would call the parents of the other girl and mention that your granddaughter misplaced it, and ask them to keep on the look-out. I would not accuse the other little girl of stealing the iPad without proof. Good luck, and please let us know how it goes!

  • Amy Says:

    I am having my first play date at my house this weekend and I am in a panic. My four year old is having a classmate over and his mom will stay to chat. What should I serve for food? It is at 10 on a Saturday morning. I thought maybe pigs in a blanket and a fruit tray. I hope everone will be full from breakfast but I want to have something for them to eat if they do get hungry. I am not a cook.

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Amy,
    I think that sounds perfect. Even just some fruit and cookies would be fine, if you don’t want to go to that much trouble. The kids will probably find something to do right away, but if not, try to have a few ideas in mind. (When my son was that age, I tried to have some kind of art project first — finger painting or play doh, or whatever we had on hand — and then let them play afterward. What they generally liked to do best was pile all my son’s stuffed animals on the floor and jump on them. Go figure!)

    Most importantly for you, take a deep breath and relax. Playdates usually go by quickly — and it’s always good to leave the kids wanting more!

  • sanaamom Says:

    I enjoyed this article a lot! And I think it will be very helpful for me and my daughter.

    So my daughter is 4yo , will be 5 soon and will be starting a new preschool in February. We are both very friendly, but somewhat introverted and the thought of setting up play dates makes me very anxious ))))sighs(((( … Also, since it is the middle of the school year, and since she will be the only new child in her class, it’s making it even harder. I have no idea how to approach the situation or how long I should wait before attempting to set up a play date. Does anyone have any suggestions on how long to wait and exactly what to say without sounding desperate or even worse plain crazy !!! LOL! I guess im mostly scared of being told no or given some lame excuse or something … who knew parenting would be this hard … socially speaking !

  • vlvtfog Says:

    I am having some anxiety about setting up playdates with my sons friends at his pre-school. We had one last year and I thought we hit it off okay, it was funny because me and the mother actually went to the same high school and graduated the same year. The playdate was at my house and she promised to invite us over but never did. On a separate occasion she was in a bind, she and her husband went out of town and their son was over his grandmother’s house I took he and my son to the movies to give her mother a break. Every time we see each other she says we need to get the boys together but to no avail. I am having a hard time setting up playdates with other kids at my sons school, I know he has friends but the parents will not bulge. I feel bad because I hear the other parents setting up playdates but they seem to know each other. I feel like the odd man out and my son is suffering because of it. He is an only child and I know playdates are imperative for him. To alleviate the amount of time his alone on the weekends we have started to fill up his Saturdays with activities, Martial Arts, Basketball, Swimming and T-Ball. I really want him to have friends over and I am more than willing to go over someone elses house. I am at a loss. HELP!!!!

  • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor Says:

    To ‘vlvtfog’: It can be hard to make playdates with other parents, especially when it seems like the parents already know each other and you feel, as you stated, like the odd man out. It might be helpful for you to talk with your son if he has a friend that he would like to have over, and approach that parent about a playdate. It might also be helpful for you to look at possible playdates from kids in his weekend activities. Talk to some of the other parents who are there with their kids, and see how your son gets along with them. If it seems like a good fit for your son, set up a date and time and see how it goes. Good luck to you as you continue to work on this!

  • Kay Says:

    I set up a playdate for my six year old son with another little boy who goes to his school but is in a different class. I have never met his parents but sent a note and the mother called me and we arranged the playdate. I picked up my son and the friend from school at one o clock. I was thinking I would take him home at 3:30 to his grandmas but then his mom called and said his dad would pick him up at 5. I thought four hours was a very long time for me to watch this other kid especially since I never met the parents and I didn’t know how the boys would play together. Well, the dad didn’t show up until 5:45 and I was really upset and annoyed by that point! The mom called the next day very politely asking what happened because her husband said I didn’t even say hi to him, just shoved the kid out the door (which I did, but by that point I was so mad the last thing I wanted to do was chit chat with some guy I never met). I feel completely taken advantage of. Am I right to be this upset?

  • Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor Says:

    Hi Kay. First of all, this has happened to me, too, and it is definitely irritating. I think they should have called you to let you know they’d be late. Saying that, it was the first time for your son to have a playdate with this boy. It’s possible the dad was held up or that there was a miscommunication somewhere along the way. For this reason I think that it’s best to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time something like this happens. Instead of “shoving the kid out the door,” (it wasn’t the child’s fault, after all) you might try walking him to the car and said to the dad, “I was concerned, because your wife said you’d be here at 5 p.m.” If this situation comes up again and someone asks for their child to stay at a playdate longer than you’re comfortable with, I would just state your limits clearly and politely: “I’m sorry, but that doesn’t really work for us. I’d be happy to drop your child off at 3:30, though.” You may be completely right that these parents were rude and asking for too much, but there’s a chance that this was just a mistake. And at the end of the day, this is a kid in your son’s class who he likes — not to mention that you’ll probably see these people at school again. Even if you’re upset, I would try to keep things on a civil level.

  • grateful mom Says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for providing this space for play date conversation. It has made me feel less alone with my feelings of confusion, anxiety, and sadness concerning some of my daughter’s play dates.
    My daughter is 9. We’ve seen the nice parents who reciprocate and use manners (very small minority), the take-take-take parents who take advantage of our generosity and kindness, the mom cliques freezing out my daughter, the once-in-a-blue-moon parents who space out play dates at huge intervals, the we’re-so-busy-that’s-why-we-forgot-to-call people (I have been guilty of this), the parents who tell us right up front things they allow their children to do which we don’t allow ours to do, the parent who shows disrespect to their child but wants to get together with ours, and the parents who we tried to be direct with about a play date problem, but only to have this backfire and we no longer can get play dates with their child.
    I work hard to make the positive play dates happen more often, and to not show my disappointment and frustration with other parents to my daughter, who just wants to have fun with other kids. For us, if plan A doesn’t work out, it’s on to plan B or C, etc. I keep things positive. Play dates in today’s society can be difficult, but there are area of hope, good will, and genuine friendship. Focus on these! Most of all, for me, it is important in this day and age to remember manners.

  • Megan Says:

    great article! Thanks to you and all the moms sharing experiences and learning from each other. I have 2 kids 4 and 7. I love playdates and most of the time, I initiate inviting them to my house consistently but sadly, most of them does not reciprocate because it is too much trouble serving, entertaining, cleaning up after.

    I understand the trouble, but was hoping that since I invited them, and the (mom and kids) seem to love coming back to my house, they would reciprocate and we can take turns giving me a break too and we can take turns doing it on a regular basis…

    I have gotten tired doing it at home …eventually and started playdates outside, meet the moms for breakfast, and kids in the playgronds in our area, or events just to keep in touch