It’s been about an hour and half since my son and I got there and I know I’ve reached my limit.
Polite mommy chit chat. Check.
Toddler play time. Check.
Snack time. Check
Clean up. Check.
So with my two year old in tow, I slowly walked towards the front door where we had left our shoes while simultaneously wondering where mommy hostess was. I finally located her in her living room, adjacent to the front entry way, plopped on her floor with her kid and another mom. I politely said we were going and thanked her eagerly for having us. What happened next is something I could never forget.
She raised one arm to wave at me, almost dismissively it seemed, and barely even raised her head to look at me and my son. She didn’t bother to stand, let alone make any effort for the usual niceties such as ‘thanks for coming’, ‘glad you guys braved the cold and snow and drive safe’, or ‘it was nice playing with you guys’. As soon as I crossed over her front door threshold, my immediate thought bubble was, “What the hell just happened?!”
And that, my friends, is what sealed my conviction that I hate playdates. Did I mention that was 6 1/2 years ago?
I suppose I need to give more context to this story. That mom and I were not friends at all. We were merely part of a huge mom and tot group in our area. I was a new member, while she already had her own clique. I was a newish mom and definitely new to the world of motherhood, unschooled in what to expect and not to expect when you hang out with other moms who are not really your friends. All I heard back then was that playdates are good for children especially those without siblings. I also heard it’s good for moms. So against all my natural tendencies and stubborn resistance, I put on a brave front and joined a play group where I knew not a single soul.
It really didn’t take long for me to realize that joining a playgroup didn’t have any clear benefits for me and my son. He was too young to develop any real friendships. All he and the other kids did was to play with the toys independently without really interacting. As for me, not only did I see early on that I had nothing in common with all the other moms, (save for maybe two or three), I also never felt welcomed. I couldn’t understand why, in spite of my efforts to overcome my introverted tendencies and put myself out there, no one still seemed interested enough to really talk to me or try to get to know me better. It was an epic fail to say the least, a clear poor fit as far as group chemistry goes.
Which brings me to the fact that arranged playdates among non-friends seem too artificial, superficial. If you’re arranging a playdate with someone you’re not friends with, are you doing it to force your kids to find friends? Or maybe you’re forcing yourself to find friends?
What ever happened to letting friendships grow organically? Why can’t we just trust our children that they are capable of choosing their friends, people they are truly comfortable with and are temperamentally compatible with? And more importantly, have we forgotten that children don’t necessarily have to be ‘friends’ in order to play?
Let’s not even get started on the fact that playdates demand that you ultimately stress over making your home look presentable, rack your brain as to what acceptable — and God forbid, allergy-friendly — snack you can serve to your guests, as well as what topics to discuss with the parent you know nothing about but would have to sit with for approximately two hours.
TOO. MUCH. WORK!!!
And by the way, I’ve never hosted a playdate where the space that started out looking pristine ended up the same way after play time. Toys always end up scattered as if a tornado touched down. And if Momma didn’t have a good time hosting because she didn’t have the company of like-minded adults then I guarantee she’ll be awfully grouchy cleaning up all that mess the kids left behind.
Look, I survived my childhood without a single playdate and I bet most of you did too. I may be a bit neurotic but I guarantee you I have really, really good quality friends I can boast of. I may not remember exactly how I met each of my close friends but I can tell you that none of them was through a playdate. I know that if you're a young or new mom, the pressure to attend or host playdates is very real. My only advice is that you be clear about why you're doing it, keep your expectations low, and most of all, know that it's something you don't have to do. Trust me when I say that a playdate is not required for a normal and happy childhood, and neither does it define good parenting.