I used to dread the thought of a playdate. Seriously. Dragging one’s child to another’s house to make nice with the other mommy, while trying to monitor what my child was doing and secretly making sure the other child or children were behaving as well. Birthday parties can be the worst of these, especially because there are so many mommys to talk to, and to try to make nice with. You make small talk, while keeping your child in view and making sure to grab a slice of lukewarm pizza that you shovel in moments before your child tells you they have to pee, again. You count down the minutes until cake, because only after cake is when its truly appropriate to try and take your leave. But if your kid is acting up, sometimes you can sneak out before, shrugging and apologizing as you carrying your screaming child out the door by an arm. Or if your lucky, you can feign that your husband called or texted to say that your other child (if you have that out) need something and you have to leave immediately. Regardless, a play date can be really good or really bad. I have found the secret to the really good play date. For everyone involved.
1) Find a mommy that you can talk easily to.
Yes, this seems difficult, but usually there is someone that you happen to be at one of these parties you are forced to go to that you hit it off with. Whether its a random story about both of your children or some funny thing that happens while there, you may find yourself chatting it up with a mom that shares your thought process on parties. Keep her close, trust me!
2) Try to find the kids that are in your kids daycare/class/sports team.
If they are together in these different groups, chances are, they get along really well. Like uncannily so. And bonus, they are already prepped with the “school rules” that you don’t have to reinforce.
3) Make sure you have a play date at an hour that drinking is appropriate.
I just had a playdate with my two kids, another mom, and her two kids where they came over for dinner. It was barely 4:45, and the mom says to me, “well, its almost five, right?” We both agreed it didn’t matter, and popped open a bottle of wine. Who’s paying attention to that detail?
4) Be prepared that your kids will make a mess.
The kids will make a mess. A big one. But they will most likely have fun, so let it happen. Try to have them clean up after, but most of the time, I just make sure the “mess” is contained in the playroom. (Most of the time, thrown into random boxes, but I can’t see it.) If you are a control/neat freak, drink more wine. It will at least dull the stress of knowing how much cleaning you’ll have to do. Or maybe you’ll be so drunk you won’t notice and it won’t matter.
5) Be prepared for cranky kids.
Yes, you know the kind. The ones that refuse to go to bed but when they do, they zonk out and then wake up cranky. And most likely will be cranky until they go to bed the next night. (Why is it after the nap the next day, they still aren’t recovered??) Either way, know they had fun and that they will sleep good two nights in a row. And if you schedule the playdate on a “school” night, you won’t have to deal with the crankypants.
6) Plan for another play date.
This goes for the ones that go well. Don’t just say the pleasantry of “Let’s do it again!” and not mean it. Mean it. Own it. Plan the next one. Make a date in the calendar. If you enjoy the time you have with the mom, and the kids play well, and they sleep good after, TRIPLE BONUS. In fact, make a bunch of dates in the calendar. But also make sure to restock your wine.
At the end of the day, I am sure you will be on many a playdate that sucks. Plan your “out” accordingly or have plans in your back pocket ready to go. I have found my playdate match and I’m not letting go! Our kids are the same ages, we chat up a storm, and we don’t really have to watch our kids while we drink our wine and gossip. If you can’t find your match, keep looking. She’s out there. And I suppose you can be sure that your kids will have fun, too (I suppose that’s important, right?)