Just like in the dating world, play dates can go well if there is chemistry and all parties click. But let’s be honest, play dates are like dating on steroids, because not only are your children involved, but different parenting styles and lifestyle choices can become a deal breaker in a matter of minutes.
The pressure is on, from the moment this strict and organized ritual begins. From the snacks that are served to the activities that are prepared and even the amount of screen time (or lack thereof), presumption and judgement are lurking everywhere. Or even worse, the helicopter parenting you do to ensure your child doesn't act a fool, which we all know will lead you to your latest improv moment; will you go with the tried-and-true “he has never acted like this before!" or "he must be having a behavioral reaction to all things gluten-free" as you put on your very best shocked face!
So call me crazy, but when I'm at the park on a Saturday trying to enjoy playing with my son, and I see a new mom approaching me simply because our children played in the sandbox together the fear sets in. Why does a simple interaction between our children mean we have to exchange numbers and embark on this journey of awkwardness? It's not like they shared a thought-provoking conversation on World Peace -- they merely didn't throw sand in each other's faces.
Of course, in these moments you can venture back to your old dating days and give out a fake number like we did to the “way too much cologne guy" at the bar. Or better yet, give out your single girlfriend’s number, which is always entertaining. Just imagine, a mom texting your single, hot-to-trot girlfriend asking if she can "play with Johnny" tonight! Although that would make our inner glitter bomb go off, you'd have to find a new park. So the only realistic option is to give her your stinking number and pretend to remember her name as you enter it into your phone.
After you make the exchange, hoping she’ll forget your face and your name will get lost in her picked-up-at-the-park Rolodex, the dance begins. First, you’ll get a text asking for a get together; you counter with a few inconspicuous reasons as to why you can't make it: family in town, have the flu, neighbor’s dog died. Next, you’ll undoubtedly have another run in at the park, so you try to avoid eye contact and pretend you didn't see her. But then she’ll come up to you, and you’ll act surprised ... "Oh Hey!!! I didn't see you over there!" Thus the door to conversation is open, and you'll eventually commit to a play date. Check and mate.
Now that the mating part of the ritual is complete, we enter the ever awkward courting phase. At the dreaded play date, you both pretend your kids aren’t on opposite sides of the room, NOT playing with each other, even after the failed attempts to make them. This is fun! You try to keep the conversation going, while side eyeing the bottle of wine on the counter, and pretend to care about her Disney vacation story, which would only really excite you if Princess Elsa was caught with Aladdin on a "magic carpet ride". All the while you're repeating the mantra, "we're doing it for the kids." But at what expense? I mean, isn't it enough that we work all day to send them to an overpriced babysitters club (cough cough preschool), pay for their organic, nom-GMO food that you eventually toss 80 percent of in the trash after the refuse to finish it, and save thousands of dollars for them to eventually drink excessively for four years (and hopefully graduate) in college?
We often find ourselves making our lives so child-centric between our lifestyle, play dates, schedules and sport programs, that we forget that much like dating, it's all about finding the right connection. Once you do, you can stop looking, because it's ok to know when your cup runneth over with the relationships you already have; it's ok not to over-schedule every moment of you and your child’s life; and it is certainly ok to know when your family has enough friendships to go around!
So if I'm being honest, the only play dates I'm interested in are ones where I can drop my child off at your house and go home and take a nap, or fold the laundry that has piled up in the corner. And if that's something that you're interested in, then I'm your mom and here's my number ... 867-5309.