How to be terrible at playdates

Does anyone else sorta hate playdates? No? Oh uh neither do we.

Photo by: Ade Roni

I have come to the conclusion that I really suck at playdates. Who knew it was something a person could be bad at? Playing, dating, what could possibly…oh, right, dating sucks, so in a way it makes sense that a playdate might be somewhat fraught. So here we are: you, me, and this sinking playdate ship. How am I so bad at it, you ask? Oh, let me tell you the ways.

1. I keep my kid on a schedule. A strict one.

Think of Captain von Trapp in the first part of The Sound of Music when he calls that gaggle of kids in with a ship captain’s whistle. Now replace Christopher Plummer with me, a harried Warby Parker-wearing mom who sort of resembles Terry Gross, and replace the whistle with a worried glance at a phone for the time to see if I should be rustling up my child from whatever fun she’s having in order to put her down to sleep. Small differences aside,1: I’m totally a von Trapp when it comes to order. This is great for me and my kid, but less great if there’s basically anything fun planned during naptime or bedtime cuz we’re gonna ghost.

2. I have dogs who shed.

My house is full of dog hair that seems to migrate even when my dogs are only allowed in half the house. How is there dog hair on my couch when they aren’t even allowed in the living room? HOW? What this means is that in terms of playdates, your kid’s socks are gonna get covered in dog hair one way or the other, turning their feet into the feet of those Where the Wild Things Are monsters. Now that I think about it, this could mean my house playdates are the best playdates, because who doesn’t like to be a Wild Thing? OK, scratch this point number 2!

3. I own a coffee table.

Apparently people who care about their kids get rid of their coffee tables, but I like to live on the wild side2: I am apparently a terrible parent and a dangerous playdate. Yikes. OK, full disclosure: I lost my first tooth as a toddler running into a coffee table, so I of all people should know the terrible danger. But…yeah, no, the table stays, maybe don’t run into a table, kid. EVER THINK OF THAT?! Next they’ll be telling me to just remove every piece of furniture in the house that could be run into. Beds? You might run into one! Dresser? If you pull a drawer out, you could hit yourself on the corner! Stairs?! How could you think of having stairs in your home? Honestly. Danger lurks everywhere!3

4. I probably won’t feed your kid a snack.

We don’t do snacks in our house, as a rule. Which leads me to…

5. I will probably make some statement that makes it sound like I think my parenting methods are the best way and yours are wrong.

But if I can be real for a second, don’t we all think what we’re doing is the best way? We aren’t all just writing stuff down on slips of paper and tossing them into a hat and pulling them out at random, right? What will I be, a Tiger Mom or a Free Range Mom, only the Sorting Hat can say! Nobody is letting the Sorting Hat decide their parenting decisions because the Sorting Hat could be kind of a cruel piece of headgear. Just ask Harry’s son Albus, if the plot points of the new Harry Potter play are any indication and he’s grappling with maybe being a Slytherin…

Parenting isn’t entirely interconnected. My decision to do X does not mean your decision to do X isn’t wrong–it’s just not what works for us. Do I think our way is good for our family? Well, sure. But if we didn’t do it, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. Most things aren’t the worst decisions ever. Unless the decision is, like, putting out skunk bait near your sandbox and then telling the kids to go pet the kitty. Because that is the worst decision ever. But other than that, your decision to do X or Y is probably good for you, and if I do or don’t do it, it’s not a direct judgement on you and your parenting.

I know, writing that sounds good, but in the real world of human interaction, it can be hard not to be defensive. Lord knows I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and neither place feels particularly good. It’s an all-around suck fest, really, when we start comparing and contrasting individual parenting decisions as if they are all more interconnected than they are. It feels personal, even when it isn’t.

So it turns out the reason I’m bad at playdates is because I’m human. Maybe…maybe I’ve been a little hard on myself. Maybe you’ve been hard on yourself, too. So, human person with flaws perhaps both real and imagined, this is your free pass to be a less-than-perfect playdater. Go forth and keep that coffee table, stick with your schedule, try and accept your failure to sweep up the dog hair. And feed the kids a snack. Or don’t. And rest in the knowledge that it’s OK either way. Really.

  1. I guess I’m not on the verge of being conscripted into the Nazis. 
  2. See point #2. 
  3. To prove my point, I fell down the stairs in my house this week so…touché, universe! Removing them ASAP. 
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Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

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