Play. Date. Love.

‘I’d love to play. It’s a date!’

There is something to be said about the simplicity with which a child forms a friendship. The ritual is brief: play (sometimes names are not even exchanged), date (find out about each other’s likes and dislikes) and love (blissfully spend the rest of their time together with an occasional disagreement or two).

I have watched my boys, 6 and 3, meet new children at gatherings, celebrations and even at playgrounds. There is an unwritten creed in existence for children. The same cannot be said for most adults. At which point in life is it that we unlearn how to make the acquaintance of new people or do we not seek out new relationships to remain in our zone of contentment? Developing a new relationship takes time. It takes effort. There is an investment from each side.

I was faced with this predicament recently: to go beyond the, ‘Hi, how are you?’ or “How’s your day been?’ while waiting for the bell to ring to signal the end of the school day. My son was asked on a play date.

I knew that it was inevitable. The day had come. This was territory I had never ventured into.

I find making someone’s acquaintance a daunting prospect yet I would be forced to. My son is following in my footsteps, for the time being, and requested that I chaperone the ‘date’. There would be no ‘drop and run’ which the mother of the other child was expecting. See a play date for most is the opportunity to dispose of said child for a while and, maybe, get a manicure or indulge in a coffee that won’t go cold before you drain the cup.

So on this day I found myself in the relative comfort of someone else’s comfort zone where I was not comfortable at all. I had to take both boys as it was during the day while Dad was at work. I spent two excruciating hours there. In that time I worried about my boys waking the sleeping baby (not the proverbial baby-playdatethere really was one sleeping upstairs) or Just 3 being unable to successfully navigate the narrow stairway with two-way traffic. I wiped crumbs from chairs when the kids (5 in total) ate the home made fresh-out-the-oven cookies I had proffered on my arrival. I fussed over the fact that this home had no fences and at one stage Just 3 ended up at the top of the driveway near the road. The older children spent considerable time running away from Just 3 who, of course, chased them wanting to join in but inadvertently continued the game. I spent nearly 15 minutes in the downstairs ensuite bathroom, which was not much larger than the size of a public cubicle, when my boys decided to do their synchronised number two’s routine. Just 3 needed a change of bottom half clothes for….well I’m sure you can figure it out. Doors were being used like revolving ones, there were toy guns and swords that made noise and had strobe lights and I thought there’d be flashing lights coming to get me if I didn’t get out of there fast. Throughout all of this I attempted to hold an adult conversation with a woman who could not be any more polar opposite to me if she was floating in the water off the coast of Bermuda. She filled space with words: not of light conversations about the weather and what you like doing when you have spare time, but her life. Almost from start to finish. I, who am known to be able to hold my own in a verbal exchange, could hardly get a word in. So I listened and nodded and uh huh’ed in the appropriate places all while keeping Just 3 in my sights. The mother, either blissfully unaware or taking some time to rest while the baby was asleep, seemed to take it all in her stride. Toys being strewn across the path of anyone who dare enter did nothing to change her resolve. She was softly spoken even as a door was slammed for the 15th time and she politely asked her son to close it carefully as he dashed off and her words drifted in the air like dust.

As we made our way to the car I was composed, outwardly centred. Inside I was screaming, all muscles tense.

I had white knuckle fever on the journey home. It took 5 minutes but it felt as if I was on an exercise bike and wasn’t getting anywhere fast. My answer? A glass of red wine at 3:30 in the afternoon-something I have NEVER done before. This was my second option by a narrow margin to going out into the backyard and letting off the biggest scream I could create. The first option may have attracted unwarranted concern from my neighbours so I sucked it up. The. Whole. Glass.

In reflection, I did wonder whether that mum opened her own bottle after we left. Did she, like me, seek to quell the rising tension by forcing it back down again with her own medicinal glass? Maybe we weren’t as opposite as I had first thought. Perhaps adults need more than one ‘date’ to suss each other and decide if a friendship can be born. Maybe that’s why she handed me her card before we left. ‘Ben’s had such a wonderful time today. Give me a call and Ben could come to your place next time.’

‘The kids had a ball,’ I thought to myself. They were completely unaware of the cracks that formed in my veneer. It is all about the kids after all. I could hide a glass in the fridge if I wasn’t comfortable in my comfort zone. I wondered what we would talk about next time. Would she turn to me and say, ‘Well you heard all about me last time. Tell me all about you.’ Then it dawned- there would be no next time. She had expected me to ‘drop and go’ and that’s exactly what she planned to do on the reciprocal ‘date’. I wouldn’t need my secret weapon.

That’s why you’ll find me hanging with the kids next time. It’s so much simpler in their world. Play. Date. Love.

And the other mother can have her manicure and coffee too!

Image from: here.


14 thoughts on “Play. Date. Love.

  1. Boy did I ever enjoy reading this. This, strangely, is almost WORD FOR WORD exactly how I feel about forming relationships. Having a school aged daughter certainly helps to pull me from my comfort zone, but I have to say it is a relief to know that others feel this same way (especially when it comes to play dates) I always feel like such a nut case! Other parents seem to do it all with such ease! It is a wonder if they really are feeling the same way on the inside. 🙂 great read

    • Thanks, Rebecca!

      I am a loner, partly by choice and also by chance. During the latter years of primary school I chose to enjoy my own company due to not fitting in/being bullied. I am at ease with myself and around those I love but find it difficult in new situations. I do truly wonder how other mothers really feel and why we feel the need to keep up appearances. The other mother in this true account really didn’t know how to build a rapport. She just filled the airspace with plenty of chatter. I think this was because she, herself, was uncomfortable or wasn’t looking for a new pal. I’m always conscious of how much I talk when I’m around people who don’t know me (I’m a bit of a chatterbox) and tend to err on the side of caution and be a little more reserved. On more than one occasion this has seen me come across as a snob. It’s a tricky dance to perform with a partner you’ve never rehearsed with.

      Heartfelt thanks for reading, commenting and giving my thoughts a voice.

  2. WOW!! Can I share a glass of wine with you! After all of that I would have needed something a titch stronger than wine 🙂 I’m a loner as well…outgoing at work…introverted in social setting. A day like that would have had me stressing. It sounds like you did an amazing job juggling everything that was going on! I think you are pretty awesome!! 🙂

    • I was so far from awesome that day I didn’t know if I would ever have another awesome mummy moment again. The wine helped a tad and I would gladly share a glass with you.

      Maybe we can raise a glass at a designated time and say ‘cheers’ across the miles.

  3. I would be exactly the same. No, in fact I would have avoided the whole situation- to the detriment of my kids. Guess I’ll need to start doing this sort of thing when my girl starts school next yr.

    • Avoiding is going to be my tactic for the moment. There will be no reciprocal arrangement agreed upon either. My kids play with the kids of other people we know well and are relaxed around so they won’t miss our per se. My nephew and niece are 7 and 4 so all the cousins get along famously (for the most part).
      Good luck is all I can say as I’ve noticed the girls are more inclined to ‘nag’ for play dates than the boys.

  4. Ha! I am always the worrier, what-to-do one. Where is the unwritten code of playdates? Nice job relaying the tension of the moment – my hackles are up just reading it!

  5. I have to say play dates are really not my scene. Now and then they come off a success but usually I too have my younger ones to consider and it just doesn’t work for me. I am currently in debt to two other ladies to whom I haven’t reciprocated – not sure when I will. Am not the manicured type; but can definitely slug down a large glass following such events!

    • I’ll drink to that. Yes, I think it would have played out slightly differently if Just 3 wasn’t there. He is my little whirlwind. Having said that, I would have had to actually listen properly to the other child’s mum. That would then require a second glass.

  6. Pingback: Love’s on Vacation | Free Little Words

  7. Oh my. I am exactly the same way. A loner by choice. I always have been. When my boys were little I rarely took them on play dates mainly because I was extremely uncomfortable with the other moms or having people play at my house. The mom’s were more concerned about their designer this and that and home decor. I was the least bit interested. It is ironically funny but when my ex and I got divorced, it let me off the hook in some ways. All the play dates were on his time because he re-married (the complete total opposite of me – status quo all the way) and they had an au pair who could oversee play dates. When the boys were with me, it was ‘our time’ and that time soon became Bill, the boys and I. This is how Jordy became interested in movies – we used to go to the movies with the boys all of the time. There is something funny though – I would speak to some of the mom’s at my son’s cub scour meetings – it seemed that my boys were always the most well-behaved and mannerly boys ‘ever’. ;).

    On a second note, I am about to crawl out if bed. Ever bone in my body aches right now – including my pinkie. More moving today. Blah. Yours is the only blog I can read today;) I hope to be around soon.

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