Ah, the PlayDate. There is no real way for a new mom to be properly prepared for all that a playdate entails. There is no way for a new mom to know that there is an entire unwritten guidebook full of dos and don’ts surrounding playdates. And there is NO WAY for a new mom to be prepared for the inevitable playdate stayer.
In life, I think there are two general types of people- stayers or goers. Neither is better then the other, they just have two different approaches to social situations. Let me explain:
Goer- This is me. Generally one of the first ones to leave an event/party. A little shy- have to force myself to chat with strangers. If a host even glances at the clock, I think “Oh man, I better go. They want me to leave right now. Where’s my coat, I have to hurry and leave or I’ll never be asked back again!”
Stayer- Totally comfortable hanging out with anyone, anywhere,
until removed. Give her a seat and a drink and she can chat with
whoever for as long as possible. If she’s comfortable, she’s not going
anywhere fast. Host looks at the clock? They just wanted to know the
time. Has to be asked to leave in order to go.
In the world of playdates, most moms I have encountered are goers. When their baby gets fussy, they go. When it’s lunch time, they take their baby home (unless it was a previously planned lunch date). Most of the mothers I playdate with have babies around the same age as The Boy (10 months) and stay for an hour, max. They’re goers.
However, every once in a while we moms encounter a playdate stayer. One who doesn’t take the subtle hints of time checking, dish washing, claims of “gotta put my baby down for a nap/feed him lunch/go bathe him”. You know, get out of my house hints.
And this happened recently to a good friend of mine. We have now dubbed it “The Four Hour Playdate”:
Scenerio- Woman and my friend met a few times at a local park. Kids are the same age. They have fun chatting while their kids play. Friend invites woman over for a playdate. Woman agrees.
Playdate day comes. The 11 month old girls play in the living room while their mothers have a coffee and chat. An hour goes by. It’s getting close to lunch time. Friend says: “Well, I guess it’s time for lunch (hint, hint).”
Woman says, “EXCELLENT! What would you like to have”.
GULP! Friend panics and offers soup. Woman asks what her child could have to eat. Friend panics and offers a jar of baby food she has in her cupboard.
Fast forward two hours later. The woman and her child are STILL at my friend’s house. They have had an entire lunch, plus two pots of coffee, and a snack. My friend’s baby is cranky and really needs her nap. The woman’s baby is cranky and needs a nap. But she just won’t leave.
FINALLY after almost 4 hours of “playing”(but mostly whining and crying at this point) the woman announces that she needs to pick her older child up from school so should get going. She asks if she wants to do a playdate next week, and leaves.
My friend is left dumbfounded, wondering why anyone would think that a playdate for 11 month old girls should last longer then 1 1/2 hours, max! Isn’t that the unwritten rule? Especially when children are quite young and the parents involved aren’t close friends? And furthermore, how does one “nicely” kick someone out of their house- the fear of being perceived as rude or inhospitable paralyzed my friend during their four-hour playdate.
I can admit that I’ve had my share of awkward playdate encounters (like the woman who wouldn’t let The Boy touch any of her child’s toys or the furniture in the room because it was new), but the four hour playdate really took the cake for me.
So, what do I think new moms (or any mom) can glean from the four hour
playdate nightmare? Well, for the most part I compared playdates to mom dating- the first few should be kept light, short and fun. Leave them wanting more from you. You don’t have to commit to the relationship right away. Always have an exit strategy (remember when you used to get your friends to call you during a blind date so you had an out?) and, please, don’t stay for FOUR HOURS!!
*disclaimer for my real-life friends: this is not a thinly veiled attempt to make you leave my house faster or not stay for lunch. I promise- you may drink as much of my coffee and eat as much of my food as you like!*