Apparently I Have No Idea How Playdates Work

by Kristen King

My panicked text to a friend’s mom.

Over Thanksgiving break 2017 we had four playdates in three days. I’d like to be acknowledged for surviving this terrible idea. I’ll wait. … Okay, great. Thanks for that. And in the course of this three-day nightmare, I discovered that I know literally nothing about playdates. The only ones we have ever had before were when I wanted to drink wine or coffee with my friends and so they came over and we locked the kids in the back yard or kids’ bedroom to entertain each other. Now, after moving, I don’t know anyone and I don’t have a yard, so this is totally uncharted territory.

Hence, my  list of…

Playdate Mysteries

Mystery #1: How the hell are you supposed to schedule a playdate?

I don’t even know how many kids are in my kids’ classes, much less their actual names or their phone numbers. When I was a kid (oh my God I am old) we had a school directory that came home with everyone with their name and grade and phone number and a class list in the back. Now, it’s like a federal offense to even confirm who’s in which teacher’s class or that they even go to the school. So, I improvised. I grabbed some of those notecards I’ve been stockpiling from the Target Dollar Spot and wrote cards that said:

Dear So-and-So’s Parents,
[My kid] wants to have a playdate. Will you please call or text me to make a plan? [my cell]
Thanks,
Kristen

Yes, I am the jackass who sent handwritten invitations to a playdate. I also literally called it a playdate, both aloud and in writing. Ridicule away. I deserve it. Then, I addressed them as “So-and-So’s Parents” and sent them to school in my kids’ backpacks and told them to give it to their teacher. But my notecard hoarding problem sure did come in handy, so there’s that.

Confession: About halfway through the second round, I got tired of writing the notes, so I asked our babysitter to do it. Thanks, babysitter!

We had like a 50% response rate, which leads to Submystery 1A: Did the kids not give the cards to their parents? Do the parents not want to send them somewhere for a playdate? Are my kids assholes and their classmates don’t actually like them? Will update if I figure it out.

Mystery #2: Do parents, like, stay with the kids?

Again, never had a playdate that involved people I don’t know before, so I had no idea what to expect. Back in my day (seriously, someone please stop me), it was a small town where everyone knew everyone (and who was in each class) so it wasn’t like we were off playing with strangers. This is a small town and they all know each other, but none of them know me. We’re still new. So I was like, Do I make coffee? Should I pick up some rosé? What’s even happening? 

As it turns out, no, none of the parents stayed. One parent did hang out during pick-up because the kiddos just did not want to say goodbye, but that was it. It was surprisingly not awkward. I would totally hang out with her. Should I send her a handwritten card to ask if she wants to be my friend? Check yes or no, will ya?

Mystery #3: WHY DON’T YOU CARE WHETHER I’M A SERIAL KILLER?????

Of the four playdates, three were with kids and parents I wouldn’t know if I fell over them. (The fourth was a kid who lives about a block away and we’re friendly withe the mom and dad and have hung out before, so that one doesn’t count.) They know literally nothing about me. And they just knocked on the door, handed me their kids, and left. No one asked if I’m a serial killer. No one asked if I’m a sex offender. No one asked if we have guns in the house. I’m pretty sure one guy didn’t even ask my name (though in his defense he probably had it from the handwritten invitation. Sigh.) They just dumped the kids and left. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Granted, I’m a safe person, we don’t have guns, and the worst thing I’ve ever done was that time I was speeding by accident. BUT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT! OMG! ARE YOU FOR REAL RIGHT NOW? I’m having palpitations all over again just thinking about it.

Mystery #4: Do I have to, like, SUPERVISE you?

One of the reasons I like playdates is the same reason I like having twins: The kids entertain each other and I can have a cup of coffee or poop in relative peace. But with just the one exception, I didn’t know any of these kids. Are they good? Are they little shits? Will they be kind to the pets? Are they going to break shit? I have no idea, so DAMMIT, I HAVE TO WATCH YOU. This is a big departure from supervising my kids, which is easy. They’re mostly free range in the house and they keep it pretty chill, so no big deal. With other kids—random, unknown kids—you have to watch everything. What fresh hell is this? it’s like babysitting but worse because you don’t get paid. Hopefully this gets better? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Mystery #5: Are we supposed to have rules or something?

My kids are basically free range at home. They know what they’re allowed to do and not do, and we really only have three rules in our household:

  1. Don’t be an asshole.
  2. Clean up your shit.
  3. Don’t do stuff that could hurt/kill you or someone else.

Sub-rules include things like, “Stay out of my office” and “Don’t play on the stairs” and “STOP PICKING UP THE DAMN CAT,” but those are pretty well contained within the three main rules.

So then we bring in random, unknown kids, and I don’t know what they do at home so I have to try to explain rules to them and I’m like, “Uhhhhhhhhh…” Pro tip: You can’t tell someone else’s kid that the #1 rule in your house is “Don’t be an asshole.” So now I’m like, shit, do I need to come up with rules so I can tell them to kids who visit? I have no idea. Suggestions welcome. So I told them, “These two rooms are off limits, don’t play on the stairs, you have to help clean up before you leave.” Everyone was still alive and they did a basically okay job cleaning up, so I guess that worked?

**********

In case it wasn’t clear from the blog tagline, I have no idea what I’m doing. All I know is, as stressful as hosting playdates is, I would much rather host than send them to someone else’s house because WHAT IF THEY’RE A SERIAL-KILLING SEX OFFENDER WHO LEAVES LOADED GUNS AND BROKEN GLASS LYING AROUND?

How do you handle playdates? Can you shed light on any of these mysteries for me? Leave a comment.

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Kristen King (aka, Mommy-in-Training) is a red-headed, glasses-wearing, wine-drinking, perpetually undercaffeinated twin mom who lives at 10,200 feet in Leadville Colorado, and founder of AmateurParenting.com. She and her husband, Jesse (aka, Daddy-in-Training) have fraternal boys born in December 2011, two dogs, and two cats. They are both endurance athletes. She works full-time from home in virtual training, and he drives the local school bus. Learn more and meet the rest of the AmateurParenting.com team on our About page.

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