Playdate awkwardness

by Jessie K on January 20, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJune was supposed to have a playdate at our house Saturday morning and I totally forgot about it. I felt like such a jerk. June’s little buddy and his nice Mom showed up promptly at our house at 10 a.m. only to find no one home. We were all out running errands. The mom emailed me later to ask me what was up. I felt terrible because there are few things more devastating to a toddler than broken promises and plans. Luckily, we were able to reschedule for the following morning and all was well.

It was a reminder to always reconfirm with the other parent a day prior so this type of thing doesn’t happen again.

The episode opened up a discussion with another friend about playdate etiquette. Our kids (toddlers) are at the age where they love, love, love to play with their buddies but they’re still clingy with their moms and dads. This presents an interesting gray area  — do you drop your child off at the playdate host’s house so the children can focus on playing together? Or is the expectation that you hang out with your child at the host’s house to help the other parent steer the playdate? I’ve found that with 2 and 3 year olds, as much as they want to play, they don’t always know how to socialize/interact with friends and often need nudging from Mom and Dad. Should you stay and help coach? Will the host parent be miffed if you want to leave? What if you don’t really know the other parent that well? Is it awkward to hang out exchanging pleasantries?

This is the sort of thing that should probably be clarified over email/text prior to the playdate but rarely is. I’ve shown up for more than a few playdates not really knowing whether the other parent wanted me to stay or go. Polite awkwardness ensues:

Me: “So…um…should I hang out? Or do you mind if I go run a few errands?

The other parent: “Oh, no, no, you don’t have to stay. I’m totally fine playing Chutes and Ladders with the kids. By myself. All alone. No, really. You go. Have a life.”

Me [skulking back to my car]: “Alrighty, then, you guys have fun. See you in a few hours!”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan January 20, 2014 at 10:14 am

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Right now you have your hands full with a new house and a new baby so I say politely decline the play date offers until June is a bit older and you don’t have the issue of “do I stay or do I leave” and the children are more developmentally ready to play with a friend without parental involvement. Heck, June probably won’t even notice that she was “deprived” play dates as a young child!

Jessie K January 21, 2014 at 3:20 pm

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Yeah, but June is just happier playing with a buddy than sitting around with me while I nurse the baby! I’m all for playdates.

Latha January 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm

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I remember forgetting a play-date once. The mom did not speak to me ever after that.

Jessie K January 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

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Yikes! That is hardcore. Thankfully, this parent was much more forgiving!

Brenda January 20, 2014 at 7:10 pm

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Definitely start checking before. I imagine you want to give June a break from just hanging around with you and Katie so there may be more play dates in the future. I’m thinking out loud because I don’t have experience in this area. No kids myself and being second child of seven, I never had play dates, I was expected to just play with my brothers and sisters, LOL.
I’m guessing the photo above isn’t of the play date that occurred. :-)

Brad K. January 20, 2014 at 8:37 pm

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It seems, from the outside, that whether to hang with the kids (possibly insulting the host that you don’t trust them with your child, but maintaining your child’s security of having the parent present), or to drop the youngster and scatter (possibly insulting the host by dropping the responsibility for your child onto them without helping to carry that burden, but leaving your child to learn to interact outside your supervision) — that answer must be a resounding “It depends!”

The right answer will probably depend on what plans are going on (the playdate is to care for the youngster while parent/parents take care of other opportunities or obligations), whether you look forward to catching up with the host, whether your child is in a less-than-social stage of development this week . . There are likely more workable answers, than actually right or wrong answers.

Blessed be.

Janelle January 20, 2014 at 9:48 pm

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Last year, I stood my friend up at a bar. I rarely go out. Actually almost never. And I was really looking forward to my own “playdate.” I even confirmed with her a couple of days before. But sometimes we’re so busy that things just completely escape us. I felt absolutely horrible. I sent her a gift certificate for a pedicure but I haven’t been able to face her since. I am so embarrassed.
You’re not the only one who forgets these types of things.

Sarah January 21, 2014 at 8:00 am

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In my neighborhood, there seems to be an understanding that parents stay at play dates until their child is 4 or 5. Unless it is very clear prior to the play date (I need you to watch my kid while I go to the drs), it’s not the other parent’s job to constantly monitor your kid ( make sure they are playing nicely, not having a toilet related accident, etc.).
When my second was born, play dates were a life saver for my three year old. It gave her a break from all the baby related stuff. Plus, it was so nice to have another set of adult eyes and hands if I needed to leave the room for a diaper blow out or to quietly nurse :)

Olga January 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

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I wouldn’t leave my kid with the other parent. Maybe if the parent is a very good friend and I trust them completely… Maybe. In general most parents I meet don’t have the same parenting style we do, as in I don’t rip toys out of my sons hands in an attempt to get him to “share”. Do people really think taking a toy by force will teach a kid to share nicely….? Anyway, I stay with my kid, and I agree with Sarah, it’s work to monitor the kids that are that young.

SkippyMom May 30, 2014 at 8:34 am

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First kids are hard. As we always say “they don’t come with a manual” but if June is so comfortable playing with her friends instead of watching you take care of her baby sister -then by all means, let go and give a specific time when you will be back. And stick to it. Nothing is worse [unless you count forgetting a playdate that you now realized needs an email confirmation] is being late to pick up your own child. The simple rule is you reciprocate in kind. You allow other Moms the same leeway to go on errands [which you like to do] or if they choose, welcome them to stay, offer light snacks [a bundt cake?] and coffee or iced tea. It is a tit for tat kind of thing.

She is in pre school and she is little over 3 years old – she understands being left to play and knows you are coming back at an assigned time. I realize she may not tell time – but can understand the concept, plus? You have a great bonus in your cellphone – if she gets upset or misses you, you are one phone call away. I also know, living in the part of the world that you do – any errand can take up to 45 minutes to 1 hour drive time ONE way. hee

It’s okay to let go this little bit. It is sweet you raised such a happy independent little lady. Trust your instincts. And leave worrying about this kind of thing for when they are go off to college. When whether or not they have friends and get a long is really an important issue. Unless the other little kid is an absolute heathen, then you have no worries. June is a sweetie and is sure to charm her playmates.

I see my advice runs contrary to others in regards to 3 year olds. I do apologize, but I simply don’t find monitoring 2 or 3 three years olds to be and issue nor an effort. No one has to orchestrate every moment of every second of a child’s day. Just make sure they are in a safe environment, within sight and hearing – and let them have at it. I honestly feel that they have more fun when they are set free and aren’t hovered over constantly to make sure they are getting along. Kids, especially the youngest have an amazing capacity for figuring things out themselves. Be at peace knowing you taught your daughter manners and how to share. It’s about all they need at this age. Then again, just my opinion and experience – and it runs contradictory to what else was said. Not trying to muddle the issue just trying to share.

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