Preschool Playdates: Not Just For Kids

From meltdowns to mayhem, there are countless obstacles that can get in the way of fun get-togethers with moms you genuinely like and kids your child wants to hang out with. But let’s face it, playdates aren’t just about the children. In fact, one could argue they’re more about us moms — which can be potentially even more difficult to deal with, requiring a high-wire act that rivals Cirque Du Soleil.

Like it or not, most preschoolers don’t get to select their friends. Instead, this Sisyphean task falls on your shoulders, and that rock is heavy! So, rather than avoid these I-need-a-Xanax-when-I-get-home-events, you dutifully continue to arrange playdates. After all, isn’t that what every good mom does? But, as you soon may discover, they can be a total nightmare fraught with every social landmine imaginable. Here are a few of my own playdate disasters:

• I tried to install somebody else’s baby seat into my car outside the school so I could drive her kid home with me. The task required three people to get it done.

• I explained firmly to a mom that I didn’t want her babysitter watching my child swimming at her house because the sitter couldn’t swim.

• I’ll never forget the incident we had with a “very mature” 3-year-old who was dropped off for a playdate with my daughter and thought it would be hilarious to wash her hair in the bathroom sink with hand soap. Her mom arrived and immediately became hysterical.

• Nacho Cheese Doritos are a big no-no. Whole Foods organic salmon is a “much better choice,” a mom told me late one afternoon at the park as she unwrapped the smelly fish.  There was only one problem: The kids wouldn’t eat it.

• A mom who will forever be on my sh*t list “forgot” to tell me her kid needs an Epi Pen and has life threatening allergies to everything including pet dander, pollen, nuts, wheat and dairy. He coughed frantically in my car as I tried to stay calm, wondering what was wrong. I was ready to call 911, but luckily didn’t need to.

Every mom who has tried unsuccessfully to facilitate preschool playdates is familiar with some version of the above scenarios. Some of the variables involved are subtle, unspoken and vague. Of course, you’re expected to know what they are. For example, do you need to tell another mom you won’t be home for a play date at your house and the kids will be watched by a nanny? I think so. TV is a super-sticky subject, but if the play date is long and you’re exhausted, sometimes it’s the best option.

With two kids who attended different preschools, I encountered a lot of playdates, some good and a few that were truly awful. Here are a few things I learned along the way:

• Kids in preschool are (mostly) too young to be dropped off so you must schedule time when you and the other mom can hang out. I worked full-time so weekends were my only option. Most moms aren’t interested in weekend playdates with somebody they don’t know.

• One former preschool director told me, “There’s a pecking order among moms that permeates play dates…it’s not about the kids, it’s about the moms.” She’s right. Moms seek out other moms they want to get to know. If somebody doesn’t want to get to know you, forget it. The blow-off will be unmistakable. Phone calls won’t be returned. Emails will go unanswered. Her kid will be “sick” a lot. He or she will have more “after school activities” than is humanly possible.

• Celebrity moms don’t do playdates with “regular” moms. Celebrity moms do playdates with other celebrity moms. Or, maybe their nanny will get together with you and your kid. Maybe.

• You’re chased by the weird nice mom who doesn’t take “no” for an answer. Sometimes, it’s not you wishing and hoping for playdates with cool moms. In this case, it’s another mom relentlessly hounding you (her vision of a cool mom) about a play date. The problem? She’s creepy and you don’t like her. You can’t imagine spending an afternoon with her. You find excuses not to get together. You attended her kid’s party and it was a freak show in her bat cave house.

• Your kid is stalked by the kid who bites, kicks and hits. His mom calls for a playdate. You panic. Nobody does playdates with this kid because its downright dangerous. You call friends for help handling this situation so you don’t make a lifelong enemy of the biter’s mom.

Miraculously, just when you think a playdate with an interesting, friendly mom whose kid gets along with yours will never happen, it does. Suddenly, unexpectedly, you find a mom who makes all those dreadful play dates a distant memory. You blissfully schedule weekly get-togethers and forget about everyone else…at least temporarily.