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Fayette-Mom: Embracing the playdate

Posted September 19, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

As a mom, I am nothing if not slow. The concepts that take the average mom a couple of minutes to grasp, it takes me hours of study and anxiety before I can barely pass. Really, I wish I were kidding, but for the most part, a lot of the everyday, common sense parenting stuff that seems to come to easily to other moms takes me a while longer to master.

Better late than never, though, right?????

Up until very recently, I approached the whole idea of playdates with great hesitation and stress. I guess this is partly because when I was growing up, we really didn’t have “playdates” as a formal event. Sure, I’d ride my bike over to my friend’s house, or I would take the school bus home with another friend once in a while. But there was no formal planning or plotting, and my mom certainly wasn’t in the business of calling around arranging afternoons of play for me.

Nowadays, playdates are a THING. And you start the kids early, way before they even really have a concept of what a playdate is. I remember when Emma was invited to her first playdate, before she was even a year old. I knew the mom well and they lived in my neighborhood, so I thought, great … what a good opportunity. That is, until I had to reciprocate.

The thought of being responsible for another person’s child was terrifying. I had only recently begun to trust myself with my own baby (kidding) (mostly). I spent the whole hour desperately trying to keep two toddlers out of harm’s way, and one from noticing that her mother wasn’t around (you can imagine how well that went). The whole experience wiped me out, and I wasn’t anxious to repeat it.

But over the years, like it or not, I have been on the playdate train. As my kids got older, I didn’t have to worry so much about physical harm, but I fretted a great deal about how my house would look to the other mom, or if I had enough educational games for the kids to play. During the playdate, I nearly killed myself, trying to guarantee the other child had a good time. If my kid misbehaved (as they all are wont to do from time to time), I worried endlessly about what this meant about their personality, about their social capabilities.

In short, I made myself nuts and wasted time worrying about a bunch of nonsense. At least I’ve finally learned that now (see … better late than never!)

The minute I let go of all those silly expectations, the playdates became a breeze. The world did not end if my house wasn’t perfect (who better to understand that than another busy mom?), and when left alone, the kids got along fine and had a great time, without me having to intercede once.

And now, instead of stress, playdates bring me joy, for I have discovered the real truth: Having someone over to play with leaves the mom to do other things! Who knew!

So most of you moms are smart enough to figure out all of this on your own in two seconds. But for those few lost souls like myself, I give you this: Embrace the playdate. It is, indeed, a very good thing.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.


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  • carolinagirl28 Sep 20, 2011

    blahblahblah - That's how I grew up too, and believe me I wish it could still be that way for my children. Unfortunately it's not the same world these days. We don't know our neighbors as well and our streets just aren't as safe for kids. I don't think we as parents are trying to make growing up more complicated for our kids; I think we are just responding to the type of world our kids are growing up in and trying our best to keep them safe and happy. I wish it could be simpler, but unfortunately a lot of it is out of our control.

  • blahblahblah Sep 20, 2011

    I liked it better when I was a kid and went across the street unannounced, rang the doorbell and asked if Barbara could come out and play. The answer was either yes or no. If it was no, I went further down the street to the next kid's house until someone was allowed out. Simplier times. We've made growing up way too complicated nowadays.

  • whyalltheproblems Sep 19, 2011

    I totally agree w/ leeandkaren2, I have always hated that term. We've added way too much stress on ourselves and it's needless. Great post, by the way :))

  • leeandkaren2 Sep 19, 2011

    For me, I just don't like the name. I just tell my kids, they can have someone over to play. That's what we used to call it...Forget the date part and you don't need one planned every single day or every other day.