A few years ago, I wrote a post about hosting a successful play date. While it technically addressed the mechanics of how to set up a gathering for your kiddos best friends, I admit that I really had no experience at that point of what it felt like to invite multiple, wild-eyed young ones into my home. And now I have a confession: I hate hosting play dates.
Do I love going to play dates? Ok, love is a strong word but yes I enjoy taking my daughter to the park or friend’s houses so she can play and interact with kids her young age. I love it even more when she can run out in front of our house with neighbors and plays until the sun sets.
The actual dynamic of a play date isn’t the problem. It’s the “at my house” part that gives me nightmares. You see, I work from home and at my very core, I’m a homebody. Given the choice between going out and staying in, I’ll pick the couch and a glass of my own $8 bottle of wine every time. Working from home means I spend a lot of time here, but it also means I want and need my house to be a place of rest, but also orderly so I can get everything done. Having people in my personal space where I can relax gives me anxiety, to put it bluntly.
You’re probably wondering why I’m so bent out of shape and what the big deal is about having kids over and I’ll tell you- I’ve had more than a few bad run-ins that have left me shaking my head.
We hosted friends over at our house several years ago for a BBQ. We both have kids the same age so of course, it was a perfect match. You know what wasn’t perfect? Within 12.5 seconds of walking into our living room, their child decided they wanted to go outside into the backyard. They started running and didn’t stop until they got there- right through my screen door. As an anxious person, this was not a good way to start the beginning of our group dinner. The rest of the night I had to force myself not to dwell on our now torn door hanging off the slider.
Another day, another group of friends invited over. This time, we decided to gather toys so that everyone could play either outside or downstairs. But apparently we didn’t pick the right ones because one of the kids thought it in their best interest to keep going upstairs (umm, hello mother of child why aren’t you watching?) and hand picking new ones. Fair enough. But they didn’t stop there. They thought it fun to take said toys, run back downstairs, dunk them in the water table and then, THEN, THROW THEM OVER OUR BACK FENCE. Did I mention we live on the back of a canyon? Like, wilderness with bramble and brush? Oh, because we do.
Nope, haven’t learned my lesson yet. This last incident was the most painful for me because I saw it happen before my eyes. We had a kid over who decided to bring his own Matchbox cars. That’s cool, dude. Not cool? Watching you use them as a hammer and chisel and slowly chip away large CHUNKS OF MY COFFEE TABLE. Why!? Look, I have a kid too and no- our furniture is in no way perfect. But COME ON.
To answer your question of where were the parents? Oh, they were there alright. Nervously laughing at the antics of their small children, probably hoping the volcano inside me wouldn’t erupt as their child slowly destroyed our house.
I admit, it’s ALL me. I’m the one who has a hard time telling other people’s kids to play nice, to not touch things that aren’t theirs, to not break my child’s toys (and apparently my coffee table). I get anxious, sweaty and worried. Those are my issues and I completely own them. So what does that mean? I don’t want to rob my daughter of time with friends over my issues but knowing those things about myself means I have to set boundaries. That means:
I don’t host that many play dates. Having people over constantly does not bring out the best part of me, and I know that. I choose my in-home play dates carefully, and I hope that doesn’t offend anyone. I hope they understand, because I never assume I’m always welcome inside someone else’s home.
We play outside a lot. Being outside eases my spirit and I’m much less anxious than I am when we play inside. This is especially true when having friends with kids over. We can play outside until the street lamps come on for all I care!
We are more likely to go out to meet with friends. Many people prefer the in-home play date because it means they can stay at home, and it’s a low cost activity for kids. While both of those things are true, there are tons of other free or low cost ways to play too. I’ve become very resourceful at researching free or cheap toddler time activities, the Kids Bowl Free program, the Summer Movie Express or all the great parks in our area. We love splash pads, pools and sprinklers too. Just because we don’t play at our house, doesn’t mean we don’t want to play with you at all.
We almost always say yes to YOUR playdate. We are the friends who almost always agree to meet up, because I know how much effort it takes to plan and host a playdate. I appreciate your hospitality and I will help you clean up and wash dishes. I am so grateful that you have orchestrated a way for my daughter to play with yours. I do not expect you to always host and please know that I’m not taking advantage of you by not reciprocating with a playdate in our home, but that I will find a way for our kids to play together in other ways. A playdate is a playdate no matter the location.
One day maybe I’ll get over my anxiety of having too many people over in my home, maybe I won’t. I don’t think I’ll ever be that mom who thinks I should let my house go to pot because I have kids and perhaps that’s my problem. In the meantime, I’m ok with admitting that I prefer your kids to not be IN my house. I know the many expectations that are put on moms, things that seem to be non-negotiable at first glance. Concepts like carpooling, organic snacks and the dreaded playdate. But I’ve bucked a lot of these things and come out on the other side. I’m perfectly ok with not being the perfect mom. Are you?