Playdates from Hell: 5 Ways to Ruin Any Playdate
I never thought I'd say this, but I love playdates almost as much as my kids do. Every other person's house is like Disneyland to my kids, because it's full of toys we don't have. Unlike Disneyland, though, it doesn't cost $87 per person, plus parking. That's magic to me.
Most of our playdates have been fantastic. My kids' friends are pretty cool, and so are their parents. But every once in a while, we all deal with that parental nightmare... the “Playdate From Hell”! I've been on enough of these now to put together a list of No-No's for parents. If you want our playdate to lead to a play-long term relationship, here are 5 things I highly recommend you DON'T do:
1. Get my kids sick. Come on, Other Parent! I signed up for a playdate, not a pox party. I can deal with sniffles or a mild cough, because my kids have those at least 90% of the time, but if your kid just barfed up his lunch or stayed home from school with a raging ear infection, a heads-up would be nice. Don't wait until my kid is sharing a fruit pop with him to tell me "The doctors just can't figure out what's wrong!"
2. Don't respect house rules. I know little kids thrive on routine, but you and I are bound to have different routines. So if we're in my house, we're going by mine. Just go with it and trust that your kid will still respect your authority when you're at home.
If I give my kids a cookie, don't make a big scene by telling your kid he can't have one. Not only is he going to melt down, but my kids are going to be weirded out, and I'm going to feel judged. Just let Mikey have the cookie, and when we come to your house, I promise to make my kids eat your carob bars or unflavored yogurt, whether they like it or not. (Of course, if your kid has allergies, that's different. Just let me know ahead of time.)
That goes for all your rules on your turf. Even if I think your rules are kooky, I respect your right to enforce them within your walls. So go ahead, tell my kids they can't take the Hello Kitty doll in the basement or that they have to keep the cat keyboard on the lowest volume setting. I'll just use this opportunity to teach my kids that other families do things differently than we do.
3. Pretend to be a perfect parent. I know you want me to respect your parenting, but I promise I'm not judging you as harshly as you think. Your three-year-old doesn't know how to share? You don't say! But that's why we have playdates, so they can learn.
You don't need to micromanage their sharing because your kid doesn't seem to be giving mine a fair shake. As long as they're not hurting each other, let's see if they can work it out on their own. And please don't be afraid to take your own kid's side when mine is being a jerk. If there are two teams here, it's parents vs. kids, not your family vs. mine.
Sometimes on playdates, people apologize profusely for their kid's behavior and tell me what perfect little angels mine are. Then I feel guilty, because I know if my kids weren't behaving like complete raving animals, they were just having an off day. Your kid may not be perfect, but I'm going to assume you're working on it.
Unless, of course, you're a TERRIBLE parent, in which case I'm totally judging you.
4. Spend all your time on the kids. A good playdate should be a date for the grown-ups, too. I'm with my kids all day. For the hour and a half I'm in the presence of another person over the age of 10, a little adult conversation would be nice. Sure, if your kid needs help in the bathroom, you should step in. But if the kids have a good plastic toy jam band going, you don't need to pick up the Mickey Mouse maracas and sing backup. How about we just sit here and try to critique last night's Mad Men over the din?
5. Make my kids jealous. One of the best things about playdates is that my kids get to play with toys we don't have at our house. One of the worst things is, "DADDDDDY, I WAAAAAANT THAAAAAT!" At their age, sometimes this comes out as, "Can I have this?" They'll clutch one of the other kid's toys close to their chest, hoping they can walk out the door with it. Then I have to tell my kids, "No, they're not going to give you that. It's awesome!" Then come the tears, and me trying to pry this cool toy out of my kid's vice-like grip. OK, so maybe none of this is your fault, Other Parent, but man, what a bummer.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes, another parent can ruin a playdate by not acting appropriately, but most of the time, we can blame it on the kids.