Playdate Politics: Survival Tips for New Moms
When your kids start going to school, new moms can expect a flood of old memories from their old school days. Whether you were prom queen or your first friend was your husband, watching your baby navigate the same confusing social jungle you once did can be surreal. Before that we have to get through pre-school. In pre-school, the time of organized playdates any Machiavellian plays to rule the arts and crafts table actually go through the parents. You are responsible for making sure your baby has something to do when they aren’t in school and are well integrated into their peer group. You’ll also have to deal with a lot of things you’d thought were left in high school. Remember everyone thinks their kid is the greatest and that can blind them to social conventions that normally govern the adult world. Here are some common playdate political situations new moms can find themselves in and how to make sure they work out best for you and your baby.
Do You Have To Bring or Plan Anything
In a word no. You absolutely do not have to show up to a playdate with fresh baked cookies or have an itinerary of original games ready for when your child’s friends come over. That said you do have to reciprocate if another parent does something for your kid, only if you’re free to do it in a way that fits your parenting style. The most basic example is that if your kid has a snack at their friend’s house, you should offer that friend a snack when they’re at your place but it by no means has to be the same snack. Be wary of reasonable expectations, if a kid is invited over at 10 am and isn’t getting picked up until 3 pm, lunch is implied. If you call a playdate a birthday party, other parents aren’t crazy for expecting some type of organized activity, even if it’s just cake. So to summarize, you aren’t obligated to do anything you wouldn’t otherwise do if your kid was alone and you should pay back any favours extended to your kid when their friends are at your house.
Your Child Is Becoming Good Friends With A Kid You Like But Whose Parents You Can’t Stand
Honestly, you’re going to have to suck this one up. Unless the parents your avoiding are actually dangerous people, your kid can be friends with whom they like. I’ll cover parental disagreements later on the list, but when it comes to people you just find annoying, you’ll have to tough it out for the sake of your child. As kids get older, parents end up spending less time together if they don’t want to, so this phase will be short lived.
One of Your Child’s Friends Is Behaving Poorly During a Playdate
This is a tricky one and will vary depending on how poorly the kid is behaving. You don’t want to offend another parent or risk ruining your kid’s relationship with their friend. After all, we know deep down that every kid is different away from their parents so it would be beneficial to adopt a lower standard for kids that aren’t your own, especially if their only at your home to play. That said, I’d adopt the teacher/daycare instructor model. Undoubtedly every kid does a few things throughout the year that are technically bad behavior but aren’t severe enough to warrant involving their parents. If you think a teacher would bring up the type of bad behavior in question then tell the parents, they’ll probably want to know. Depending on the age, you can look the other way on a bad word or forgetting to say please. I would avoid talking about manners to another parent as they could interpret that as a slight against them and if you’re organizing the play date, the kids are at an age when their manners don’t really matter but don’t tell them I wrote that. The only thing I ever brought up to another parent was biting. You should always report a biter.
Someone Wants a Playdate But You Do Not
First by you I mean your kid. Remember you do not get to pick your kid’s friends. This one depends on the reasoning. If your kid doesn’t want to play with someone because they’re “boring” then you can use it as an opportunity to teach them about giving people a chance and organize a play date anyways. If your kid can articulate a reason that actually makes sense then things can get a bit uncomfortable. If they’ve had a few playdates and your kid doesn’t seem to be having fun then you’ll have to either invite more kids to vary the group dynamic or explain that you’d like to make sure both kids play with all the babies in the class and maybe will try again after both kids have had a few playdates with new partners. If your kid can articulate an actual reason for not liking one of your classmates, you’ll have to be delicate. You can’t say my kid doesn’t like your kid and people will eventually see past any avoidance tactic you come up with if it lasts long enough. Most parents however will take the hint if you can tactfully rebuff them a few times. Use appointments as an excuse if you have to, but never say your organizing a playdate with another kid. If they still press explain why your child doesn’t want to play with theirs but framing the reasoning as a compliment. For example a kid that gets too intense say “so and so gets so passionate about what they’re doing I think my kid is overwhelmed” or something. Honestly it rarely comes to that point.
Your Child’s Friends Parents Have Values That Conflict With Yours
This goes back to not being able to choose your kid’s friends. In some cases, depending on what the disagreement is about, you may have to put your foot down. What I’m talking about here is when one set of parents allow more junk food and video games or later bedtimes than you would prefer. There really isn’t anything I would do about this. Part of the value of playdates is taking your kid outside of the home or their comfort zone to experience how other people live so that they can one day make their own choices. With that in mind, I like to explain to my kids why we do things differently in our home compared to their friends. I would never approach another parent over something like the amount of TV they let their kid watch, nor would I expect them to modify their values to fit mine in their own home just because my child is visiting. When this happens you’ll have to use it as a teaching moment for your kid or offer to have more of the playdates at your house.