Parenting Gone Awry

I’m A Play Date Drop Out

On the few occasions when Sean and I have gone to McDonald’s for lunch, I can’t help but to notice the tables of young moms happily chatting and visiting while their children are off playing.

Everyone at the table is leaning in and engaged in a lively conversation. While their children are off playing.  How do they do it? How?

I have been invited to a handful of these kinds of play dates in my short tenure as a mother, and I have to be honest with you — I do not enjoy it. I find it to be very stressful.

In order to be a play date pro, you have to be able to carry on a conversation and remain oblivious to the fact that small children may or may not be setting the place on fire.

You know who would do great at play dates?  Those guys in the pits on Wall Street, the “yellers”. Those guys would be fabulous, because to me that is the equivalent of a play date – a maelstrom of noise and activity and incomplete conversations and littering.

I was told that after I became a mother, I would learn to filter out the noise.  Still waiting.

And it’s not really the noise so much, it’s that I’m fully aware that where two or more children are gathered, one of them will dream up something ridiculous to try. And at least one grown up should be paying attention.  And if I’m involved in an in-depth conversation about Capri pants, I can’t know if/when some kid decides to see how far a soda straw will go in someone’s ear.

So what usually happens at the play date is I try in earnest to focus on and participate in the conversation with the other moms.  I do.  But out of the corner of my eye or ear, I’m painfully aware that my child, or someone’s child, is running with scissors. Towards a busy street.  With an open prescription bottle. And some matches. And that I should probably try to stop them as opposed to listening to a fascinating story about the Capri pants that are on sale at Target.

And the urge to turn around and find out what is sending a signal to my momtennae is unbearable.  So I end up cutting the conversation off awkwardly and abruptly to tend to unattended children.

Of course, when you are in the habit of turning on your heel and running away in the middle of an adult conversation, you don’t get a lot of invitations.

75 thoughts on “I’m A Play Date Drop Out

  1. I am totally with you on this!!

    Playdates at the park are the worst. All the moms are standing in the shade chatting about whatever, and I’m following my daughter around the play structure making sure she doesn’t fall out of one of the too-many cavernous openings. Sigh.

  2. That’s been the hardest adjustment of moving here; my northwest friends and I had an unspoken understanding that any of us could take the scissors away or coax someone off the top of the cabinets as needed and all had one eye on the kiddos. Conversations could be interrupted without apology to tend to monkey-business as needed. Playdates here are a bit more like those you described.

    If you and Sean ever make it to the west coast, please join us for a playdate! My radar is never off and I do often leave a conversation to make sure Boo isn’t the reason for some little one’s tears or to keep Bug from scaling the outside of the playstructure just because he can since “I’m six now.” If you come visit I promise we’ll enjoy chatting and we can have a contest about who is quicker to spoil some little-boy fun right when it hits the danger zone.

  3. There’s only one place I can think of where I can semi-relax (if I’m facing the play area so I can see) – there’s a giant indoor playscape here where the kids only get one way in or out. We sit at tables by the exit and tune out the NOISE.

    But that whole conversing thing with relative strangers . . I’m such an antisocial geek that I have a hard time making conversation with family and friends I’ve known since high school, much less young moms I have nothing in common with!

    I can’t semi-relax. A lot of no good can go on in that play scape when you (not YOU personally) have your back turned or have divided attention. I have found that my standards for kids-will-be-kids behavior is a whole lot different than that of the general public. I’ve had to step in a few time and put the kabosh on a little pint sized bully whose mother was having a great play date. ~AM

  4. I’m with you, A.M. The eyes in the back of my head are near sighted, so I’m often dashing off after the 3 yo, after yelling at him from afar to RED LIGHT! STOP RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! Leaving other moms engaged in conversation, mid-sentence, with bleeding ears from the sound of my yelling.

    It’s a sound only mad dogs should hear. Because 3 yo boys certainly don’t.

  5. this is one of my favorite posts of yours (but really i like them all). your wording is just very funny. i was trying to think of something witty to say in return, but it is too early, and you took all the good lines already:)
    thanks for the laugh

  6. I, too, understand. I always followed my girls around where they were playing and always wondered how all those moms chatting didn’t see what was going on. I figured they saw me among the kids, they didn’t have to. I haven’t had a little one in a while and don’t think I could keep up anymore.

  7. I thought it was just me! I do it even in the multipurpose room at church (where we all congregate after worship) — with my grandkids — with their parents in the same room! LOL

  8. You get a huge AMEN from me. Being an antique mommy myself I tend to go old school too much for young mamas. I’m not afraid to sit my child on a chair for disobeying me during a playdate or take something away from them or worse…use the “no” word in front of their peer group. There’s fun and then there is that old, “Let’s see if I can get away with that too.”, frame of mind that my kids get in herd situations. We had a situation recently where our children were with another child & his mother allowed her child to play in the racks at Wal Mart. I told mine to stop it and when Cam-Man didn’t, he was placed in the shopping cart. I was told it was no big deal. Wrong answer. Very big deal.

  9. My problem with play dates are a little different than you describe. First, I don’t do well in a group of women–I do better one-on-one. I’m always thinking that the other women have it so much more together than I do or that they’re talking to each other more than they’re talking to me. I’m a complete head case in groups.

    Second, I hate it when my kids (who aren’t little any more but when they were they were fairly well behaved) are the only ones listening and everyone else’s kids are running willy-nilly all over the place creating chaos. I don’t like disciplining other people’s kids. I just don’t. So it bothers me when those other kids are acting out, but the moms don’t do anything about it.

    So many reasons to hate play dates!

  10. Maybe the play date moms have more than one kid. When you get up to two or four it gets easier. My friends and I pick the table by the door and just make sure nobody leaves without permission! Yes, we make sure nobody else’s kids leave without permission. Unwritten Mommy law, kind of like taking the seat in the emergency exit aisle on the airplane. You take the seat by the door, you make sure everyone is safe!

    Tara, I think you are right. I think having more than one child tends to sharpen one’s ability to focus and enhance one’s multi-tasking abilities. Although to some degree, I just think I’m not wired to sort out all the incoming sensory data that goes along with play dates. ~AM

  11. You are clearly a balanced well-adjusted individual, who doesn’t have a desperate need and craving for a short window of adult companionship in an otherwise child-orientated and potentially lonely day.

    That makes me sound so sad, and I’m not. I love the privilege of being at home with small kids. BUT, I do also NEED friends: people to be interested in, and who are interested in me. That involves conversation.

    To be honest, I’m less anxious in a McD’s playspace, where I really feel the potential dangers are limited, than in another person’s house, where the kids disappear off to the basement and you have no idea what they are doing. You can’t exactly go and inspect someone else’s house to make sure they don’t have any lurking hazards.

    I think you’d be a great person to have along to a playdate. I would feel much more relaxed and able to concentrate on the group conversation, if you were jumping up every few minutes to check on the kids, and patrolling round watching them. You can join me anytime!

  12. Oh thank GOD someone else gets this too. I’ve even been guilty of planning a play date or two. Learned my lesson. I just don’t enjoy them.

  13. Timely – new semi-weekly playdate starting on Friday. At my house. Have project picked out and organized am convincing myself that brewing coffee is plenty – no need to bake anything.

  14. I agree with Iota. The moms who are chatting are desperate for adult conversation. They probably also have more than one kid.

    It really does matter, and I know you didn’t have one kid by choice, so this isn’t aimed at you as a barb. It’s just to say that when you have more, you get more tolerant of noise and chaos, and more desperate for adults. When you have to listen to your kids fighting with each other at home, you go a little nuts to hear other understanding mommies.

    It’s a balance of keeping your eye out for real trouble, and then letting kids be kids.

    Also, all my mom friends and I (northeast, if that matters!) discipline each other’s kids, or at least say “Um, your Jane just hit Sally’s kid Suzy.” We don’t take it personally.

  15. Had my second play date EVER last week, and I felt the same way. Granted, Anja is only 17 months, so she can’t be let out of my sight. I think I will continue to see play dates as a time for the kids, not a mommy bonding time…

  16. Your dilemma is partially due to the fact you have a boy. My first is a boy and even at 13, I have yet to relax when he has someone over. Anything can and will happen. My second, however, is a girl. Completely different animal. They will play at your feet while you happily chat with other moms. Ask Shannon over at RIMD. She posted awhile back about peaceful water play. It really is mind boggling.


    Love ya to pieces Julie but I don’t accept your premise that it’s a boy/girl thing. We all like to universalize our own experiences, but nothing in parenting is ever that cut and dried along gender lines. I know plenty of little girls who are every bit as “energetic” as little boys. ~AM

  17. I don’t relate to this at all, AM, but it totally fascinated me. (I even read all the comments posted thus far.) I have a high tolerance for chaos; it’s why I could function in a newsroom, where there are 12 police scanners, 24 TVS, 35 phones, 18 editing bays and 45 people talking at the same time as I try to write my news story. In retrospect, it was good training for being a mom.

    For me, play dates are almost always fun and always crazy. But so is my home life. I’m constantly having two conversations, grabbing the baby off the stairs, making dinner and listening to a CD at the same time. A play date isn’t that much different. I just have to have a finely tuned radar.

  18. In my 31 ongoing years of parenting… I have found that playdates only work (for me)with like minded mothers. If the mothers are willing to correct any wayward child they see and allow theirs to be corrected by anyone who sees them misbehave, then it can work and it can be fun…but you will still need a drink and a nap afterward. Birthday parties are my bane…

  19. I have had my own experience with this – we have a large group of mom/kid friends that plan a lot of activities. I often come away from it wondering if I’ll ever get my conversation manners back, how to negotiate the differences in parenting styles, etc. Mostly now I just realize it’s gonna be a stress fest sometimes, but sometimes a joy. We keep plugging along. And I’m with you on the gender thing – I have twin boys, one who is all boy and the other not so much 😉

  20. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my children, it’s that they’ll make you eat your words. Making generalizations about gender and age groups can be a very slippery slope. I knew much more about children before I actually had one, then two, then three and now five. The more I had, the less I realized I really knew because each one is so drastically different.

    Here are the few ideas I have about playgroups.
    1. Much before the age of three or four, it’s pretty much a perfect recipe for disaster.
    2. I’m unpopularly a proponent of tattling. In childhood, you’re tattling. In adulthood, you’re aiding and abetting a criminal.
    3. Every adult should have full range on dishing out the discipline, especially when it comes to protecting their own child. Hitting, spitting, pushing, pulling and yelling are not permitted and whoever sees it should stop it.
    4. Adult conversation should be encouraged, but the safety of the kids come first.
    5. Conversation will be only offered in short snippets. No lengthy diatribes in which attention is required. Please.
    6. Sometime the play-time will be more of a lesson in example of how NOT to act, for adults and children, alike. This opens up the conversation on the way home for questions like “Did you see the way little Johnny was acting? I wonder why he acts that way? Do you think that makes him very fun to be around?”

    Good post AM. Little did I know there was so much disdain out there for playgroups. I’ve never had much interest in them, either, and I’m glad I’m not alone.

  21. hmmm…i have to admit to only going on two playdates. it was strange and awkward and I didnt make much effort to go farther.
    now i do have a good friend that i have known forever and she and i get our four boys together…mine are 4 and 5 and her twins just turned 5…her house is safe as is her back yard and we do just turn the kids loose and sit and chat, but we also both discipline each others kids and feel 10000% comfortable with each other(we should we have been friends 25+ years)
    i get the desperate for conversation…i live in the middle of nowhere, my husband works out of state, and i have little boys who live on a planet of superheroes and legos…i crave adult conversation….thank heaven for the internet it has saved my life to “talk” to other mommies with high energy boys and know I am not alone.

    btw, its not jsut for playdates, i avoid the mcdonalds and other playgrounds…cannot stand them think they are jsut a big germ infested danger waiting to happen….and it just pisses me off to go into one where there are large kids and teens playing on one…

  22. Playdates were great until the kids became mobile. Then they became a nightmare…for me anyway.

    I offered to host the pre-school Easter Egg Hunt here a few years back. I’m sure the other mom’s laughed at my attempts to create a safe, and fun, but mostly safe, event. I sent home a note prior to the hunt, asking parents to not allow their children to play with the dogs in the fenced in dog kennel, to monitor the kids in the 2-story playhouse and on the fire pole, to not let any children out of the fenced in yard without supervision (we have a lake, a river and a creek nearby). Let’s just say that when I walked out into my backyard and saw children climbing the fence to get into the dog kennel, and way more children on the 2nd floor of the playhouse than the structure is designed to hold and ALL of the parents standing around DOING ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, I lost it! I barked out orders for parents to take charge of the chaos. My behavior even scared me, so I’m sure I offended a few folks.

    I wonder if it’s an age thing? My best friend and I are both antique mommy’s and we marvel at how the young mom’s can stand around talking while the children are behaving so badly!

  23. Great post. And I think it applies whether it’s a girl or boy. I’m the same way and I have a daughter and a son.

    I can’t seem to let my children go into the play-place alone while I sit in the quiet part of the McD’s or wherever we are. Some moms can. I don’t get it. I can sit an chit-chat as long as I’m on the side of the table where I can see what is going on at all times. But no-thanks on the in-depth converstaion. Not gonna happen. I make a lunch date w/o kids with my friends for that kind of interaction.

    At the park, what I love is how other moms are sitting there at the park while their child is asking me, A STRANGER no less, to push them on the swing or help them do something. I tell them to go ask the adult that brought them.

    Again, great post.

  24. Hmmmm… This really isn’t a situation I can relate to, but perhaps hosting only 1 or 2 mothers at your own home would be better for you? Or the backyard. Somewhere where you can control the situations they can get into.

    Other mothers are my saving grace. I couldn’t survive without them.

    Though we rarely talk about capris. 😉

  25. A couple of comments. I don’t know that having multiple kids makes you better in terms of filtering out the noise, but I do know that when I have both of my kids with me (8&5), I feel a little more comfortable chatting it up with other moms because I know that the two of them will watch out for each other.

    Also, regarding the big kids/teens playing on the equipment, my son had his 5th bday party at a church that had a huge indoor playground. There was a ballpit for kids 5 and under, and there were several older kids in it harrassing the little kids. I had NO issue at all going to them and asking, “Are you 5? No? Well, then, get out!”

  26. I’m with Steff, it’s not just the chaos within the group, it’s the expanded chaos. I avoid playlands like the plague. Mostly because there is always some kid on there who is way too big and paying ZERO attention to the toddler under their foot.

    And the noise. UGH. The noise. I can’t take it. Even in my own home. QUIET DOWN. TOO LOUD. Mommy can’t THINK. Consequently, I have been blessed with a 5 1/2 yr old who cannot spend more than 15 seconds without talking. Loudly.

    I am much happier on my own playdates. Where the kids stay home with the daddies.

  27. When my “Baby” was about 5, old enough to jump in and out of the pool but still needing to be watched, I was sitting by the side of the pool and lots of strange kids would come and want me to watch them, and then one out in the middle, went under, no mom nearby so I leaped in and brought the child out, the mom came up took child by arm and off she went without thanking me. So keep on watching AM.

  28. AM
    Just went to McDonald’s today with my son, my sister and her little girl. Our children did ok, but the other little girls kept screaming! It was miserable the other moms, just seemed completely oblivious. UGH. Having many children though, I have been able to tune a lot of chaos out, but the older I get, the more sensitive it seems to get–I’m almost 41.

    Thank you for your kind words on my blog.

  29. I am the same way. I often find it amazing how certain Mom’s are able to completely ignore their children during play dates. It’s as if their children no longer exist. This phenomenon makes it nearly impossible for me to relax and enjoy myself. I am too busy watching their children as well.

  30. I understand. I was also the party pooper when it came to babysitting co-ops – taking turns keeping each other’s children? No way!! One baby at a time was all I could handle.

  31. You are so speakin’ my language. I tell you – I can’t do conversation with kids around – i’m distracted … i miss the important stuff … i get frustrated and just wanna go get my own Happy Meal and sit at a table alone with my eyes glued to my children so as not to lose them in the chaos …

    i’m good at multi-tasking in almost every way but this …

  32. Thank you. No really. Thank you.

    I thought it was just me! How can it be done, because I am always in awe. Now, I am the master of multitasking. Just ask my hubby (drives him nuts). But maybe it’s just a gene we’ve missed out in having. It’s just easier to do that stuff alone I guess, just me and my gal.

    We need to start a group! Have a designated watcher each week that rotates. That way we can chat and know that someone (preferably a responsible someone) is watching the little monsters (and I say that with love, I love mine!).

    Cheers, Kiy

  33. I’m in total agreement, and I can only handle a play date with one friend at a time and her kids…any more than that is total craziness…not to mention all the inevitable discipline issues that come up when there are too many in a group.
    You’re a great mom.

  34. If I could reach you to hug you, I would. I’m so proud of your mommy-ing. So proud!

    P.S. Is it okay if, here, I invite you and Sean to visit my latest blog post? It’s something fun parents can do with their kids, connected with Valentine’s Day. And it’s even slightly “educational.” (I’ll understand if you want to delete this part of my comment.)

  35. Hmm…I wonder if I’m one of the irresponsible moms? (I don’t know if that word has been used, but it has been alluded to in some comments.)

    I don’t have experience with the group playdates in public places. I usually get together with friends and kiddos at someone’s house and there is rarely a complete thought spoken because we are constantly encouraging, redirecting or disciplining a toddler or two. But we enjoy the time together anyway.

    On the other hand, I do sit on the other side of the glass and drink my sweet tea while my not-quite-two-year-old wanders in and out of the play area at Chick-fil-A. There is always another mom that will warn him about pinched fingers in the door while looking at me out of the corner of her eye. How could I let him push open the door BY HIMSELF? Do I not care about PINCHED FINGERS?

    Um…he’s fine. Been obsessed with doors since six months old and is quite adept at opening and closing them on his own. I appreciate your concern.

    And I let him climb and slide at the playground without shadowing his every move because he enjoys the independence and chance to run and jump and climb all by himself. But I’m happy to join in and play chase or push him on the swing.

    (Probably somewhat off topic but just an example of a mom that may look disinterested or lazy but knows her child’s capabilities and limits.)

    Love to all the moms of various temperaments and personalities who are doing their best every day!


  36. We tried to have a Christian book study at different people’s homes. At one home, when I saw that the pre-schoolers were allowed to go out unsupervised on a little balcony with a railing they could have slipped through or climbed over, I wondered how that mother could be so relaxed. I decided it was because her husband was a doctor, so maybe they figured he could fix the child if he/she were broken. This is unfair to other doctors’ families– I’m well aware I’m generalizing.

    I think most mothers try to prevent accidents they see ready to happen. We removed (to the barn and never brought back) the iron-rimmed wagon wheel with the glass top when our children were small. I could not relax with my toddlers around that thing.

    I had a job that required my going into people’s houses. I sometimes even tried to help mothers “protect” their own children in their own houses. I saw one child about to spill a 50-lb. bag of dogfood propped in the corner of the kitchen, so I jumped up to prevent it since the mother was about 9 months pregnant, and I could jump faster. It was true that the young child had been in a near-drowning accident so was relearning about the world. She told me he needed to go ahead and explore the world to relearn, and if it spilled it was OK. Wasn’t that a great attitude? Stupid me–I was trying to help prevent a mess. I admired that she knew he needed to learn about the world and could be so relaxed. I was the wrong one there. I realize I’m chasing rabbits here– that this last paragraph has nothing to do w/ playdates.

    By the way, we never got any Christian book discussing done at the Mom/Chldren studies– we had to be out of the room too much checking on our children.

  37. I’m the world’s worst multi-tasker. And my children would be the ones with the aspirin bottle and the matches. That they smuggled in from home while I was looking for my darn keys. So I don’t get out much.
    Plus, if you do hover like I do, (because I try to keep my disasters to a minimum) I am often accused of being a helicopter parent.
    Grrr. These kids clean up their own dishes, make their beds by themselves and on and on, I’m teaching them independence at home but I’m STILL THE MOM and it is my job to keep them safe. Or at least try.

  38. I don’t care for large play dates either, for that very reason. It really bothers me when I feel like I’m the only one who cares about what the kids are up to.

    I’m just really grateful that the friends I hang out with most are the same way.

    I’ve gotten to where I just don’t give a rip what the other moms think of me when I feel the necessity of getting onto one of their kids. Somebody’s gotta be the adult around here, and I’m fine that it’s me.

    I’ve learned to be happy with interrupted adult time. Most of my mom friends have the knack of picking up right where we left off before we had to corral the melee.

    Thanks so much for being honest.

  39. Well, I have three kids and…I DESPISE play dates. The only time I enjoy them is when it’s with someone I already have a well established relationship with. The one thing I will say though, is I do encourage risk taking. Not the straw up the nose you spoke of, but sliding down a wet slide in our back yard type thing. Even if they fly 10 feet away from the slide. There is always a possibility that your child will hurt themselves, but such is life. I love the possibility of my child deriving pleasure from extreme sports or sky diving later in life. Meanwhile, I stand at a close distance and suck the breath through my teeth and tightly shut my eyes while saying a silent prayer. I know that life is full of risks and there’s always the possibility of pain on multiple levels. Having one child is definitely different and, understandably so. I was SO protective of my first. You start to learn with more than one, that, when you leave them to make messes and mistakes, it’s the time when they discover magical things. Like standing their bunk bed side slat on two rolling balls and realize that they, in essence, just invented the wheel. Dangerous, but very important. During all of this, though, I’m silently lurking around the corner to pick them up if they cry. Nine out of 10 times they don’t and we revel in their new discoveries. As for having conversations, There aren’t many worth having and the ones that are, happen no matter what! Most moms understand that you may have to run off at any second to reestablish order…if they don’t, again, they’re not worth being around!

  40. Here’s a dad who agrees completely – not that I have “playdate” experience per se, but just holding normal conversations with an adult when I’m “on duty” is impossible with a four-year-old running around.

    I figure natural selection will eventually eliminate the genus of non-vigilant parents, with impalement, explosions, floods and fire that will inevitably break out from unsupervised children.

  41. Interesting discussion. I’m fascinated by the different preferences and pet peeves people have.

    I personally do not want another mother correcting my children, so it surprised me to read that some mothers prefer that.

    I have 7 children and they are great tattle tales, so even if I miss something, I’m sure to hear about it in 4.5 seconds.

    I’ve had other another mother tell my children they are not allowed to shoot Nerf guns in MY OWN house. I’m all… yes, actually, they are.

    I prefer to bring the behavior to the mom’s attention and ask her if she minds Little Angel scaling the chimney, instead of telling him to get down. Maybe she really doesn’t mind (says the mom who lets her son get on the roof to see how far he can see.)

    And I don’t care for play dates either.

    It really is kind of interesting to see how this discussion has kind of branched out into views on different parenting philosophies – risk taking, hovering, correcting. My original thought when I was writing about this was more about how I seem to be wired to socialize with adults or kiddos, but not both at the same time. It’s not a statement about anyone’s parenting style except my own. ~AM

  42. My “playdates” are at gymnastics and ballet classes. The girls are supervised and I get to chat mostly uninterrupted with other mums (some of whom are now close friends). Sometimes the girls get peeved at me cos I missed a great bit of dancing or skill done well.
    Why – cos at “real” playdates, I’m one of those mothers whose radar shuts down and I catch myself forgetting to watch out for them and I’m mortified when I realise it.

  43. OH, the flashbacks! McDonalds playland! Thank goodness it was a small window of desperation. 🙂 In the Pac NW, we don’t have snow to play in, we have mud. So there’s LOTS of indoor togetherness. Though I did succumb to the lure of a McD playland with a girlfriend a time or 2, you better believe the only thing that made it about me was the quiet naptime (for all of us)when I brought us home worn out and ready for showers/baths and sleep!

    And, BTW, my name is Gretchen, and I can’t stand noise. My poor children were born looking at my earnest face in the shape of a “shhhhh”.

  44. As the grandmother that sits at the table adjacent to the “mom group”, may I say that I wish more of those moms were like you!!?

    I didn’t let my girls or their friends run unattended in any restaurant/play area/park. AND when I have any of my grandchildren out, they don’t get to either. I believe it is the adult thing to watch and protect our children, even and especially, from themselves!

  45. Amen and amen.

    It’s not the chaos itself…it’s the expectation that I am to carry on a conversation and (usually) eat food in the midst of the chaos. While also making sure my 2yo stays alive. While also making sure he doesn’t decide to leave out of one of the many exits (park). I do have an older child (9yo), as someone referenced earlier, but he is too busy playing with his own friends – not watching his brother. That is my job!

    I could go on and on…

  46. Wow, I am with those very few moms who DON’T hate play dates or play groups – ditto to everything they said!

    I am so encouraged & uplifted by spending a little time with other mothers. I would rather have a conversation that is interrupted 20 times (to tend to, protect, correct our children) than no conversation at all.

    I am used to a little chaos and love to see my kids running around & enjoying their friends – and seeing that I enjoy my friends, too. (But not at a fast food play land – I do agree there!)

  47. I find that the less I watch as they play, the less I worry. If I watched my kids play, I would never let them do anything fun. Me and my mom-friends enjoy getting together and chatting; our sixth sense lets us know when things are getting totally out of hand or dangerous.


  48. It’s because your the mother of a boy. With my daughter I can be a playdate participant, she is cautious. Not a risk taker. If a child ran at her with a straw up his nose she would explain to him how he was surely going to injury himself. My son is going to be an entirely different animal. I can already tell at 14 months that we will never attend a playdate because whereever we go, I will be climbing up after him. Gotta love him and really play date chatter is always the same anyway. The McDonald’s playspace, however is always changing. I really believe every visit it gets smaller!!

  49. Playdates?(Mickey D’s) humph!Here I am on my high horse!! We used to play all day in the neighborhood. Summertime fun, wintertime fun or weekend fun sometimes after school fun also. There were no “playdates”, you would play outdoors or indoors with who ever showed up sometimes from blocks away(miles where I live, kids travel by bicycle around here, when they are old enough to do so,) and when a meal was on the table or when you were told to be home you were at home. I wish kids still had those kinds of gatherings, but times change and we change. What happened to neighborhoods?(well most everyone I know works outside the home, that changed neighborhoods not as much supervision there anymore) Firstborns or only children have to forge frienships in their own way in their own time.These are the children that once they get it they have it for life. They are able to form lifelong friendships, you will see, and his friends will be your friends also. May I say kids need space!!! Not some small cage, okay it is not a cage at Mickey D’s but it is a contained room. You can’t drop out if you never dropped in!! God Bless you and your family. You can’t change the playdate socials but you don’t have to be a part of it. Keep doing your thing it will pay off big. My oldest is 30 plus years old and he loves adult outdoor time when he can get it, he wind surfs,plays baseball, oh and yes they always need supervision -he swims with sharks, he told me they were only baby sharks. My heart stays in my throat, but he is a free spirit.

  50. You just haven’t found your group yet. It does exist, but maybe you don’t really need it either, cause it doesn’t sound like you’re looking for it. That way you get your little boyfriend all to yourself for that much longer. I see what you’re doing. 😉

    We have friends in the neighborhood who are good about watching the kids if we’re somewhere open; playground, neighborhood, etc.. but if we’re in an enclosed space; restaurant (say for lunch)they let their kids run around like crazy. DRIVES. ME. NUTS! It’s so dangerous for everyone (I was a waitress for years) not to mention the fact that it’s just bad manners. (It can be a sit down place w/table cloths or a cafeteria style, doesn’t make a difference.) I have no problem telling my kids to knock it off and sit down! When they protest & point out the other kids running around I tell them, “Their mommy’s let them do that, but your mommy does not. It doesn’t change just because they’re here.” I used to sort of feel like scrooge, but it hasn’t convinced these mom’s to change their ways at all. It did make me feel like I was being a “hard-arce” which I know wasn’t the case, so I finally stopped going out to eat w/them. I’m not sure what it is about that environment that makes them think that’s the place to let their kids run wild, when they have very normal expectations of their kids normally.

    And the play structure at a fast food place drives me nuts cause I feel like it’s the best place for someone to troll to snatch a kid. Probably not the case, but I just can’t let my guard down at all. Plus they’re total germ fests. I’m not a big germ phobe, but umm…Ick!

    Now, I am the mom who will let my child try to work out things in the play area at the mall. I know that some mom’s think I’m crazy cause my kid’s gonna bust her head open, but the play area there is padded, you should see what she’s climbing on at home over the tile. She’s going to run into encounters w/bullies too, so I figure it’s a good place to see if she can work it out on her own, while I watch. If it starts to escalate I’m on it, don’t worry, but I know my kid and I know when I need to step in. I know some of these mom’s look at my kid like OMG! but I am watching her, don’t worry. I’m also laughing at her when she does the thing I just told her not to do and she falls like I told her she would. Some kids you have to pick your battles with, I have one who listens the first time & one for whom I pick my battles. I’ll have you know that she does not run ramped in restaurants either. On the rare occasion when she wouldn’t knock it off, we wrapped up our food & left. 😉

    You know your kid and you know what & where he’s safe, that’s what makes you a good mom.

    I found my group – it’s a group of two, Sean and me. Kidding. Sort of. It is my favorite group. 🙂 I do enjoy meeting at the playground with one or two of my neighbor friends. We sit on the edge of the sandbox while the kids play in it and we can talk and all see our kids. But a big table of moms and a swarm of kids at someone’s house or McD’s – not my cup of tea. No meaningful interaction occurs there for me.

    I am a relaxed parent (remember me, the no horrid no helmet mom?) I don’t hover, but I need to be able to see my kid because he is a 5-year-old.

  51. Playdates and after-church chatting. I find them both very stressful and I constantly feel rude by never being able to finish a conversation. I am sure there will come a day when I will be in a conversation and wish I had the excuse just to run away! 🙂 May just have to start chasing down other peoples kids 😉

  52. I wish I knew the ages and personality types of everyone here in the comments…I find myself wanting to make some generalizations based on my guesses about those things.

    Instead I’ll just say that I’m introverted and I crave peace and quiet, so for me play dates are not worth the chaos and noise. Plus I’m old, and my mom was old when she had me…so I feel like I’m at least a generation older in my parenting style than most of the moms I know who have kids the same age as mine.

    Oh, and for those who are keeping track of demographics…my first is a girl and she was never afraid of anything. She’s the one who I had to watch constantly because there was no place too high for her to try to climb. My son, on the other hand, is much more timid and thoughtful about his adventures…but I still hate play dates. 🙂

  53. I have the same problem and I’m not an overprotective mom. I have 4 boys (6 & under) and I know that it’s just plain stupid to leave them unsupervised. Even though I’m sitting right there it won’t stop them from trying something crazy.

  54. Unattended children, act like unattended children. Go figure. That’s why I don’t do play dates.

    There’s something freeing about saying that out loud. 🙂

    Great writing.

  55. I totally agree with you on this. Playdates are SO stressful and I tend to shy away from them as well.
    Nice to know there are others out there like me, who watch their kids, especially in public, to make sure that they are dismantling the place brick by brick or worse.

  56. Well, we haven’t experienced the whole play date thing yet, but I am now terrified! HA! Seriously, I don’t really like the idea of just sitting around in a McDonald’s with my eyes looking anywhere else but my daughter. I would be terrified someone would take off with her!

    This is how bad I am, I finally convinced my husband (after 9 months of nagging, oh, I mean, asking) to get involved in our new church and start going to a “lifegroup,” you know sort of a small group of people meeting on Sunday night for a bible study/get together. I really wanted to do this and get to know people, etc. Seems feasible, right? So, after 9 months, he gives in. We start going. Problem is, the other peoples kids drive me nuts! I have a 15 month old (now) and I don’t let her out of my sight, but everyone else’s children are running around screaming and their parents are not checking on them or watching them and I am about to have a nervous breakdown! Of course, I wouldn’t dare change my mind and stop going! Seriously, it took me 9 months to get him there!!

  57. You are not alone! I do the same thing at my sons’ playdates. I cut people off in mid-sentence, don’t completely finish my story, and even ignore people altogether…just to keep from losing a kid.

    But I still go, because the other moms do the same thing and they understand.

    And once a month we all go out together sans kids. And finish all the conversations that got cut off at playdates.

  58. ..and who lets their children play in those pits of germs & virus’? Nasty! We’d have to do it somewhere else, other than Mcdonald’s. eww

  59. This is an interesting discussion! Who knew???

    Yesterday I was at Chick-fil-a with my 2 youngest just having lunch and observed a group of moms who had pushed together several tables and had them covered with COUPONS. Their kiddos were running around, mostly in and out the door of the play area (always requiring assistance by the mom who was paying attention–probably 20 times while I was there!)and the moms were attempting to clip a dollar or two off their grocery bills in the company of other conscientious moms. While I appreciated the effort they were making, I was thankful to be alone with my children discussing the temperature of their chicken nuggets and what happened on Dora the Explorer while I worked out earlier that morning. Sometimes I think I’m lonely without more adult companionship, but most of the time I feel very blessed to have these sweet little lives to pour myself into.

  60. Wow I thought I was the only one! I am an older mom of a 6 year old and I don’t let him out of my site for one moment. Those playdate groups with the homeschool group at the park are the worst because I can’t relax and chat and keep an eye on him at the same time. My husband is the same way, if not worse than me.

  61. I LOVE the analogy of playdates to the Wall Street trading floor!

    Now that I know a lot of moms with big families I almost feel like I need a valium after every get-together. The other day I was at a playdate with two other moms, and together we had 12 kids and the oldest was 9 (most were under 5). I’m just so bad at it. It is through playdates that I learned that I am really, really bad at mentally multitasking.

    Great post!

  62. Even when I was a younger mom at playdates, I still kept and ear out for my children. We were always able to run for our kids and come back to the conversation.
    I can’t imagine it being a big deal to most mom’s. Unless someone is extremely over protective and can’t get their eye off their child for a single moment. That might be hard to deal with.

  63. I never realized so many other Mom’s felt this way. I do, too! We should start a support group…..except we would never be able to meet becuase we’d all be following our own children around.

    I thought this would get better as they got older but I have found it just gets worse. Now I see parents drop their elementary kids off in public places like the ice rink or mall or stores or parks and outright leave!

  64. I have just returned from commenting earlier, and read all these 73 comments. What I love, is how DIFFERENT we all are. We all have different comfort levels in different situations. All doing our best for our children. Fascinating.

    I had NO idea that so many moms hate playdates. To me, they are windows of companionship and sanity. That has been an eye-opener, and it makes sense of previous experiences with other moms which I didn’t understand at the time.

  65. hello and nice to meet you! i read your post here..and i laughed. out loud. i seriously thought i was the only mom who thought that the play dates were stressful. in my own yard…bring on the kiddos. but, when i have to watch them…both of the boys at a park…or mcyds’ or chick-fil-a…oh, the sweat. i can’t even remember what i am saying…..i do have friends that do it. they meet out all the time. and, i think that is wonderful…for them. i like an iced tea on the deck while we watch the kiddos play…in a fenced yard. 🙂

    thank you for this post…loved it.

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