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Play Dating

by The Next Family July 26, 2010

By: Brandy Black

*Note: This is not about you

I have recently entered the world of play dates. You know, it’s important to get your child out there meeting other kids so that they can socialize and learn from one another, especially if you have an only child. This seems to be a societal pressure that I don’t think my parents heeded at all because if I remember correctly most of my childhood was spent with adults. Susan and I have gone back and forth about this because although social, I tend to prefer to hang out with people I know and feel comfortable with. How I’ve found these people and created these friendships, I don’t know, but it just happens. Somehow with this new world of “play dates” I’m feeling pressure to make friends fast with people of a very specific criteria: have children? Check. Sophia’s age? Check. It all feels very spurious to me. I often liken it to dating. There is a courting period between parents. Are you a fit? Is your kid a fit? Are we all compatible?

Once that has been determined, typically the date is set, maybe it’s at a house or park with one of the parents or maybe it’s a double date. I find myself telling Sophia things like “Be polite” and “Make sure to share the toys” as I’m navigating through LA traffic on my way to some unknown house. Reviewing my play date fodder I finally tap tap tap on the door. “Oh great, this one doesn’t have AC and it’s hotter than *&^% out here, well here we go…”

Fumbling through my bag for snacks and water and all of the things that a “good” mommy is supposed to have while telling Sophia it’s OK if that child takes that toy from her “it is hers after all,” I begin to get angry at myself and Susan for insisting that we do this for our child. Why isn’t she here, a ball of nerves and making an idiot out of herself? Why am I the one executing the great plan that will make our daughter a better…what again? I turned out all right didn’t I? Or maybe I didn’t because perhaps everyone else can play this game with ease and I’m the weird one who can’t make fast friends?

As I drive home from the “date” I occasionally bang my hands against the wheel remembering the possibly offensive remark I made “oh, you are still co-sleeping, how’s that going?” Then I get mad again for being bothered. “Why do I care so much?” I say out loud to Sophia who is humming to herself in the back. The truth is, I care because I want to make friends with parents. My life would be better if I could kick back on a hot summer day with a great friend and laugh as our kids struggle over a toy. I don’t want to feel my blood boil as I sit with a friend without kids over lunch and feel her eyeing her watch as I reach for the food, salt, crayons, milk that my toddler is about to throw off the table. It would be nice to hang with someone who understands me. Someone who knows that if you can get through 24 hours without a fight with your child or spouse, you are doing well, someone who understands that although tough, having a child makes your life richer and someone who can appreciate a good BBQ with laughing, running, screaming children. So I determine as I drive back home from the date that this grueling courting stage will be worth it.

Second date, this time we all meet, both parents, both kids for a Saturday outing at the park. This will be much better, no alcohol, which would make life easier but at least, I’ve got Susan as a buffer. It’s going well, we’re hanging out, the kids are getting along, I think I may be relaxed and then Susan asks…

“Does your son know the ABC’s yet? Sophia just started singing it all the way through.”

Oh God, why did she ask that? Now they are going to think we are show-offs. I slip right back into my nervous, anxious, crazy self. Minutes later Sophia begins yelling “NO!” “I don’t want that!” “No, Mama, I want to go home!”

Here we go; the date has fallen apart. The sad thing is I was beginning to really like these guys. I could picture them in our lives; I thought they were the ones.  They were worldly yet relatable, love to travel, the perfect combination of laid back and totally organized. A little while later the date came to a close, the kids are tired and ready for their naps. We say our good-byes and they suggest we hang out again, using friendly adjectives and later following up with a very sweet email (after I had sent mine).

“They want another date,” I said, looking up from my Blackberry.

“They should,” said Susan. “We’re fun, we’re cool and we’ve got that alterna-lesbian thing going. That’s gotta be worth some points.”

I was happy, a little spring in my step thinking about the plan for our next fun date. Skipping ahead to the vacation we may all take in the future –San Diego, Palm Springs, Italy? I may have even mentioned something like that in passing the next time I ran into the mom at the market. Bad idea. I didn’t realize that play dating is rather similar to dating. I didn’t play it cool, I rushed in too fast and now it’s been weeks since we’ve heard from them. Have you ever heard that lesbian U-Haul joke? Ya know, people always say that lesbians bring a U-Haul on the second date? Well even though I never did that with my relationships (it took me 2 years to move in with Susan), I have somehow become the U-Haul playdater!!

Needless to say, we don’t really talk to them anymore or shall I say they don’t talk to us. I’m not sure what happened, if I scared them away with my vacation talk, if we weren’t funny enough or rich enough or nice enough, if our daughter was too bossy, to intelligent? I’ll never know but if given the chance, I’d take them back in a heartbeat.

Now, at it again, this time with experience under our belts and a genuine fondness for a couple we just met, we had a double date under the stars on a picnic blanket with a bottle of wine. It was love at first sight with no mention of future plans, vacation spots or ABC’s. We may have found ourselves some new family friends.

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