By: Tosha Woronov
One of my girlfriends has a play-date scheduled for every single day of the week. She says she’ll go crazy (as will her daughter) if at least one child isn’t signed up each day for hanging out duties. And she never complains about actually having to socialize with the parent of the other kid. But not me. I have never gotten the hang of it.
Since I was pregnant, I have always said, “I don’t want to make friends with other moms. I just want my friends to become mothers.” Now that my friends have children, we do hang out. The age differences are substantial, but the kids do their best. This post is not about my friends and their children. It’s about everyone else.
Leo received his first play-date invitation when he was 9 months old, from a little boy we met in “mommy and me” class. I remember pulling up to their house, a giant monstrosity in an exclusive part of LA. I called Peter, who was at work. “I can’t do this. You should see this fucking place.” At the time we lived in a West Hollywood condominium. Two bedrooms. Tiny. I was sick with envy and insecurity. It didn’t help much that the other mom was kind and understated, because while we chatted, cross-legged on the floor alongside our drooling crawlers, her live-in nanny/housekeeper scuttled around the house, doing things like washing grapes and ironing linen napkins. I couldn’t focus. Needless to say, that relationship was short-lived. Admittedly, all my fault. I knew I should get over my issues for my son’s sake and accept one of her many invites to swim in their pool, but there was no way in hell I was going to wear a swim suit around her celebrity mom-friends, and besides, Leo, still in the stages of parallel-play, couldn’t have cared less about that kid.
A few months later we made friends with a totally down-to-earth mom and her chubby little sparkplug of a daughter. I liked the mom immediately, in fact I chose her because she was a disorganized mess. Constantly forgetting things like shoes, snacks, car keys, and the date ensured that I would adore her to pieces. But the interesting, perhaps ironic, thing here was that she was also crazy paranoid and overly protective. With each “play-date” (stupid, stupid word) I looked forward to relaxing in her clutter and unpretentiousness (a rare thing in Los Angeles), but instead I left her house exhausted from rapid-fire discussions about harsh cleansers, the latest recall on infant car seats, the broken traffic light at the end of her street, and the supreme danger of inorganic blueberries. But still we made friends. Our kids, however –not so much. Leo would build a tower and she would knock it down. He would cry. She would hit. He would cry again. They never got along. One time, rushing into the living room in response to Leo’s screams, we found the girl proudly clutching, in her sweaty little hand, a huge tuft of Leo’s hair. I stopped myself from fainting and pretty much – aside from attending the girl’s birthday party several months later – ended that relationship.
It has been almost impossible to sync up Leo’s affection for a playmate with my interest in the kid’s mother. I also hate the whole “our house or yours?” part, and, if it’s to be mine, do I need to spend the entire morning cleaning? Meeting at a park seldom works. The kids inevitably want to do different things so, at best, you will wave to the other mom from across the sand with an “oh well, we tried” kind of shrug. One mom who seemed very sweet constantly invited us to weird events, such as a retrospective of Amazonian art in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It took all I had to decline gracefully and not say, “what’s wrong with your kid, that he wants to do that?”
I started avoiding the whole concept of play-dates, justified in my crazy head because Leo already spent several hours a day at preschool playing with these kids. Why should I then have to hang out with their mothers? Once Leo asked me to set up a play-date with a boy from school (he actually said, “email his mom, please”), and right about the time I was to give in, I met the mom at another kid’s birthday party. Five minutes in to our conversation she was telling me how she felt “so, so sorry for children who have to go to public school,” and all I could think was “find another buddy, Leo. There’s no way I’m hanging out with this bitch.”
A glimmer of hope came when Leo was about 4. A mom from the school called one Saturday morning, saying her daughter had been asking and asking for a play-date with Leo (hmmm…maybe this mom hated the whole thing too), and could we get the kids together? Caught off guard, I agreed. My husband was away on business and we really didn’t have other plans. Leo was thrilled. But I freaked. The house was a mess. I was hoping to not shower all day. I had no food in the house to offer. It sucked.
A few hours later I opened our front door to find the girl and her dad standing there. (Damnit! I do not want to spend 2 hours making conversation with this man! At least I’ve SEEN the mother before! What the hell??) But this is what he said: “Thank you so much for taking her. Shall I come back in three hours? Will that work for you?” What?! When did we cross over into drop-off play-dates (lovely, lovely concept)? I didn’t get the memo! Awesome. Yes, yes, please go about your day. Come back whenever you want. I will be lying on my bed with a book, listening to the frickin’ adorable conversations our children are having in the next room.
And so here it is: a new and very agreeable form of the play-date. It took 4 years to get here, but I am happy to say that Leo has a play-date a few times a week. A friend comes home with us, or he goes home with a friend. We parents send an email, make a plan, drop off a car seat, leave a note for the school. I get to hear crazy funny details about the other kid’s family (“did you know that my mom is 35, but my dad is 55?”). Leo gets to show off, and share, his room, toys, basketball hoop. The kids get to play and giggle incessantly with only occasional intervention from one parent, rather than from two moms each trying to prove her firm but gentle disciplining skills. Aside from the accidental feeding of the wrong food to an allergic child, it all goes pretty smoothly.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that it wasn’t always bad. Despite the hurdles, mainly my own psychosis, I have made a few very good mom friends, and our children enjoy each other very much. And their houses are as just as dirty -or clean – as mine.