Becoming a Play Date Player

“I want to whisper something,” my daughter says, as we’re getting ready to leave preschool.

“What?” I say, leaning my ear down to her level.

“Can I have a play date with Emma?”

“Ummm…we’ll see,” I say.

Normally, I would say, “Sure, I’ll set something up,” but, although Emma’s very nice, I do not like her mom and the feeling’s mutual.

I haven’t liked Emma’s mom from Day One. Last year, after school, we’d let the kids play on the school’s playground before nap time, and there were two camps of moms. The new moms – my camp – and the old moms – the ones who’d had older children go through the preschool. There was one mom and a dad who straddled the fence but other than them, the old moms and the new moms did not mix. Once I was the only “new mom” on the playground and the old guard didn’t even acknowledge me. It’s just as well. They were not my type. I never wanted to make friends. I just thought it was rude to be so blatantly cliquish.

And now my daughter wants a play date with one of the old moms’ kids. What am I supposed to do? I would be more than happy to invite the kid to our house by herself, but how can I invite a four-year-old over with the stipulation that she not bring her mom? I can just see that. “Hey, Emma, why don’t you come play at our house. Don’t bring your mom.” I can’t. And how do I explain to my daughter that we can’t have a play date with Emma because her mom and I do not mix? If I did explain the situation, I know my daughter would tell Emma, and it would hurt her little friend.

Do I lie to her? Months ago, she asked for a play date with a boy from her class, and I sent an email, but never got a response. I told her the truth about that one, but she keeps asking for that play date. What do I do about Emma? Do I tell my daughter I tried to reach out, but it didn’t work out? I don’t want to lie to her, but if I do reach out, and get rejected, I don’t want my daughter to suffer the chill of the “Seattle Ice,” either.

Seattleites, for the most part, are very friendly, but very superficial. The minute you try to develop a friendship with them, they back off. (For the record, after four-and-a-half years here, I do have a few friends who are native Seattleites, but they are the exception, not the rule.) The failure to connect with the boy (that she wants to marry, by the way) from class could be the “Ice” at work, or the mom wanting to avoid me. That’s fine with me, but what do I do when my daughter suffers?

She’s suffered enough. I’ve forced her to have more than one play date of my choosing, just because I liked the mom. Except for one little boy, she’s been a trooper. Of course, when you’re four, it’s easier to adapt and find something you like about a playmate.

I’ve got to find a solution. Emma’s one of my daughter’s best friends at school. She talks about her every day, and Emma’s mom must be avoiding the play date question as well. I could offer to pick Emma up and drop her off when they’re done. A mom I know has that arrangement with her kid’s friend, and she loves it. Of course she loves it. She doesn’t have to do anything and she gets a break. And all I have to do is hook up another car seat in the minivan to make it happen.

And I will make it happen. I will put aside my differences with this mom and see if we can make an arrangement. So far I’ve confined our play dates to desirable families. I can’t do that forever. I have to allow my daughter to make her own friends regardless of how I feel about their parents. And if my plan fails and it leads to a couple of uncomfortable hours, I’ll have to suffer through it.

What would you do?

5 comments on “Becoming a Play Date Player

  1. I would invite her and say “you can drop her off at [whatever] time.” That makes it clear that you don’t expect the mother to stay. And why would she want to stay anyway? You guys aren’t friends and a 4 year old is certainly old enough to be dropped off. I think you are safe.

  2. Thanks, Susanna! I love that! It invites no discussion and no awkward misunderstandings. I’m gonna do that!

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  4. oh my… I have worked with lots of women over the years and have certainly seen patterns that continue from our childhood. They bleed over into our “adult” life unless an individual notices.
    This sounds like the clique mentality of middle school….. difficult years indeed.
    It takes great courage to go to a person that one has labeled and get a straight answer. You assume a dislike and that is often where a problem begins. Have you ever sat down with this mother to share that you feel uncomfortable and wonder if there is something that you can do in order to discontinue an environment of “hidden” avoidance? Ask her for her take on the situation rather than live your life from what you make up.
    What skills will you give your daughter when she runs into situations of children who may look at her “funny” or may say something unkind?

    Maybe the mother was having a bad day. Maybe the group of older moms felt your reluctance and gave you space.
    You must factor yourself into any human interaction. As the old saying goes, “Everywhere I go, there I am.” You take attitudes and assumptions with you.
    Good luck in sorting it out. You will be a better parent for the sorting.

  5. I did ask her for a playdate, and she said ok. I told her she could drop her daughter off here on the weekend. She has always been aloof, and she remains so. I did not include, in the post, the time when I mentioned college in front of one of the moms in her group (a nurse) and she commented, “I don’t have a fancy education!” There is definitely some abrasion from this group. But I get what you’re saying. If it didn’t go on so long and wasn’t so pervasive, I’d approach her differently, and I will keep that in mind as I deal with many more parents through my kids’ school careers.

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