My daughter has made a friend. A smart, kind, and funny little friend from school started to pop up in conversation, and after I was assured she wasn’t imaginary, I celebrated knowing how much my girl needed this. I wish there was online dating for moms and kids, or just easier ways to develop friendships. It’s a lonely world without friends, and the playground crews can eat you alive, so this news was monumental.
But then she asked me to arrange a playdate.
Playdates may as well be unicorns with strawberry poo for all I know, but even those are much easier to find these days. How does one procure this “playdate,” and what is the correct etiquette? Where are playdates held? Playdate world has suddenly become more stressful than traveling-with-small-children world, making-mom-friends world, and having-all-of-my-kids-look-at-the-camera-smiling world. But after many years of being the one in the mother-daughter relationship to make our friends, oh, how I want to be part of that playdate world…
So, here’s my game plan for playdates:
Step One: Realize this isn’t a walk in the park. Literally. You can’t just meet the mom at the park, strike up a convo, and get digits like in those toddler years. When your child is the one to initiate a friendship, you have to let your little one facilitate this first step by collecting their friend’s/parent’s phone number. They may or may not come back with the right friend’s number, but it’s a risk you take. I’m not clear on how creepy it may be to send the parent of your child’s friend a Facebook friend request, but starting with a text seems just about right. Remember when you first made a mom friend and then your kids had to be friends with their kids? Well, the tables have turned. You now have to cross your fingers this friend has a mom you’d want to hang with. All of a sudden, insecurities pop up from middle school and I realize I want this new friend to accept my daughter but I also want to be accepted by this mom.
Step Two: Think of a place young elementary students go to relax and decompress together. Just kidding. This is about them, not the parents. Somehow I wonder if it’s too personal to invite a child I don’t know over to my house? I know I wouldn’t be comfortable dropping off my kids at a stranger’s house. Could I stay there the whole time? Where can kids play while adults can give them some space and have a conversation of their own? Locations set the tone, but with several indoor options and outdoor options, narrow it down and just let the kids decide. If they say pedicures, give a respectful nod and consider it an opportunity to snag one for your own tired feet. (Wishful thinking.)
Step Three: Pick a time and date when you can actually watch the start of a beautiful friendship develop (your child’s) and hopefully you’ll hit the jackpot of finding a new friend for yourself too! Prepare your child for the end of the playdate and share something they can look forward to next; this may avoid the dreaded meltdown of not wanting to leave. Next, wait three days until you contact the mom again. Use a few emoticons—not too many—and leave the ball in her court. If your cute text is ignored, consider consulting that book He’s Just Not That Into You. Same rules apply. Worst-case scenario, you’ll soon start all over with another first playdate, but you’ll also realize that your child has learned to make their own friends.