View from Away

Play­dates can be as nerve-rack­ing as real dates

Cape Breton Post - - WEEKEND - FAITH Jen Gouthro View From Away Jen Gouthro, a Do­min­ion na­tive, moved away from Cape Bre­ton more than 20 years ago. She has lived in Antigo­nish, Banff, Maine and Wind­sor, Ont. and cur­rently re­sides in Toronto. She can be reached at Caper_in_Toronto@hotm

Colum­nist Jen Gouthro dis­cusses the stress as­so­ci­ated with play­dates.

Last week­end, I par­tic­i­pated in my first-ever play­date.

Well, not my own play­date — one for Gavin and Lau­ren. The prospec­tive play­mate is a child in their kinder­garten class, let’s call him Noah, and he wants to be Gavin’s friend and hang out with him out­side of class.

Lau­ren, be­ing part of the twin pack­age, was also in­vited. It had to fall on a week­end be­cause the twins spend their af­ter-school time in af­ter-care; af­ter-school play­time is lim­ited by whether their par­ents are work­ing plebes like us or not.

Not know­ing Noah’s par­ents very well, we de­cided on a public park where we could all hang out to­gether. Ap­par­ently when you get to know the par­ents bet­ter, you can ac­tu­ally leave your child and go off on er­rands or go shop­ping which sounds like a sweet deal, ex­cept for the re­cip­ro­ca­tion part.

When I told Bernard how we would be spend­ing two hours on Satur­day morn­ing, he groaned in dis­ap­point­ment.

Play­dates are def­i­nitely a “thing” in Toronto.

Au­thor Kate Wal­bert de­scribes play­dates as "an ur­ban/sub­ur­ban rit­ual in­tended to al­le­vi­ate bore­dom/lone­li­ness among chil­dren/women while en­cour­ag­ing/con­trol­ling so­cial en­gage­ment."

The whole idea seems for­eign and weird to me, not hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced play­dates as a kid in Cape Bre­ton. There was lit­tle to no parental in­volve­ment in­volved in my play­time, be­yond my mother open­ing the back­door and say­ing, “Come back by supper!” and “Don’t play near the cliffs!” ( We al­ways played near the cliffs). I hung out with any kid close to my age that was nearby. Bernard says it was the same for him grow­ing up.

Be­fore the play­date, I felt anx­ious and ner­vous, like I was go­ing on a first date again. And it was like a first date — if it didn’t go well, chances are we might not see each other again. Ex­cept for awk­ward daily en­coun­ters at the kids’ school.

We met at Noah’s house. Should I bring flow­ers or candy, I won­dered? In­stead I pur- chased snacks at a health food store: milk-free, nut-free and soy-free gra­nola bars, in case Noah had a food al­lergy. Might as well cover all my bases. Later when his mom con­firmed he did have a nut al­lergy, I felt like Miss Cleo, the fa­mous psy­chic. Or at the very least, I felt con­sid­er­ate and or­ga­nized.

Be­cause we didn’t know the other cou­ple all that well, con­ver­sa­tion was a bit stilted at first. The kids ran around scream­ing while we qui­etly learned about each other’s back­grounds, ca­reers and pas­times. Bernard and John chat­ted about work­ing in IT, while Jill and I talked about our sim­i­larly trau­matic labour and de­liv­ery ex­pe­ri­ences, a favourite topic of most women I know. Jill and I also bonded over be­ing “Old Moms.” We were both de­lighted to share sto­ries about be­ing asked if we were the kids’ moth­ers or grand­moth­ers.

Later we went to a nearby park. Lau­ren and Gavin briefly aban­doned Noah for the splash­pad but I was able to coax them back with a gra­nola bar. Over­all I would say the play­date was a huge suc­cess. Like most things I worry about, I had noth­ing to worry about.

And next time the kids are in­vited on a play­date, I’m go­ing to stuff my gra­nola bars in my purse and think, “No wor­ries. I got this.”

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