View from Away
Playdates can be as nerve-racking as real dates
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.”