I'm not the playdate kind-of mother. But alas, at almost 3 years old, Lucas is entering playdate mania. To ensure that he, or really, I am not the outcast of his tightly knit school, I do my part and we go to playdates. I have even gone so far as to initiate a couple of them myself!
The entire concept of a playdate is so funny to me. Although 3-year-olds have developed beyond the parallel-play stage, their exchanges are still pretty limited and superficial, basically: "I want that truck!" "No, I want that truck!" They're just getting the hang of sharing, and it's rarely something they care for.
Then there are the Moms, more often than not brought together by their children. I am not usually at a loss for words, but I have been face-to-face with a couple of Moms with whom I clearly have nothing in common: Our small talk is repeatedly broken by painfully awkward pauses. But still we Moms press on, scheduling playdates for many weekends and afternoons to come, hoping that our children will grow up more socially aware and considerate because of our efforts.
Which brings me to my not-so-fun playdate story.
While at a birthday party a couple months back, another mother and I started talking — we were both working Moms, each with two boys the exact same ages, and we even have the same OB/GYN. The boys, in different classes at school, were hitting it off so well that a playdate seemed the reasonable next step.
I should have known when I was getting the boys packed for the playdate, and 9-month-old Justin uncharacteristically began to melt down, that it was doomed. Justin must be tired, I thought and tried for 20 futile minutes to get him to sleep. Husband had to work, so leaving Justin with him was not an option. So in the car we went, already terribly, embarrassingly late and Justin still crying.
When we got to the playdate, the other little boy — let's just call him "Hoarder" — wouldn't let Lucas play with any of his toys. In fact, if Lucas managed to get his precious little fingers on anything, Hoarder would snatch it right from his hands and add it to the stash building in his own arms, until finally Hoarder couldn't hoard anymore and everything came crashing down to the floor while he cried for Lucas not to touch anything.
At one point, Lucas went to the other side of the room to play entirely by himself. Justin played quietly on the floor and I sat a couple feet away on the couch. When Hoarder noticed that Lucas was amusing himself with one of his toys, Hoarder charged toward him, literally trampling Justin, who toppled over with a heavy thud. Justin was inconsolable, and Lucas, visibly upset, started yelling at Hoarder that he'd knocked over his baby brother. Can't you just see me beaming with pride? A few minutes after this fiasco Lucas proclaimed, "I want to go home. I don't want to be here anymore."
Son, I hear ya, is what I felt like shouting to the rafters, but instead I made up some excuse about how the last time Lucas had requested a sudden exit from a playdate it was because he'd had to poop, to which the other mother replied, "Yes, he had that look on his face." No, that was the look of horror at your son's behavior.
What was the mother doing while all of this took place, you ask? Well, to be fair, she was trying to do her part to encourage her son to share. And at times she even seemed to be genuinely bothered by his behavior. But I can't imagine that Hoarder's behavior was a sudden or recent development, so why invite another innocent child over to be subject to it?
We have had some wonderful playdates, but interestingly, I also happen to be friendly with the Moms. So who are playdates really for? I'm sure that Lucas learned something from his brief interaction with Hoarder, but what? Maybe the lesson was meant for me: In the end it's Lucas' playdate, and that means I'll be stuck in some situations I'd really rather not!