Play date nightmare

Today’s post on The Whole Bag of Chips (check it out – great recipes and stories of mom-life) made me think back on play dates and overnights we experienced when the kids were small. One play date situation stands out in my memory as a dark blotch:

Our oldest attended our church’s Mother’s Day Out program (and yes, I know that program’s name is a pretty big gender stereotype) from the time she was three years old. There she made friends with another three-year-old, and consequently I got to chatting and visiting with the other little girl’s mom.

Inverse-Playdate-For-Web-and-PinAt some point I suggested a play date at our house. Friend’s mom asked if I minded watching both kids while she ran some errands. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I totally understood the need to have a child-free shopping trip every now and then. No problem.

Until I spent four hours with this little girl in my house. I think “tornado” would have been the most apt term for that child. She went from one area of the house to another, never stopping for more than two minutes, looking over one toy and tossing it aside for another. Never at any point did she settle in to play, to listen to a book, or even my last-ditch, desperate resort – watch a movie.By the time mom showed up (late) I’d hit the wall.

The next chapter in the story was when friend’s mom called out of the blue a couple of weeks later asking if I’d watch her daughter for an entire weekday because her child care provider wasn’t available and she really had to go in to her office that day. The very clear message was “you don’t work, so I’m sure you can do this for me.” I’m sorry to say I gave in and had yet another hair-pulling-out day with tornado child in our home. Oh, the icing on the cake – I was pregnant at the time, and my energy was at a low ebb.

Final chapter: Friend’s mom invited my daughter for a play date at their house. Glad to have our hospitality reciprocated, I took Oldest to their lovely Tudor home about half an hour away from our house. Large, rambling, tons of rooms, play room in attic. I was a little surprised when I arrived that the three-year-old’s two older siblings also had friends over. Six kids under the age of seven in the house – that’s a huge undertaking. I was even more surprised (dubious, really) when friend’s mom mentioned that she deliberately planned a houseful of kids to keep each other busy so she could get some sewing done. With misgivings, I left to do a little shopping.

Not feeling entirely comfortable, I returned early to pick up Oldest. I stood on the doorstep a good three minutes, ringing the doorbell, before friend’s mom greeted me. Imagine my reaction when she declared she had no idea where my three-year-old daughter was! She hadn’t seen my daughter for “ages,” she said. A whole-house search was conducted, and finally my daughter was discovered in the attic playroom, with the door LOCKED from the outside. Alone. My little girl was, thank heavens, not upset. Knowing her, she was probably so relieved to have some peace and quiet that she didn’t even notice she was stuck in there. Of course my mind went to “what if she’d had to go to the bathroom?” Or, seriously distressing:  “What if there’d been a fire?” Not an impossibility, with six small, unsupervised kids running amok.

It will come as no surprise, dear reader, that this disaster marked the end of that particular “friendship.” I took to checking our caller ID and ignoring any calls from that family.

And for a long time, ALL play dates took place in our home exclusively.


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