Guest Post by Marisa
As a member of a local moms group, I am lucky enough to meet new parents regularly. I bring my daughters to play all the time in parks, but every now and then we are invited to a play date. The idea of play dates are lovely - a more intimate setting for children to play while the other parent (usually a mama) and I get to chat and know one another a bit better. While the concept is enchanting, the reality of it is that first play dates make me a bit nervous.
A new play date, in my experience, can be either the start of a new friendship or the end of one. I've experienced both.
More often than not, play dates are a learning ground - the time and place to see another parent in action, ask questions, and maybe even talk about the choices we make.
Every now and again, the play date can go another direction. Differences in parenting decisions feel amplified without the buffer of a larger group.
Often one unique decision or less common practice produces questions about other aspects of our parenting decisions. I, too, give more thought than I should to potential (and experienced) situations. How will the other parent react to my child if boundaries are crossed? Will the TV be on, and how do I politely manage that? It's not only possible, but likely that I may be judged, advised, or questioned regarding the choices I've made.
Yes, I could avoid play dates with parents that are different than me, but then I think I would miss out on some really great relationships. I've learned enough to know that everyone is in a different place on this parenting journey and that I can learn something by the path others have chosen - even paths that differ greatly from mine.
So, as a lighthearted means of trying to calm some first date jitters, I decided to take some first date tips (which were found on howstuffworks website, written by Maria Trimarchi) and consider their suggestions in my play dates.
10. First (Play) Date Activities
I live in a small community, so first play dates usually happen at home or the local coffee shop. A place where moms can chat and children play safely works great.
I try to be flexible, so if the TV is on I make no mention of it, knowing that I am unfamiliar with this family's routine and broader context. I hope for the same from people that visit us and get more art experiences than they are usually prepared for.
9. Plan Ahead
I try to know when their child naps, eats, and other specifics of that family's rhythm.
I have a friend who enjoys a one hour max play date, and another prefers it to go on until the children fall asleep.
8. Be Confident and Comfortably Dressed
I am mama to an infant and a toddler, so I am always dressed comfortably. Check.
7. Put Your Phone Away
I may be guilty of this one. I've noticed that when the children are playing, it's easy to be tempted to check on things when you haven't had a moment to yourself in a while.
6. Have Some Conversation Starters
I have a tendency to talk about my children and parenting - go figure. I have a friend who likes to talk about everything but, which can be a challenge for me. I haven't tried to think of conversation starters before, so this could be helpful to me.
5. Be a Good Listener
Easier said than done when infants and toddlers are moving around at breakneck speeds, but I try. With the number of children much lower than our weekly play group, I can finally prove that my attention span is longer than that of a goldfish.
4. Be Honest
As I mentioned earlier, I think this is the root of my nervousness.
In my previous work as a teacher and supervisor, I was expected to be "lovingly honest" with the parents. This is still how I engage with other parents - I aim to be myself, and kindly explain my choices if they are questioned or doubted.
3. Watch Your Body Language
I think its important to be yourself. I try to remember that while I’m chatting the children are still present.
2. Be flirtatious
I think a meaningful adaptation of this might be to just be nice. Sounds obvious enough, but I've experienced a first play date where someone needed to let off some steam. May I advise to save that for someone you know a bit better or longer?
It's only a play date after all.
How do you go about setting up play date for your children? Are you always on the lookout for a new friend or do you prefer a more familiar crowd?
About the Author
Marisa is mama to two daughters, a passionate 2-year-old and a not-to-be-left behind 1-year-old. She blogs about the everyday decisions behind art experiences and learning through play at Deliberate Parenting.