Playdates. Just the word can make you either cringe or cheer. Despite the chaos, I’m firmly in the camp of the latter. As a fairly social stay-at-home mom of three toddlers, having a playdate with other moms in the same stage of life is my salvation. Anything that forces us to get out of the house at a prearranged time or requires me to clean up my own house for company, helps break up the routine and add some structure to our days.
Sure, they can totally bomb. Your kids are in the wrong mood, you’re in the wrong mood, an unexpected diaper incident has you leaving as soon as you’ve arrived, or the group just doesn’t mesh that day. There have been several playdates where I’ve felt stuck on the sidelines the entire time, chasing after kids, nursing babies, changing diapers, doling out discipline, or sequestered by the snack table while everyone else plays outside (because my kids are somehow ravenously hungry despite having had both breakfast and a snack in the few hours they’ve been awake that morning).
But in the midst of it all, sometimes, magic happens. Whether it’s a one-on-one playdate with a good friend or a larger group of moms overrun with too many small children, there are times when it all just clicks. Big kids suddenly remember how to play by themselves, babies sleep in arms, coffee is sipped at its appropriate temperature, and you find yourself in community. The conversation can range from options for preschool to a sale at Carter’s to teething remedies to what’s for dinner tonight and where did you get those pants?
The conversation isn’t always deep – usually not, in fact, with all those little feet running around – but it is vital to getting through the rest of the day. (And deep or not, I’m always interested in what’s for dinner.) A good conversation can give you the boost you need to get through whatever naptime trials come your way, an afternoon that feels about two hours too long, and the routine chaos of dinner-baths-bedtime. None of us was made to do this alone. Staying home with small children can feel like its own form of prison, and talking to the Target checkout clerk doesn’t quite cut it as the only form of adult social interaction you’ve had all day.
It takes time, of course. My own little community of moms has been built up over time in the past two years since I’ve moved here. It’s taken several playdates over several weeks adding up to several months for the magic to happen. We’ve met in each other’s homes, at parks, museums, beaches, zoos, and playgrounds. Some of these locations are more conducive to fostering conversation than others. As with all things involving small children, there is no special formula. Sometimes playdates, even with good friends, still bomb.
Yet when all goes well, and even the days when it doesn’t, we’re each other’s social lifelines. Despite interruptions (and, oh, there will be interruptions), you basically have another adult to talk to for a couple of hours. Someone else to commiserate with about the tantrum your toddler threw and what to do about the crayon art on the walls. If nothing else, they definitely won’t be looking around and judging you for the toys, snacks, and laundry strewn around. Chances are, their house looks just the same. We’re each going to be feeding our own kids peanut butter and apple slices, changing diapers, and stepping over piles of toys anyway. We might as well be doing it together.