Parenting confession #456,789: I am really bad about setting up playdates at my house for my kids.
I’ve been bad about this for the last seven years, or the length of time I have been a parent. It’s not that I have kept my kids home and not allowed them to play with anyone. We’ve gone to playgroups, outside events, and the occasional playmate’s house to meet people when invited. But, admittedly, not many playdates have occurred at our own house.
The sad thing is that I didn’t realize how bad I have been until after bringing my 4-year-old to her first playdate at a friend’s house a couple of months ago.
When we came home, my daughter asked if we could invite her friend over to our house sometime. My exact answer was, “Yes, after I *insert a billion things I want to do to reorganize and clean our house.” Across the room, I saw my husband raise his eyebrows. He said nothing, but his eyes were asking, “And how long is that going to take you?”’
I guess he isn’t wrong. I have a lot of excuses reasons for not inviting our kids’ school friends over.
It’s not that I’m entirely opposed to having people in my house, I’m not. There are a combination of reasons that make me feel uncomfortable and squirrely about hosting playdates, and I need to identify and address these so I can remedy this situation for my kids.
- The first reason is that, even though I tend to be more extroverted than introverted, when it comes to getting to know my kids’ friends’ parents, I feel so socially awkward with strangers.
I have always been picky about who I befriend. Even in high school, I was not a popular person. I had a few close sustainable friendships that I clung to and did not tend to venture outside of, even when I was friendly to everyone else.
When I moved to Vermont, I stuck with this pattern. I have a few close friends. These relationships have developed over the last 10 years. In our close circle, we all have children and tend to love each others’ children as if they were our nieces and nephews. These are the children who are my kids’ most frequent playdate companions. The visits from their families are familiar, enjoyable, and just as much a playdate for me as they are for my kids.
But when my kids have started talking about wanting to invite over friends from school for playdates, I hesitate.
Meeting my kids’ friends’ parents means talking to someone new, making a good first impression, and not feeling as if I’m the most socially awkward person on the face of the universe while attempting to do so. I want them to think I am pleasant, witty, and fun to be around and I am afraid they will instead see me as odd, timid, and socially incompetent as I stumble over my words. Suddenly, when I am introduced to these new parents, I care more about what other people think. If they form a bad impression of me, how will it affect my own children? The weight of the conversations I need to have start to weigh heavily on my heart.
It has taken me until this year with my son in first grade to feel confident talking to most of the parents of the kids in his class. Most of them are very pleasant people, and I know that it’s been me holding myself back. There are a few parents that I don’t even know where to begin with because my friendly smile or hello is not always returned, which can be difficult. However, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have to be friends with all of my kids’ friends’ parents.
- Another reason I have steered away from some playdates is that I’ve been uncertain of the dynamic between the friend my child wants to have over and my child. My kids have asked to play with children who I know they have gotten in trouble with at school, or children who have not been nice to them in the past.
The problem is that I am not sure how to handle these strange dynamics. What if these playdates are disastrous for the same reason these potential friendships are causing friction with adults at school? Do I really want to encourage any of these friendships if I am already seeing them as unhealthy? By allowing these playdates, am I encouraging my children to give others second chances where they are not warranted, or am I fostering and encouraging a relationship they should be avoiding?
I have no good answer to this. I need to make these decisions one at a time.
- We all have very busy schedules.
I think all families have busy schedules, and my family is no different. Even though I do not work outside the house full time, there’s no end of things to do around my house, no end to errands that need to be run, and a long looming list of things I want to do with just my family. Even on the weekends we are busy; the kids and I are involved in church happenings, my husband plays hockey, my older son is starting to participate in some weekend sports programs depending on the season, and I like to attend a Zumba class if I can. The month of December is also next to impossible to add playdates into on the weekends due to all of us constantly being involved in one holiday event or another.
Adding a playdate to an already hectic weekend feels like adding chaos. The little space in my weekend that’s left is my time to breathe.
- Then there’s our house. For the better part of the last four years, we have had construction projects going on at our house.
Our kitchen was in flux for three years. We have also renovated a bedroom, added a sunroom, reorganized the basement more than once, and a few other projects. During these projects, I have blocked off the rooms the kids shouldn’t be playing in. I’ve relocated boxes of packed items wherever I can find places for them, which made for less room in the usable spaces of the house.
But as I sit here thinking about playdates, I realize that maybe I can look at this a different way. Playdates mean a little bit of work on my part, but does one extra child, or even two extra children, really make a difference?
In general, I can sit and breathe while my kids are playing with friends. In theory, I shouldn’t have to work too hard after, either, as my kids and their friends are actually old enough to pick up after themselves when I ask. Now that the bulk of the messy home renovations are done and the hazards are no longer an issue, what is still holding me back from allowing my children to have friends over?
It is taking me forever to try to reorganize everything, leading me to have some leftover piles I am slowly working through putting away. Because of this, I feel like we haven’t fully moved into our house, even after almost 6 years of living here.
I don’t enjoy having random piles that parents who don’t know me well can see when they drop their kids off. The perfectionist in me is very self-conscious about these piles of stuff. I am also aware that they aren’t even that bad to anyone but me. Yet, being worried about first impressions holds me back.
I know that someday I will get through all of these piles and won’t feel so self-conscious about what I haven’t put away. When that someday is, I cannot predict. I returned to working part-time this year which has lead to yet more piles on top of these piles and I just cannot keep up.