By Sarah Robertson
There’s nothing I love more than hearing shrills of laughter while watching my son run around with his friends, or watching in delight as they make up games together. Or when a new voice politely asks me if he can come back to play again.

Playdates with kids are precious. I’d play hooky any day of the week to watch my son and a friend lose themselves in the complete bliss of playing.

However, with playdates come messes. And it’s not the playdate itself that’s messy—it’s navigating the event when other mothers are involved; also known as the dreaded mom playdate.

The horror

Imagine the horror when a new friend comes over to play with my son and his mother decides to stay. To break the ice, I offer something to drink.

“Would you like coffee, tea, juice, or a glass of wine?”

Out come the perfectly manicured nails, while my unpolished and haven’t-seen-the-inside-of-a-nail-salon-in-months retract into my pockets.

“Why, of course! Do you have organic, decaffeinated, loose leaf, chai tea with unpasteurized milk?”

Do I look like a barista with a green apron on? I think to myself, while I awkwardly move around my kitchen trying to fashion some form of the request. I have tea on a string in assorted strengths of caffeine and half a bottle of white in the fridge.

As I sift through my supply of milk (all pasteurized), I hear my son showing his friend where the dress-up box is and ask if he wants to play astronauts. I suggest we sit in the living room, knowing it’s the only room in our house that’s somewhat tidy (we hardly use it).

The small talk

My playdate kindly offers up a topic. School; where our kids met. I rave about their teachers and the environment and how happy my son is. My playdate complains about the curriculum, administration, size of school yard, and the lack of hours dedicated to math.

Huh? The kids have math once a week. It’s kindergarten.

From the basement I hear anticipation mounting; a countdown has begun: “Ten, nine, eight…”

Stretching for common ground, I ask if her child is in any after-school programs at the school or in the neighbourhood. Huge mistake. For the next seven minutes I patiently listen to my playdate rant Rick Mercer-style about how her prodigy has no time to play between language lessons, math tutorials, and homework.

She goes on to criticize how unstructured play isn’t good for children and how structure and restraint is best for the making of modern leaders.

“…Three, two, one!” is shrieked from the basement.

The excuse

I excuse myself to “check on the kids and offer them a snack,” which I’m worried about because I’m not even sure what to serve. Another fail, I think to myself.

Usually I ask the kids, “Goldfish or cheese with crackers?” However, I’m not sure that’s going to fly with my playdate sitting in earshot.

Kindly redacting my usual question, I politely ask if her child has any allergies. Luckily the answer is no, but I am curtly reminded to serve only a healthy snack.

I look in the fridge for healthy. I have the standard bag-of-salad, which isn’t very portable in a rocket ship, but then behind last week’s leftovers I find a small bag of organic (must have been the babysitter’s) carrots and a cucumber. Perfect space food!

While heading to the basement for some solace, I secretly wish I could join the NASA team heading to Mars, but I know my playdate awaits for me upstairs.

After a successful transfer of supplies with the use of the Canadian Arm, I drag my feet back to the living room where I find my playdate swishing away our dog. Another fail.

My playdate is fearful of dogs and asks if my dog-who-doesn’t-bark “could be put outside.” I get it; not all people are dog people, so apologetically I look at my aging dog, who is so laid back I often stop to check for a pulse, and then put her outside on the front porch, far removed from my playdate. Crisis averted.

The incident

And then a loud CRASH comes from the basement. I quickly itemize all the furnishings and toys in my brain, wondering what would make such an unfamiliar noise, when the loud crash is quickly followed by an unfamiliar cry.

Who’s crying? Oh crap! It’s my son’s new friend.

As I fly downstairs I find the little one, thankfully, not impaled or bleeding, but flat on his stomach after trying to eject, albeit somewhat unsuccessfully, from the rocket launcher. I set about making sure he’s okay.

The exit

Amazingly, once the shock wears off, his recovery is swift. The outer space mission is back on but is, unfortunately, short lived. My playdate isn’t far behind me and after arriving in the basement, she takes one look at wannabe Buzz Lightyear and Roberta Bondar and cries, “It’s time to go. Now!” 

Was it the tea? Pasteurized milk? Lizzie-the-dog? The smattering of plastic toys?

I’ll never know what caused the fire-drill-type-exit, but smugly grin to myself when a polite young voice asks at the door, “Can I come back again to play please? I really like dressing up.”

“Absolutely! Anytime!” And then, added in a whisper that only me and the dog can hear, “But leave your mom at home.”
 

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