• Play date anxiety

    by Theresa Reichman

    My daughter has been diagnosed with developmental delays for over two years now. When we first learned that she was behind we had many questions. “Is this permanent?” “Does she warrant a more specific diagnosis?” “Is she autistic?” “Will she make friends?”

    “Will she be teased?” “Will she know that she’s different?”

    Most of our questions have been answered. Last year Scarlett began attending an inclusive preschool. But we worried, still. While Scarlett had friends, they were all my friends’ children. She wasn’t friends with anyone in her class.

    But this year, something just clicked. Suddenly, Julia, Mia, Jesse and Spencer are all the rage. One day last week when I went to pick her up she called over her shoulder, “Let’s go, Julia! Get your book bag! Let’s go to my house!” She tells me stories about how Julia is scared of Spencer because he chases her. And don’t even get me started on the saga that went down when she landed a fever and had to miss seeing all of her friends at school.

    I realized that a play date was in order. It sounded so simple. So easy. So unintimidating. But guess what? It totally was intimidating. After putting the right mother with the right child, I worked up some nerve. Why am I so anxious?! It’s not like I’m asking her out on a date! But it felt like it. I fiddled with the edge of my shirt, tucked my hair behind my ear one too many times, and felt unforgivingly aware of my Hey-I’m-The-Youngest-And-Most-Rebellious-Mom-Here lip ring. Then I blurted out a run-on sentence that went something like, “HiI’mTheresaScarlett’sMomAndOurDaughtersAreFriendsWannaHaveAPlayDate?” Yep. Just like asking someone on a date. JM (Julia’s Mom) graciously showed interest. I told her that I’d be in touch.

    As I was going to buckle my girls into the car, I looked over at Julia’s van and I noticed a Ron Paul bumper sticker. While I disagree with Paul on a few fundamental topics, ultimately, I like the guy. And hey, at least they weren’t driving around with a Herman Cain or Michele Bachman sticker, am I right?

    Anyway, it was in that moment that I realized why the whole ordeal was so nerve-wracking. This was even bigger than a date. On a date you subject yourself to that person and their ideas, opinions, manners, etc… for a night. But on a play date, you subject your kid to it, too. This is the beginning of a long line of friends my daughter will make. What kind of friends do I want her to make?
    What kind of families do I want those friends to come from? And suddenly, in my mind, the tables turned.

    What kind of family will my daughters’ friends see when they look at us? What kind of mother will they see when they look at me? Will we be deemed a worthy and reputable family for friend-making? I played with my lip ring…

    Now for this play date… I’ll make some pumpkin roll. Hmm… That’s not very healthy. No, not very healthy at all. Scratch the pumpkin roll. But we’ll have the play date here. …Then again, our house isn’t very big… I mean, we only live in a condo. They probably own a single. Yeah, scratch hosting this thing. I guess we’ll have to meet somewhere. Oh! That local church has a nice café with a play area. But do I really want to take them to a church for a play date? Don’t want them to think I’m trying to convert them… Yeah, best to scratch that, too.


    A few weeks had passed, and (mainly) due to my anxiety over what the heck we were going to do/eat/talk about, I had yet to set up this play date. Suddenly our encounters in the hall ways seemed awkward and strained. Almost like a week after you give someone your number and they don’t call, except in this instance, I was the one not calling.

    One day while hanging up our daughters’ book bags, I lamely apologized and mumbled something about a hectic schedule. On the drive home I got to think…

    You know what, screw my insecurities. We worried that Scarlett would know she’s different, when really we should teach her that she IS different and to be proud of that fact. This is our family, and we are perfectly fine just the way we are. Take us or leave us. I’m making that pumpkin roll, I’m hosting this thing in our modest home, and if I’m feeling particularly gutsy, I may just make us moms some mimosas!

    On second thought … Maybe the mimosas are a second date kind of thing … Yeah. Scratch the mimosas.

      • Judy N

      • November 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm
      • Reply

      Nice piece, reminding me of all the social tangles I lived through and am living through with my own daughter, now 26. It doesn’t end but it does enrich.

    • Theresa, relax and breathe. This is not brain surgery and Scarlett will let you know who she wants a play date with and whether you get along with the mom or not will make not an iota of difference to the girls. Also, soon they don’t want the Moms around so the child will just come home with you and that will be it. Scarlett chooses and hopefully, you have instilled values that will meet your thoughts as well. You can steer her away from “those” girls but in the end it will be Scarlett’s choice and I have confidence she will pick lovely girls and then lovely young women and young men. Life has a way of working it all out. If she makes bad choices she will change those choices. No hovering. After exchanging emails with you I know you are doing everything right. Now relax and make that mimosa for yourself.

    • LOL… I had a “unique” child too… just make the play date, let the kids do what they do, and have pumpkin roll AND mimosas!
      Just DO IT! And relax… you are a much bigger critic of yourself than others are. 🙂

      • Christy

      • November 30, 2011 at 4:34 pm
      • Reply

      LOL…I totally “get” this!! I have a few Mom’s who I’ve come to know from the local park and I wonder if we can get past the “do we just meet at the park or should we venture away in a planned outing” awkwardness…I wonder if I even want to venture out, I like the comfort of our unplanned park play dates.

      I also recently met a mom at a different park who has a TON in common with me, including some mutual friends (she’s also a pediatric nurse at my old hospital). I invited her to a story time at a library, hoping this would be an easy first play date…OF COURSE the library was closed when we both met up there…not the way to start off a first play date (I even checked the website before we went!) I need to set up our second date, and I know she’s interested…LOL…it is like dating!!

      Great piece, and totally..we just have to go for it, and who knows we might make a great new friend as well as our kids!

      • Ashley Z.

      • November 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm
      • Reply

      A article I can totally relate to!… This is exactly the way I think before inviting someone over, haha.

      • Nathan D

      • June 16, 2012 at 12:21 am
      • Reply

      I totally agree, my daughter is 16 now and has very few friends. She belongs in the autistic spectrum…

      I can understand how you felt


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