Whole Parenting Family

navigating . . . the playdate

irish kids playdate

Oh, did your kid scream her head off during the large-scale playdate you hosted? First off, don’t be embarrassed. I’ve had this exact same experience, as has any mother of a 2+ year old. All the other moms have either had this experience, or if their child is extremely unusual and they’ve never hosted anything, maybe they were horrified. Truly, though, this is totally normal and to be expected. Why? Because your kid is 2+ and is developing at lightening speed internally and behavior can’t keep up!

When I last had this happen and we had about 7 other little monsters over, and SuperBoy was completely ballistic out of his mind, luckily, my mom was home that day. She took him upstairs so I could continue to host and he could reclaim his brain particles. But what about when it’s just you & the monster & maybe a baby in arms and a room full of other mothers?

A few things that have helped me:

1) Prep prep prep.

Prep the kids ahead of time: “Children are coming. they’re going to touch all your toys. If there is a toy you don’t want to share, let’s put it in your room. We want our friends to be happy, so we’re going to share.” I often have to remind them mid-date (if they’re acting up) that “We’re going to have a wonderful snack. Little children who share nicely get a really nice treat!”

I’m not above bribery, or attempts thereof.

2) Pre-emptive strike.

I keep a super strict eye on the monster as he or she starts to ramp up and try to head them off at the pass. As escalation occurs, I take him aside and remind him of the very amazing and delicious treat I have waiting for him during snack, and the double dipped banana fruit leather that is waiting after all the other kids leave. If you can nip it in the bud, or at least head it off, that’s amazing. I encourage him to play right next to me. I indulge him and put him on my lap, rubbing his back, give him some of my tea. Anything to keep the peace.

3) Acceptance.

Kids are possessive of their toys. It’s a good instinct, on many levels. It’s also the bane of the playdate. Suddenly the ONE yellow car is the only desirable.

Kids also say insanely embarrassing things. Like “mama, stop talking to her” or “I want him to go home” or “I want everyone to go home” or “make everyone leave now” or “I don’t like that other mama.”

And then you’re thinking the other mom thinks you model this behavior. Right??

I’ve come to accept that so many of these statements and meltdowns are simply the age. And the developmental stage. I could punish, lecture, and threaten after the fact, but the trouble is his brain isn’t developed enough to absorb and act differently necessarily the next time.

Other moms know this. Again, if they’re not there yet or their child was conceived without original sin, maybe they’re judging. Ha! Until it’s their turn and they get their comeuppance. Karma is a b.

4) Call it a day.

If and when it happens, and you can’t do anything about it, honestly, if I were close enough with the ladies and it had been a long enough playdate, I would say that we needed to wrap things up. If it’s in the first hour, that’s a different story. But no mom should expect other moms to host for longer than 2 hours. And anyone who’s loitering might need a gentle shove out the door. I can only ignore (you know what I mean–not completely ignore) my own kids for so long before they really need my attention and the other people need to clear out.

If it’s in the first hour, and I had no help in sight, I’d try bribing, threatening quietly, and ultimately putting the kiddo in his or her room/crib. SweetPea can’t get out–yet, so she’s a great candidate for baby jail. SuperBoy can certainly get out of his room, but the threat of punishment could feasibly keep him in there for long enough to politely wrap things up. Luckily he appears to be beyond the stage of fighting with the kids, and more like fighting me when it’s time for them to go. A good sign? At least a sign he’s not a hopeless case.


  1. Melissa on March 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

    This is a great post (and also made me giggle). It reminds me of a time recently when we had friends over and my 2 year old daughter REFUSED to wear underwear (or pants) and was a complete terror while the other 2 year old just stood and stared at her the entire time. I was so embarrassed, even though I should know that the other mom has days like that too. Kids sure are humbling! 🙂

    • Natural Mama Nell on March 27, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      I love it! Underwear!! It is totally humbling. All the time!!