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Challenge: Finding Your Village

My Playdate Survival Tips

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by Melissa Uhles

Are you looking for a village but feeling a little shy? Do you feel guilty admitting that you kind of hate the idea of a playdate? I can relate. These are my tips, I hope they help you.

PREPARE

It’s essential that you prepare yourself ahead of time for these sorts of social outings.

Yogic breathing, chamomile tea, a drive-thru Starbucks run or a magnesium supplement might be good options for you. Any of these might help you survive two hours of mom and kid social time.

You might also sneak into your closet alone and scream into a pillow for a minute. If your kid catches you, tell her you are mad at the pillow because it didn’t come clean in the wash.

Barring that, a mantra can work too. This too shall pass is a good one. If that doesn’t work, throw a square of dark chocolate in your mouth on the way out the door. Anything that full of antioxidants can’t be bad for you, right?

DON’T OVERSCHEDULE

Planning for only one playdate each week may give you the mental space you need to recharge your batteries before the next one.

You could also skip them entirely. But if you have a social child, like I do and feel guilty keeping him sequestered at home all the time, you’ll probably give in at some point. Even if you never host one, you’ll be invited to one at some point. And this is a good sign. It must mean that you and your child seem like fun to be around.

MEET OUTDOORS

If the weather is nice, a park is a nice option for a playdate. The kids can run and play without too much intervention. And it’s not at your house. That’s the best thing about it.

Here are a few pro tips: make sure there is a bathroom. Mama has a small bladder-I mean the kids might need to go potty. If you have toddlers, find a park that is away from busy streets or fenced off. You can check these things in advance with Google Maps and a look at the park’s website.

Now there are a few downsides. You could lose track of your kiddo for a few seconds while gabbing with your new mom friend. After a panic-y gasp, you’ll likely spot your little guy playing hide and seek behind a giant tree trunk.

There’s also the play equipment hazards to worry about. If your sweet angel is a daredevil, it can be a stressful place to be. Also, sand and woodchips can work their way into the shoes, socks and the mouths of babes. That said, at least you will get a good dose of vitamin D for the day.

PLAY AND EAT

The floors are sticky with fermented apple juice and it smells like sock funk and pepperoni pizza. This could be an inflatable slide play place or indoor play structure at a fast food place. Near me, there is even a coffee shop/play place that my son and I have enjoyed on a few occasions.

These places can be loud, crowded and germy. But on the plus side, this early exposure to germs is supposed to help form a healthy immune system. And this is an indoor option which is important if you live in a rainy or snowy climate like I do.

GO TO THE OTHER PARENT'S HOUSE

Who wants to clean the house only to have it messed up again by a gaggle of grape juice wielding, couch jumping preschoolers? At some point, you may be lucky enough to be invited to another mom’s home. Be grateful for her. Bring her some cupcakes or a bottle of wine.

One of the challenges is figuring out if this should be a drop-off or stick around scenario. You might just have to ask, or text about it ahead of time. If you stay, cross your fingers that you hit it off with the mom and your kid(s) hit it off with her gaggle. Sure, it’s not always a match. Regardless, you will not be the one vacuuming up the Cheerios at the end of it.

Admittedly, this is my favorite option. I’ve made some great mom friends this way. I’ve even begun to look forward to these playdates where I get to chat with a friend while my son builds Legos with her kids.

FINAL THOUGHTS

When embarking on this socially awkward journey, pat yourself on the back and know you are not alone. With any luck, you may meet someone who happens to be a mom but is also someone you share other interests with. And just think, one day your kid will be in school all day and playdates will fade away and be replaced by a new worry...the birthday party invitation.

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