At first I was going to write some advice like “How to have just enough time to pee alone,” or “How to brush hair on the go while your daughter’s scornful eyes make your heart bleed,” or even “How to dress a three year old and keep both your eyes.” But let’s face it, those are just realities of mom life that I can’t give practical advice for.
So, let’s dissect the complexities of the ever-important, and ever-anxiety inducing world of play dates.
Life at home with little ones can be a blur of barking orders, changing diapers, gorging on chocolate in the pantry and yes, feeling a little isolated. You need to reach out to your tribe to help lessen the monotony and predicable unpredictability that comes with stay at home momhood. Enter “The Play Date.”
With friends who’ve known you and your children for a significant amount of time, play dates usually go well. Your kids are happily playing together, you may even have a sip of hot coffee and get to chat with your friend. You’ll still have constant interruptions, someone needs a snack, someone needs to share, but the mood is decidedly pleasant.
Then there’s the awful one.
Recently a newer friend invited us for a cookie decorating party before Christmas. My six year old had been going through a sassier phase so I was on guard and a little nervous. I walked into a picturesque scene, coffee brewing, little plates filled with sprinkles and candy and a mountain of golden sugar cookies, baked to perfection. I thanked the wonderful hostess and got to work on helping my two kids decorate their cookies. After they were (covered in icing), girls went off to play by themselves. (This should have been a clue that things could go wrong, I mean, 6 six year old girls together, unsupervised, what could possibly go wrong?)
Well, it wasn’t long before the girls reappeared and right away, I could tell something had gone wrong and it seemed like the girls had formed a circle and my daughter was slinking around the back, decidedly not in the circle.
“Did she pinch you?” I heard one of them say to another girl, the hostesses’ daughter, who was holding her arm in pain.
I took one look at Camille and told her to come see me.
Red-faced, she said she had pinched her friend and I made her sit by me until we hightailed it out of there, I couldn’t have been more mortified or determined to get her to explain what happened.
Between the twitchy, fidgety movements of a six-year old being grilled by her mom, Camille told me, begrudgingly and frustratingly slow, that the girls were going to play a game where everyone was going to throw wet wipes out of the box. I guess the poor girl who was met with my daughter’s swift pinching move (that I had no idea she had) was going to go tell her mother what the girls were planning on doing and Camille, desperate to keep herself out of trouble, pinched her friend to silence her. Pretty sure this is how gangs are formed, she was basically channeling El Chapo down there in her friend’s basement.
I reached out to the parents and apologized for my daughter’s behavior, took all her favorite toys away and even pulled her tv and treat privileges for five days. This is just a taste of what’s to come as far as punishments but that wasn’t thing that bothered me the most. It was the embarrassment, the memory of that circle of girls and my daughter on the outside of it. I thought of what the other moms were thinking about me and my gang leader, errrr, daughter. An uncomfortable, familiar feeling crept in and I was truly hit by how much of a people pleaser I am. There we were, I needed to be there for my daughter and guide her to really understand her behavior and consequences and I was entirely too focused on the other moms and hoping to win back their approval. I had to stop the cycle and immediately just prayed for God to help me set my priorities straight. Daughter first, friends second. To be the mother I have been called to be, everything needs to be its rightful place, and a peaceful home is the rightful center I need to focus on.
As the week went by, as my humiliation settled into occasional minor bouts of self-doubt and only a bit of crippling shame, my daughter, obviously more resilient than I originally thought, eagerly got to work on making things right with her friend. I think she brought a peace offering to school and the two have moved on with their lovely, simple lives. I still have to ask for peace on my end though. Every time I feel myself fretting about how my children happen to behave at a certain time, I remind myself that their behavior doesn’t define me as a parent. Although I was called and chosen to be their mom, they aren’t puppets or robots and they are going to humiliate me. A lot. I know that can be tough but now I feel equipped to handle it in a much more healthy way, doing my job as mom first before friend.
We can all laugh about it now and it plays over and over in my imagination what was really happening in the basement that day and the hilarious, miniature rebellious act of throwing wet wipes. Every now and then, I have to suppress a giggle when I put her sweet self to bed and imagine that maybe in her wildest dreams, she’s just spinning around, tossing hundreds of wet wipes in the air, the thick sheets falling in slow motion around her, as her friends sit quietly by and never, ever mention telling their moms.