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There are so many parts of parenting I love, but play dates aren’t one of them. Mama friend, I hope you can understand. 

I hate play dates because you always seem to want to meet at the newest park. My son has ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and one of his things is to run away. So I spend the play date breathlessly chasing him while trying to be polite and have a little small talk in between. But mostly I feel frazzled and nervous and tired and anxious. After he takes off for the street a fourth time, I give up and we head home. I try to wait until we are in the car before I cry. 

I hate play dates because when we arrive at the park, you tell me how your child has been excitedly talking about this play date all morning. I don’t have the heart to tell you that my son did not share that sentiment. In fact, it took me 20 minutes and five different bribes just to get him in his car seat to drive over. He dislikes new places and probably is feeling as nervous as I am right now. I hate putting him in this position but as a mom I struggle between protecting him while also giving him opportunities to grow and build friendships. 

I was really excited when our kids started preschool this fall. I suggested that we get together for coffee or brunch after drop off someday. My newborn is pretty mellow and would probably sleep in his stroller. I was hoping we could actually have a full uninterrupted conversation. But you told me you use that time to go to the gym. You suggested we meet up in the afternoon for a play date with the kids. I get that you need this “you” time, I really do. But I want to hang out with you because I like you, not just because our kids are the same age. 

I hate play dates because there have been times when I have dragged myself and my kids to your house hoping for meaningful connection, and instead I arrive to find out this “play date” is really a sales pitch for the product you sell. I know because I see an info packet on your table with my name on it. Plus, just last night you posted a live video about how you were going to grind like crazy to reach your goal this month.

I really want to support you. I love supporting other moms. In fact, I have (unsuccessfully) tried selling similar products. But next time, just be real with me. I leave the “play date” feeling mislead and used. It takes a lot to get us out the door and to your house. Next time, can you at least be upfront with me about why you are inviting me over? To be honest, my hubby and I are desperately trying to find creative ways to pay for all my son’s therapies. I probably can’t splurge on some awesome $50 skin cream right now. But I’m rooting for you, I really am. 

I hate play dates because I have yet to find a way to make them fun for my son. Sometimes I ask if you can come over. My little guy does better at our house. So you kindly agree and drive all the way across town. You are one of my good friends. You try to understand and support our family. You coach your child to play with mine. But my son is more interested in sitting on the couch with us, asking for mommy’s attention and showing you all his toys. He prefers adults to his peers. You are so patient with him, thank you for that. But your child gets bored. He is into the latest superhero while mine still likes to watch nursery rhymes over and over (and over and over again) on YouTube. After a few minutes, my son asks if we can go lie down (his code for cuddle and regroup) so we take a breather. Then he asks me if you and your child can go home now. 

I hate play dates because they are hard and feel more like a chore than a treat. I realize I’m not the only one to feel this way. We are all busy, worn out moms. Even if your child does not have special needs, you might hate play dates for some of the same (or completely different reasons). 

I hate play dates, but I have committed to continue to show up for them. Deep down, I long to enjoy them. I dream of the day that my kid plays with yours. I want him to have friends. And I continue to hope for the day you and I sit and have real authentic connection, you ask me how I’m REALLY doing and I let my guard down and tell you. I ask you about your life and you tell me what’s truly been going on. We pray for each other and we part ways feeling refreshed. I’m hoping that someday all the stars line up and this type of play date happens. 

Until then, my sweet mama friends, I hope you can understand that play dates are hard for our family, but we crave real connection so we will keep trying. Thank you for being patient and understanding with us in the meantime. 

And if you ever want to grab coffee or a drink without the littles, I am totally there!

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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