I’m all for heading over to a friend’s house, where our kids can fight over toys and we can sip our wine in a controlled setting, but group play dates in public places are exhausting. Allow me to paint you a picture.
Fully stocked diaper bag? Check. Clean diaper and shoes on child? Check. Dog taken out and locked away? Check. Is everyone fed? Check. Are we in between naps? Check. Am I semi-presentable? Check.
Time to hoist/cajole/battle my massive toddler into his car seat. I sit in the driver’s seat for a moment, trying to find that invitation, and then plug the location into the GPS, listening to the toddler whine about wanting a snack ALREADY or a particular song on the radio. WE ARE NOT EVEN OUT OF THE DRIVEWAY.
I glance at the clock, which reminds me: we are 15 minutes late.
We arrive, get everything out of the vehicle while locking the car and blocking the toddler from bolting into the street.
I say hello to the moms, but never complete an entire thought before having to referee an incident. As soon as I get comfortable in a conversation, I lose my kid. Great. He just hit another kid. He’ll be labeled a bully. This is after my kid has been pushed around by Little Johnny with no interference from his parent.
I chat with the one parent who has met me several times before but can’t seem to remember anything.
“Angelo, put the stick down!”
I chat with parents I have not met before and try to explain projects I’m working on that do not involve my kid. (What?! I have interests outside of my child?) At a later date, they might ask me how my “little” blog or video series is going . . .
“Angelo, stop, DO NOT put sand in his hair!”
I chat with a parent who is very vocal about things in complete opposition to my parenting beliefs. Not going there.
“Where did you get that sippy cup, Angelo?”
We switch the topic to husbands. One mother has to ask permission before she goes out with her friends. Another wants to keep her husband FAR away from my husband’s Facebook group (Detroit Dads That Drink Beer).
“You wouldn’t have gotten hurt if you had listened to Mama in the first place, Angelo!”
Some of the moms want to schedule multiple play dates in the future, some costing a small fortune and others involving craft projects.
“Angelo, do you have a poopy diaper?”
At this point, there have been tears, and screaming, and time-outs, and glares.
I forgot to bring a water bottle. I didn’t bring iced coffee like everyone else because I didn’t want to have to ask the ladies to watch my little monster while I pooped in a port-o-potty. Now I am dehydrated, have a headache, am tired, and starving.
It’s past naptime and the point-of-behavioral-no-return for the toddler.
I say fast goodbyes, load everything up and chase the toddler until he throws his 50 lb. self to the ground in protest. He hits his head. So. Many. Tears. Other children are quietly strolling away, obeying their parents’ requests. I wrangle him into the car seat and receive a shoe print to the face in the process. I threaten, I use the stern voice, I try bribing, I smack his hand . . . all to no avail and sometimes, it only makes him laugh.
Five minutes after we pull away, he’s asleep. He will not stay asleep in the process of transferring him into the house, so his nap will either be 15 minutes long, or I can sit in the car for an hour or longer while he sleeps. I can just get some lunch and scroll social media. No biggie. But I have to pee, and I don’t trust my bladder post-baby. Expletive.
I unload everything into the house and am met with a mess made by the dog. I get the kid’s lunch ready and try to make him understand that we don’t have any (insert food of the moment here).
The entire process lasts only a few hours, but the day is shot nonetheless. The toddler will be miserable the rest of the day without a nap and my role as referee/entertainer will not be over until Daddy gets home . . . in four hours . . .
You see, my kid doesn’t need more friends, or social interaction, or scheduled anything. I do! WITHOUT HIM. And I’m meeting more mothers who feel the same.
So I say we trade our morning park meet-up for some evening drag queen BINGO. Who’s with me?!