It all started when I arrived home after giving birth to my first child. I walked around town with my newborn, and parents I had never met before would stop me and say, “We should schedule a play date.” I thought this was what new parents did, so I accepted the offers every time I was invited out.
But for all my play dating, I was a one-hit wonder. I would see my former play dates at the grocery store and they would try not to make eye contact with me. If this happened after all my first dates when I was single, it would have devastated me. Of course, back then, I didn’t fall for every pick-up attempt. Now, I was getting picked up left and right by parents in playgrounds, and I was always saying yes.
Five years and two kids later, I’ve been on over 1,000 play dates. Most of them have been train wrecks -- and not because of the kids. No, it's because of the parents, especially the moms.
I’ve seen it all. Women I've just met telling me about their sex life, in painfully intricate detail. Others cried into their coffee while eating a croissant and telling me how much they hated not being able to lose the baby weight. A few moms started to pass by my house every day ringing my bell looking for me. There was the stay-at-home dad I met at the park and had fun talking to while our kids played. A week later, I met his wife at a party and she was very cold. I never had a play date with him again.
When I was single, my dating stories were brunch fodder to be shared with girlfriends -- same with playdating, or so I thought. Then I made the mistake of sharing one of my bad play date stories with a local mom. But instead of commiserating or finding it funny, the mom got mad and called me a gossip.
"I know everyone," she said, "Our town might seem big, but it’s actually really small." I should watch my back, she warned.
I'd been put on notice, and now I felt like moms were whispering to each other when they saw me skulking by the pharmacy in CVS. I never used names, I never talked badly about the kids, I never would have told that local mom about the mom who was stalking me. I just needed an outlet. Now I could only talk with my husband and he didn’t get into it the way a girlfriend would, savoring each story like a good piece of chocolate.
That’s why I started my bad play date blog. Badplaydate.com is a place I can share my stories and gossip without running the risk of being called the busybody blabbermouth. I want parents to feel they’re part of a community, a community of people who can’t believe that this is what their lives have come to –- being judged based on play dates. Parents, please send me your bad play date stories. I promise to protect your anonymity.
As time went on, I noticed the play dates started to change as moms got further along into their maternity leave. The new suggestions seemed more involved. Play dates started to incorporate shopping, beauty and fitness.
Some moms suggested meeting at Sephora as a cheap and easy play date, glamming it up and trying out new looks while the kids enjoyed fancy bakery cookies in their strollers. Those moms would often talk about sex while they spritzed different perfumes on their wrists and applied bright blue eye shadow.
Speed walking while pushing the kids in strollers became a frequently suggested play date. I listened to lots of weird stories while speed walking with other moms.
As the kids got older, the play dates got more ridiculous. A mom suggested a Key Food play date because she really wanted to hang out, but needed groceries. That was depressing.
Taking the kids to Petland Discounts became a popular play date because going to the zoo was expensive and felt like too big of a commitment, especially with someone you didn’t know well. While on a Petland Discounts play date, a mom had a major meltdown in the dog toy aisle because her son insisted on leaving with a squeaky hamburger toy.
So I started to think about what my play dates were like when I was a kid. Most of those were disasters too. We did crazy things -- like playing hide and seek in the cemetery behind my house -- but it was the 70’s and life was different. Well, sort of. I started to write down all the play dates I could remember from my childhood and then suddenly I had an entire notebook full of them. One thing I’ve realized is that parents and their kids were just as annoying back then as they are today. The packaging is just a little different.
I’m hopeful that the next play date I schedule will be a success, that I’ll hit it off with the mom and our kids will become life-long friends. Only problem is if people in town find out about my blog, I may never get a play date again. I’ll admit, I’m terrified that I will be exposed, but my need to gossip outweighs this fear.
So look, bad play dates happen. There are crazy parents out there who might turn into stalkers and hit on you and it's OK want to talk about it. Really, it is. If we keep these stories to ourselves, we might end up being the ones who freak out at someone when all our kid wants is a chew toy at the pet shop.