Carter melted down while I was briefly out of town early this month because, “I couldn’t wait for you to come home, and I couldn’t wait for my play date to come!” With Carter in fulltime daycare and neighbor kids to play with on weekends, I didn’t used to have to worry about official play dates. Those days are over. He sees his classmates who aren’t in daycare or don’t have a nanny having play dates often, and he wants them too.
Awhile back, he invited himself over to Kiley’s house for a play date. Fortunately, her mom was nice enough to email me and arrange a Sunday play date. Carter was fine. I was the awkward guest. I didn’t know whether to stay or go, and I’m pretty sure overstayed.
Next Carter told Anastasia and her mom to meet use at the park on a Sunday at 2:30 pm. I wasn’t sure how seriously they took the invitation (we couldn’t make it anyway), so I emailed Anastasia’s mom and arranged a play date—two weeks away!!! Not only could Carter not stand the wait, he also had time to invite Kaitlyn. And Paul. And Sonia. And Finley (the only one who couldn’t make it.) Now would you call having five kindergarteners over a “play date” or a “party”?
Last Sunday, Carter got up at 7 a.m. and filled five cups with apple juice and added silly straws. The doorbell rang, finally, at 1:15 pm. Showtime. The moms helped get everyone settled. I assured them it was ok to go. Then I was on my own.
The kids took turns helping make white frosting to decorate a premade gingerbread house. Coloring a giant pirate poster also was a hit. As was the PlayMobil soccer game. But an hour and a half later the kids needed to be aired out. Lucky me: Carter had promised we’d go to the park. I called on Nandini, Paul and Sonia’s mom, for backup. Off we went, two moms, five kids, scooter, bike, and wagon in tow to the park, the final play date activity. Phew.
Running around didn’t tire me out as much as redirecting group dynamics, like when one girl was ok with one girl next to her but not another. (Kindergarten rule: Can’t say, “Can’t play.)” It was also tough because Carter is still learning social graces and cues. Going to school with so many kids his age and older is a big change from daycare where he was the oldest child. He gets so, so, so excited playing with his friends that he has an especially hard time listening and staying calm when things aren’t going exactly as he wants them to. Tears threatened several times, and even spilled over a bit (like when I tried to get out of taking the kids to the park).
But for Carter, the fun far outweighed everything else. He is already talking about his next play date—at Anastasia’s house.