I have never been keen on playdates. When I had my first two sons, I was still working and the boys were so young that I didn't feel a lot of pressure to partake. Still, I could certainly appreciate the incentives for other moms. Playdates offered a chance to bond with women in a similar situation. They were an opportunity to learn a few tricks of the trade. They gave moms some important time with adults.
By the time I had my third son in three years, I was no longer working. I was also in no shape whatsoever for playdates. My youngest was a screamer who refused to sleep during his entire first year of life. Bringing somebody else's unsuspecting child into this exhausted mix of toddlers, infants and sleep-deprived parents didn't seem like a very good idea.
So when my oldest son started kindergarten, I was surprised by the sudden uptick in playdate invitations. Yay! Parents had deemed my kids worthy enough to invite into their homes! My sons were making friends! I could run to the grocery store without bringing the whole motley crew! I only saw the upside.
The concept of reciprocity was slow to take hold, but it did finally occur to me to invite these same children back to my home. This is when I learned that adding just one new boy into my carefully orchestrated world of piano practice and homework resulted in chaos. It didn't matter how well-behaved the newbie was, that one extra boy made such an impact. My sons would battle constantly for his attention. They'd gang up on each other. My "no screaming" rule went out the window and my authority was effortlessly usurped by a quartet of amped-up Y chromosomes.
There would be wrestling, running, and the inevitable crying whenever a kid got his feelings hurt or took an inadvertent elbow to the face from another boy. And because of my rather high expectations of all children, I quickly became known as the "mean mom" who refused to hand out cookies until everybody had washed their hands, sat quietly at the kitchen table, and used proper manners.
I am a little nuts in case you missed that.
Heading into the CPS winter break, I was sick and tired of the relentless demands for playdates. The boys had been testing my patience with recent breaches in etiquette and had gone so far as to ask for playdates in front of other children and parents. There is nothing worse than having a parent look at you expectantly as your kid screams, "Can Bobby come over to our house and play right now?" I blew up.
I announced to my gang that we were not doing any playdates for the remainder of the winter. They were not going to anybody's house and we were not having anybody over. They needed to learn to play well with each other. They needed to stop haranguing me in public. They needed to work on developing decorum before I would ever consider reinstating playdate privileges again.
The collective protest was deafening, to which I responded:
Mommy endured three C-sections to give you people playmates, so STOP IT. I have scars! I have stretch marks! And you have each other! NO MORE DISCUSSION.
I added that last part mostly because I didn't want to answer questions about C-sections.
Since my decree passed, I've received a couple of surprised looks from moms who fear I am embracing isolationism. Home-schooling, even. Shaaa. For the record, I will always meet a mom at a park, a roller rink, or even a bowling alley. Please just don't assign me any more children. I am a woman who knows her limits. Perhaps even the fates themselves knew what they were doing in cutting me off at three kids. After all, we all have a magic number. Mine is apparently three. Firm.
Marianne is mother of three sons and the wife of a southside Irish fireman. She has learned that sometimes you're just too dumb to know what makes you happy. She blogs regularly at We Band of Mothers (webandofmothers.com) and curses with even greater frequency. Her material is written for the imperfect, the imprudent, and the impatient mothers who know that all this stuff is really very funny if you just give it a minute.
See more of Marianne's stories here.