Playdates, they are kind of like actual dates only for kids. I really hate this term because when I was a kid we just called it playing. We used to just call up friends on the rotary phone and say "Hey Brian, can you play?" "I'll ask my mom...MOM! CAN I GO PLAY AT CHRIS' HOUSE? I'll be right over." I mean this happpened when I was old enough to call on the phone but I don't really remember (though I am sure it happened) my mom carting me over to a friends' house for a couple of hours.
Note: Of all of the playdates I have had with my kids I have only had one bad experience. All of the moms whom I interacted with in Rochester, NY were awesome and accomodating to a new stay at home dad. So to Shea, Melissa, Amy, Michelle,Tracy,Patty and Heather, thanks for showing me the ropes.
All playdates that I have had with other stay at home dads were awesome. Finding another Dad is key. To Dave, Steve, Luis, and Todd, thanks for the support, the subs, and the man time. These are the opportunites to talk about the stuff that some stay at home moms don't have an opinion on.
So, if you are new to this whole "playdate" concept let me give you some advice:
1.Don't take offense:
You're a dude. Most of the parents who stay at home are moms. They may feel weird about dropping their kid off at your house for two hours when they hardly know you. Not to mention that you may or may not be a gigantic scary looking human being to their small child. It's all about comfort levels.
2. Keep it neutral :
Choosing your house for the "first date" is going way too fast. Meet up somewhere public like a playground so if it doesn't go well there is no pressure to reciprocate.
3. Set a time limit:
Standard times are 2 hours for kids who can sustain play by themselves without parent interaction. This may include your child if they are 4 and up. Kids who are younger than 4, trust me, an hour is going to be plenty.
4. Set parameters :
Talk to the other parent about expectations if they are coming to your house. Give them a time to drop off and pick up. Once, I didn't do this and the parent showed up 3 hours later. Apparently, she went to see a movie that she didn't have time for usually and thought that was acceptable.
5. Exchange digits :
If parents are dropping off make sure you have cell phone and home phone in case something happens. Also, make sure that they have yours in case they get stuck in traffic or hung up somewhere.
6. Ask questions :
Ask the parent if the playdate has any allergies or restrictions. Maybe they don't eat a certain kind of food or are deathly allergic to something you think is commonplace.
7. Don't be offended:
If the parent that you invited to the playground suddenly has her friends show up by "surprise" let it go. She wasn't sure of you my friend and having backup to talk to about girl stuff will probably make her more comfortable not to mention that you just met more stay at home moms. Everyone wins and while you are comfortable with other kids they may not be until they know you more.
8. Pay attention :
Watch the interaction between your kid's new "friend". Does this kid share? Do they play well together? Does the kid offer to clean up without issue? Does the new friend scream when it is time for it to be over? These can all be things that make or break the playdate.
9. Chat her up:
Don't talk about football constantly. You may want to get her take on whether Julio Jones is going to score any fantasy points for you this week but that is not good form. Ask her about her family and share information about yours. While the kids are getting to know each other so should you.
10. Give it some time:
Kids will rarely get along perfectly the first time. Keep trying these public playdates or meetup at an indoor playplace. Once you become more comfortable with their child you can offer to host them at your house. Once you establish this repoire with them you can trade off dates. Eventually you will have established a routine that allows for either of you to get some time to yourself without worry.
Go forth men and make me proud!