Operation Sabotage: Your Toddler’s Mission for Playdate Destruction

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By Jennifer Curnes

As a new mom you quickly learn what the essentials are. A good pediatrician, a reliable stroller, and a well stocked wine fridge. But then there’s the other stuff that none of the baby checklists care to mention. Stuff you can’t send your husband out to Target for.

I’m talking about mom friends.

These are the women that will help you get through the toughest parts of motherhood. They’ll be there with a cup of coffee in the morning after noticing that at 3 AM you changed your Facebook profile pic to that carefree (and tan) photo of you from your honeymoon. They’ll be the ones who let you text message rant to them after having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Stuff that gets you through the day and the stuff that will turn a new friend into a lifelong friend.

But how do you go about getting such a friend(s)?

Well, it’s not easy. Just like online dating, you have to go through a bunch of duds before finding “the one”. But I’ve found that the longer you are a mom, the better your Momdar gets. I’m not trying to brag, but I could walk into the first day of Mommy and Me class and know within about five minutes who I’d like to see in my playroom. Everyone is different, but for me, I know there’s likely going to be a spark if I see her roll her eyes when another mom starts talking about how “every moment is a joy and she wishes she could pause time”. Or if she laughs when I make a joke about having PTSD when I hear the sound of a breast pump suctioning. It’s the little things. And once you’ve been around the block a few times, you know not to dilly dally about getting her digits and setting up a play date. Because if you wait too long, some other chick will come on in and scoop her up. And before you know it, they’ll be taking a weekend spa getaway together and then Odd Mom Out won’t just be the name of a show anymore.

Once you’ve done all of the hard work and the play date is set, what happens next? Well, I’ll tell you…your kid tries to sabotage it. Yep, that’s right. Kids have this way of knowing that the play date wasn’t really set up for them. So they try to mess it up. I’m not sure how they know but I think it’s the same sixth sense that tells them to wake up an extra hour early on the morning after you’ve been out late and had one too many glasses of Ramona Pinot Grigio. There are different ways they go about accomplishing “Operation: Sabotage” and some are actually pretty creative. Some techniques will just make it almost impossible for you to get any alone time with the mom and others can destroy the friendship all together. Here are some of my favorites:

Diarrhea of the Mouth: I had a first time play date with a friend that I recently reconnected with. There was so much that we needed to catch up on so we went down to our playroom to keep the kids occupied. But just like the second you start talking on the phone, your kid only wants to talk and play with you. But, I’m no rookie. I instructed my four year old to “make us smoothies” in her play kitchen.  But when she returned with a strawberry and potato chip smoothie, my friend asked her if she could make her one with banana in it, too.  And to that my daughter said “You’ll eat what I give you or you won’t eat at all.” Yikes! My friend immediately laughed because she knew that that must have been exactly the way I speak to my kids. And I was mortified. That’s like the equivalent of talking about your ex on the first date. Thankfully my friend has a good sense of humor and didn’t hold it against me. But kids really do say the darndest things, especially when they know you’re trying to make a good impression.

Big  Blowout: For a first play date you have to make sure you pick a place that’s not too big so that your kids don’t take off in different directions and leave you unable to talk. Like the pro that I am, I’ve got my perfect “first” place. But a few months ago, my two year old son came up with another way to make sure I got limited time with my new friend. He pooped three times during the 90-minute play date, of course.  I spent half of the play date in the bathroom. What’s the deal with kids loving to take a good dump when you’re out and about? I’ve always said that the best way to cure your kid of constipation is to go to a public place and forget your wipes. Works every time.

Swingers: How about a park playdate? Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Your kid knows that all you want to do is talk to your new friend about her experience going Paleo because OMG she just had a baby and looks amazing. So your kid will do whatever it takes to keep you two apart. Your child that hates the swings when it’s just you and him at the park but today has a new found love affair with the swings and will require constant pushing. And, of course, your friend’s kid only wants to play in the sandbox,  and no amount of bribery will convince your kid to go play with him. To make matters worse, as you stand and begrudgingly push the swing, you watch your mom friend get all chummy-chummy with another random mom. Between pushes, you can see them laughing. And their kids are nicely sharing toys. You’re even pretty sure you saw one of the kids mouth “please”. And now the moms are bonding over a discussion of last night’s Bachelor episode. You don’t watch The Bachelor. You start to internally scold yourself for not watching The Bachelor. And now they’re taking out their phones to exchange numbers. You’re angry-pushing your kid on the swing now and people are starting to notice.

Code Red: We’re talking ultimate sabotage here. Your kid has the kind of meltdown that forces you to abandon ship. Abort mission. All hell has broken loose. There’s complete refusal to share toys. There’s the pulling of hair and hitting of other children. There’s tantrum throwing that would put a My Super Sweet Sixteener to shame. And you can’t discipline the way you normally would because that would pretty much guarantee that you never see your new friend again.  So what do you do? You pick up and go. Sippy cups are left behind. Your child leaves shoeless in the middle of winter. You leave your friend’s home with your head hung low. She’d have to be a really understanding person to ever respond to one of your texts text again. And if that’s not the case, you could always use the forgotten sippy cup as an excuse to see her again. I did that same trick with Blockbuster movie rentals all the time back when I was dating… and it worked like a charm.

There’s no real moral of the story here. Just that your kids are really smart. And creative. And they want you all to themselves. So you have to do the only thing that will truly stop the sabotage. Leave them at home. Meet up for a kid-free drink instead. And make sure to put out great energy so that when your kid shoves her kid into a wall at the next playdate, she’ll still want to see you again.

Jennifer Curnes is a stay at home mom of two living in Chicago. When she’s not counting down the minutes until bedtime you could find her eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon or writing about it at http://nutellaoutofthejarwithaspoon.tumblr.com