Play dates were invented, I believe, by intelligent Mother’s who decided for the health of themselves and their children, they needed to get the hell out of the house! Preferably to meet up with other Mother’s who were also at their wit’s end. Mother’s who desire a conversation that involves no deciphering of the toddler words, no correcting of speech and no need to have a vast knowledge of Spongebob and Patrick’s odd relationship.
This need to find someone to commiserate with while also, hopefully, wearing my children out, hits me about once a day. But play dates are hard to set up with everyones schedule and so I relish the one or, on a lucky week, two that I can squeeze in.
So when my dear friend called me early this week and told me about a magical place where Mom’s can sit and talk while children run, slide, color, dress- up and play in purple sand – which never comes out of clothes – but who cares? – I jumped at the opportunity!
I set my alarm in anticipation for 6am. I was going to get up, pack the kids, write a blog, have some coffee and slowly get each child ready as she woke. I did not plan on being up 15 times last night, thus sleeping through my alarm, waking at 8:45am to 3 screaming kids, all of whom were hungry, irritable and in need of a serious teeth brushing.
I dress the girls, pretty easily really, except for the whole conversation with Katie about how she wants to dress herself and wear jeans on a 105 degree Texas day, with a long sleeve shirt and pink cowgirl boots. After explaining – 30 times – that she had to wear a certain outfit – one she won’t melt in – I point out that we don’t have to go at all. She gets dressed with no further protest. She has learned, at the ripe old age of 4, that play dates aren’t just for Mommies. Kids need a break from the rules, the discipline, the yelling and the norm as well.
I get Sarah and Megan dressed and head to the bathroom for grooming. Teeth brushed, or at least, less toxic. Face washed- everyone loves this part. Now to the hair. Sarah wants a piggy, Megan has no choice, but Katie – well, we’ll say she is a bit particular about her head. I really want her to wear a ponytail because a) it is hot outside; b) her hair looks like a ragamuffin and c) she’s oh so cute with it up! She, on the other hand, fights tooth and nail to brush it, much less tie it up. I dig in – determined to win this one – and explain to her many, many, many, many times that the people at the place won’t let her play without her hair up. A total lie but she can’t read yet. So I won’t be caught in it for at least another few years.
Task accomplished and my brood is ready for the public. Whether the public is ready for them is a whole other conversation.
I realize I have not fed the kids, or myself, and cram some milks and fruit snacks in their backpacks. Deciding this was not enough, I bribe them to move their hiney’s faster to the car with pancakes from McDonald’s. The place my college funds have gone to die.
I get them in the car and check the clock. 9:45. Ouch… guess I’ll be late… again. Thank God my friend has 3 kids of her own and will be oh so supportive and understanding!
We hit the gas station and Mickey D’s and pull onto the road right about 10. The place is 20 minutes away. Again, I wink at the man upstairs that my friend’s are so great. So when she calls to say she is there and I have to confess my whereabouts, she quickly decides to cram in 20 minutes of shopping while they wait. Awesome!
Mommy. Where are we going?
A play place.
Mrs. Heather, Maddie, Quinny and Jaxy.
Will Mrs. Heather be there?
Are we going to Mrs. Heather’s house?
No. We are going to a play place with Mrs. Heather.
Will Maddie be there?
Will Mrs. Laura be there?
Here, watch a movie.
Click. On goes Scooby Doo.
The rest of the ride I sip my coffee and brace for what could be an amazing day or a really bad one.
We get to the place and I breath a sigh of relief. Surveying the play area I decided that, even for my kids, there is no escape route. Nor does it look overrun by older kids, include unsafe activities or anything that might bore them in 5 minutes or less. I am so excited! I might actually get to have an adult conversation with my friend and finish it!
We get in and I set the kids loose. Even the baby. She is so excited to be free that she shows me all 6 teeth and takes off. My friend and I sit down and begin to discuss how they could improve upon the place for us. Free Wifi, a cafe, an open bar…
And there we sit, for a full 2 hours, watching our kids get red faced, covered in purple sand and use their imagination instead of the remote. We were only interrupted by potty breaks, bumped heads and hunger. Which, between 6 kids was every few minutes but still, it was great!
Then it came time to leave.
Now… I know that play dates are worth it, and that they are necessary for whatever sanity I have left. And I know the impending drama of leaving can not damper the me time I have snuck in while going to the bathroom alone and leaving my friend to track all 6 kids.
But I know it will be a battle and I brace for it. Megan is tired and trying to pull my shirt up for the rarely offered mommy milk so she is easy to get out. Even Sarah is surprisingly easy to convince to leave as she had hit her cheek on the slide and decided then and there she was all done. But Katie – sigh – my super high – spirited child who is never done, never wants to leave and always finds a way to make me chase her, is posed to fight to the finish!
Come on Katie, it is time to go.
You don’t talk to me that way!
I kneel down, less I be more fear enducing at eye level. With a baby on my hip. And three back packs in my hand. And my purse falling off my shoulder. And my hair in my face.
YOU do not sass me young lady.
Wait? Is my mother here?
I am not leaving!
She purses her lips, puts her hands on her hips and turns to run off.
I put the baby down, drop my baggage – if only! – grab her arm and head to the corner. I have to do it. Other Mom’s are watching.
I emulate many a scene I feared as a child and wrap my hand around her chin, thus forcing her eyes towards mine.
You will adjust your attitude right now young lady!
Her eyes dart around avoiding mine but I can tell she’s weary and I might have already won this one.
I gather up my stuff again, feeling like a bell hop who gets really bad tips, and attempt to hustle my brood out of the play place. It takes a while and by the time I get all three to the car, buckle them in over protests and screams to go back in, wipe the sweat from my brow and check to see if I even managed to make it out with my purse, I am all done with ever leaving the house with my children again.
Over the screams for chicken nuggets and french fries, a meal I detest yet rely on many more times than I’d ever like to admit, I search for the golden arches. I can not find one. I note that it ironic that I can never find one when I need it and yet, the second I do find one, order, throw the boxes at the kids and leave the drive thru, there will be 3 more across the street. Upon peace falling on my ears, I proudly enter my name into the desperation hall of fame, which is owned, convienently, by McDonald’s.
We get home, go through another round of I don’t want to’s and threats and finally get into the house.
As I take a deep breath, look around and see the laundry lined up to be washed, toys strewn about, and dishes piled higher than the dust on my bookcase, I enter back into my reality.
I wonder why I left the play place so early if this is what I had to come home to.
Because, even with the drama that inevitably follows them, play dates are reminders that I am more than a housekeeper, chef and human vacuum cleaner. I am a good Mother.
Because I did what was good for my kids. In took them out to play. The fact that I included myself was just a bonus.