The Politics of the Playdate

The Politics Of The Playdate

I see you, newly recruited reception mamas, mamas of toddlers just starting playschool, preschool and nursery, you're there right now in desperate need of some "playdate tips". Because sooner or later, whether you're lucky enough to be invited to one or not, you'll notice (possibly with dread and excitement in equal measure) that playdates are now a thing.

Welcome to the scary world of playdates. To start with at least, you'll be expected to attend too - yes, what were you thinking? Drop-offs aren't the done thing with under 5s really. You can't expect to palm your kids off on somebody for the afternoon just yet. Plus, on the upside, having to attend too gives you a decent chance of meeting a kindred spirit mum or at least somebody on your wavelength to swap a few playground stories with...

In my albeit brief dalliance in the play dating world, I've pulled on some of my own experience, identified some clear themes and come up with some playdate tips with a little advice on playdate politics - for mums.

Choosing a Playdate

There will come a time when you'll need to start initiating the playdates and it might feel a bit like dating all over again. The bad news is: there's no swipe-right, swipe-left app to hide behind. Or perhaps that should read 'good news'. The novelty of those apps lasted all but twenty-five minutes... And I should know.

Back to the playground. You'll need to make yourself available, and you're going to need to be a bit brave. This process should also include some input from your child. You'll want to know who they're clicking with in class, who they like to hang out with, and most importantly, who they don't. It's also worth figuring out who the kind kids are, the ones that will be a good influence on your little ones. These are your people.

The Park Playdate

Your place or theirs? If you want to test the waters, suggesting a time to meet after school at the local park could be a win. No pressure, keep it casual. Meeting on neutral territory is a failsafe place for your very first playdate encounter, and it could be a great opportunity to invite a group of mums and kids along. The more the merrier after all! And the best bit? Keep it short and sweet. You can make your excuses to leave whenever you want.

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The Slippery Playdate

If you're new on the scene, it's important to keep your social circles open and diverse. Variety is the spice of life, after all! You may, however, find yourself in situations where you've mustered up all your courage to suggest a playdate, only to find that after a seemingly positive response, communication trails off and nothing comes of it. Don't worry too much, and don't push. You've laid down the groundwork for them to pick up the baton of friendship when they're ready to. And if they don't? These are not your people.

The Uninvited Playdate

Overhearing other mums' playdate plans in the playground can be a real stinger, and it can leave you wondering 'why not me or my child?' But hold up a sec. You may need to consider that some of these women have known each other before you came on the scene, and some friendship groups are just hard to crack. We've all been there.

Don't take it to heart. It may take a little longer to get to know some people. If, however, it's really not happening a year or so in, maybe there will come a time when you have to admit defeat. That's just life. Stop choosing what isn't choosing you. These are not your people.

The Tactical Playdate

Roll up, roll up! Watch out for the game-playing playdaters, folks! They're the ones with a very clear and often fairly awkward agenda. Are you playdating with the mum that wants to get you on side first? The one who didn't really bother saying "hello" up until now? Perhaps you're being sized up and scoped out for the "in-clique". If tactical mama seemingly out of the blue swoops in and books you and your child up for a playdate before anybody else can, there's gonna be a reason for this.

The Tactical playdater may regale you with stories of the other mums in your child's year, but just be a bit careful, as there's a chance her opinions of others may not always be favourable. Keep an open mind, don't entertain the negative gossip and take everything you're told with a pinch of salt. Chances are, you may feel uneasy around the Tactical playdater, and until you find out what they're up to, you may well have good reason.

Cor, this blog got negative quickly, didn't it?!

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The Prosecco Playdate

Can be combined with the Tactical Play Date, which makes the above a lot more fun, but, a lot more dangerous. Beware: loose lips sink ships... and anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence, etc.

Let's keep the Tactical playdater out of this one though. It's all getting a bit too negative.

Personally, being the socially-sober awkward person I am with new people, I wholeheartedly applaud and encourage the Prosecco Play Date. The kids are safe, playing upstairs or in the garden in either their house or yours, while you sit in the kitchen cracking open a bottle and getting to know each other. Isn't alcohol a fantastic way to get to know some decent people really quickly? Speed up the awkward small talk, and break down some social barriers.

Know your limits. You don't want to say too much too soon to somebody you're not sure you can trust, leaving you pulling your hair out at three in the morning wondering what you said and whether it might be all over school the next day. Chill, this is just paranoia. (Mostly.) Plus, you have kids now, hangovers are just the worst.

In the cold light of day, as your hangover reigns supreme, while you're busy wading through mud, the clouds will eventually clear, leaving you with a fairly decent impression of your Prosecco playdate. Hey, they like a drink. These may be your people.

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The Genuine Playdate

The good news is, whether any of the above happens or not, chances are, whatever you do and however you do it, you're going to meet some lovely mums - or maybe even just one - with absolutely no agenda, other than just wanting to be mates. Don't forget, navigating the school playground is sometimes just as tough for adults as it is for kids, where, believe it not, even the most outwardly confident women are there just trying to figure it all out, a bit like you.

When it comes to playdate tips and getting to know your fellow mamas, your main takeaway has to be this: Worry less about whether they like you, and more if you like them, and go from there. And remember, according to Google, it takes between 40 and 60 hours to form a casual friendship, and more than 200 hours together to become good friends. It's a tough shift, but they'll be a lot of fun to be had along the way.

Find the ones you click with, with or without Prosecco. These are your people.

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