So, what do you do when another mom approaches you and asks if your child is free for a play-date when you know your child would rather sit home bored than go to this other child’s house? I’ll tell you exactly what you do: You make the “Mercy Play-Date.” You do this because you have the pity and compassion for someone else’s child who still may need his mom to pursue potential friends.
This has happened to me twice within the past month and I’m not claiming my son is Mr. Popularity and that everyone wants to play with him. All I’m saying is at the age of 9, Little Dude knows who his friends are, and he pretty much writes everyone else off. I say he’s being too rash, too judgmental and he needs to be more open-minded. In other words, he needs to have a few Mercy Play-Dates sprinkled into his social calendar.
Of course I risk being called the worst mom in the world. In fact, after I scheduled his first Mercy Play-date a few weeks ago, he screamed at me, telling me he didn’t like that boy, didn’t want to go to his house, and would rather eat broccoli for breakfast than to go to that kid’s house. After his rant was over, I made him go anyway. And guess what?
He had the BEST time. We initially set up a plan where I’d hang out and talk to the mom for a few minutes and if he wasn’t happy, he could give me the “signal” to leave. It never happened. I chatted with the boy’s mom for about 30 minutes and when I asked Little Dude if he was okay, he asked if he could stay longer. An hour and a half later, they had jumped on the trampoline, eaten lunch, and played with toys. All in all, the play-date was a smashing success.
So, the other day, when a different mom approached me for a play-date with her son, who Little Dude had never hung out with before, I said “sure.” The play-date was set for a few days later. Little Dude went nuts on me again, saying there was no way in hell (yes he did say that but that’s a whole other matter) he was going to that boy’s house. I reminded him of Mercy Play-Date #1 and how he had such a good time, even though he didn’t think he would. I explained to him that he has to give everyone a chance, and that we had this One Play-Date rule in our house:
Go on one play-date and if you don’t want to play with the kid again, you don’t have to.
Little Dude reluctantly agreed. As I write this, the play-date has not happened yet, but I’m pretty confident it’s going to be another successful time. If it’s not, our Mercy Play-Dates may be numbered. But, I figure I’m about a year away from Little Dude and his peers from making their own arrangements and then I can just stay out of his social planning altogether. This can work well as long as you have some patience for spontaneity. Your child generally comes running up to you after school and says, “I’m going to Liam’s house. He said he’s free!” Of course, Liam may not realize he has a dentist appointment that day so then we have to hunt down Liam’s mom to find out if he really is free that day or not. Then, the negotiation of whose house works better that day ensues. By the time you have the logistics settled, you are frost-bitten from standing outside the school, and you’ve probably received a ticket for being illegally parked down the street. At that point, you ask for mercy from the play-date gods, but also give thanks for your child, who is actually happy about his social plan.