Please welcome Norine of Science of Parenthood as she gives us the hilarious story behind one of the cartoons in her new book: Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations. I know all about bad playdates, but Norine takes it to a whole other level. In fact you might say she has play date incompatibility down to a science.
Play Date Incompatibility
Play dates. They should really be things of beauty and harmony. Or at the very least, simple convenience. After all, the idea is that Someone Else is entertaining your child so that you get a few hours of peace to do things like scroll through Facebook. Or read a book (hint! hint!) Or enjoy the pure pleasure of holding a complete, coherent thought in your head.
But, to crib a bit from poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans for play dates often go awry. As I discovered one Saturday afternoon when I invited a girl from my son’s class — a sweet, blonde girl I knew he had a crush on — to come rollerskating with us.
I’ll admit, while I liked the classmate, I was kinda meh about Blonde Girl’s Mom ever since my kid reported that while he’d been at her house for a play date, he’d spent the entire afternoon shooting virtual deer with a rifle while playing Big Buck Hunter. I wasn’t familiar with that particular video game, but seeing my babysitter’s eyes go wide when he described it was enough to let me know it was hardly an all-ages game. Still, he adored Blonde Girl, so I was willing to give the play date thing another go. I figured the kids could skate; Blonde Girl’s Mom and I could spend a little Mom-To-Mom time getting to know each other. Who knew? Maybe we’d bond over a shared love of ’70s and ’80s roller rink muzak.
And well, not even close.
“My toddler’s having a melt-down, so could you keep an eye on these kids while I take him home?” was how Blonde Girl’s Mom greeted me at the skating rink door. No Hi. No Great to see you. Glad you made it. Just a string of words that came out so fast, it sounded like one really long word: Mytoddlershavingameltdownsocouldyoukeepaneyeonthesekidswhileittakehimhome?
My eyes hadn’t even adjusted to the darkness of the skating rink. But I quickly saw what was going on. I’d invited her daughter to go skating with my son. And Blonde Girl’s Mom had shown up with an entourage that included her daughter, her daughter’s younger sister and the girls’ two besties. And, oh yes, the toddler who was flailing around on the floor screaming like he was being filleted with long knives. And she wanted me to keep track of all of them in a dark rink? On wheels? So she could go HOME? Oh, hell no!
In her defense, I could see that request being made in a moment of pure temporary insanity. We’ve all had that unnerving three-year-old-tantrum-in-a-public-place experience. (And if you haven’t yet, don’t worry, you will.) But the horrified look on my face and my flat refusal to be responsible for five kids in a dark rink, on wheels should have snapped her right back to reality. I mean, in your head that might sound like a plausible, even good, idea. But once the words are out of your mouth and you actually hear them, you gotta think, Of course not. That’s just crazy talk.
As I proceeded to rent my kid skates, I wondered why my darling child didn’t want to go skating with any of the kids whose parents I like to hang out with … who’d never think of saddling a fellow mom with an unruly, unfamiliar brood so they could make a quick getaway.
Still, the afternoon could have been a lot worse. And there was a silver lining: It was unlikely that Blonde Girl’s Mom and I would be getting together again. Ever.
Norine Dworkin-McDaniel is co-author with illustrator Jessica Ziegler of the new book Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations, published in November by She Writes Press. Follow Science of Parenthood on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.