The ridiculous things I did to avoid a play date

As a stay-at-home dad, I avoided that dumb parenting ritual of scheduled fun. Then I met a mom who forced my hand

Topics: Real Families, Fatherhood, Life stories,

The ridiculous things I did to avoid a play date

I grew up in a household dominated by strong masculine figures. My father took great pride in the fact that he couldn’t cook, clean or shop. Both of my grandfathers ruled their households with an iron fist that would make any Latin American dictator envious.

We’ve come a long way since then. My wife and I have a real partnership. We work together on everything, and try to do the best for our kids every single day. After years of failing to find work, I grudgingly accepted the new economic reality and became a stay-at-home dad. I like to think I’m a good father, a modern man, but even I have my limits. There is one thing I absolutely will not do. I will not do a play date.

The thing is, I don’t like interacting with other parents. It’s enough that I shop and try to cook a nutritious meal every single night. Now I have to yammer on about my girl’s love of kitties or stuffies or the Wonder Pets? That’s valuable time taken away from my rapidly shrinking male pursuits.

Even the concept of the “play date” rubs me the wrong way. When I was a young boy, you went over to your friend’s house and hung out, until you heard your mom yelling down the street to get your you-know-what home. The moms and dads were never involved in this activity. Why would they be? I wouldn’t have wanted Mrs. Krula on my dirt-bomb team for all the Fantastic Four comics in the world.

Unfortunately, that’s gone the way of the three cocktail lunches. Now what we have in its place is an appointment made between parents. It’s a testament to how busy we are that we need to set a date just to play.

As it turns out, I have a beautiful 4-year-old girl who is embarrassingly popular at her preschool. During the mad rush that is drop off and pick-up at her daycare, the other parents make it a point to tell me just how much their kid loves playing with mine. Which is great. I’m happy for her. But the problem is that it doesn’t stop there.

Lucky for me I’ve developed a series of maneuvers that work on any parent when the dreaded “P word” is thrust upon me. It can be a faked illness, like my daughter having a bout of nasty diarrhea the night before. Or, if I’m in the mood, I’ll use the distraction technique, which involves me telling said parent that my mother or father is in the car waiting to see their granddaughter and that I really should be going. Sometimes I’ll just say, “You know our schedules are kind of wonky.” I’ve always gotten out of it. That is, until recently, when I met that parent. The uber-mom who finally broke me.



I was collecting my daughter and the junk from her overcrowded cubby one afternoon, and I was using my standard “I’m a selfish, bumbling, incompetent dad who can barely manage raising kids” routine, which usually keeps parents at a distance. I dropped her clothes, her artwork, spilled a little of her snack to sell the schtick.

But this particular mom took it all in stride. Leaning over to pick up my girl’s clothes, she said, “It sure is hard to keep everything together, isn’t it?”

This mom had some game in her and wanted to play in the big leagues. Fair enough. But she didn’t realize I was a pro.

The next day came, and here she was at my daughter’s cubby again. Only on this day she decided to ramp up her play. She kept her son Max beside her:

“Please, mommy, can Sally come over to play, please, mommy, can she please please?”

But then I played my seasoned hand.

See, whenever I pick up my child, I always hold her close to me — tight. Sure, it’s to show some love and say hi after being apart, but the truth is my kid will bolt if I let her go. So that’s what I did. In the middle of the chorus of pleases, I subtly let my hand go limp and gave my wee one the slightest of pushes. And bam! She was off like the track star I hope she’ll one day be.

It’s my “break in case of emergency” action. Every parent, by sacred unwritten decree, cannot dispute you dropping everything when your child runs away from you. Conversations are stopped in mid-please, and it is now your parental duty to run like a fool to collect your fleeing spawn.

It was so sublimely natural that no one would ever suspect it wasn’t genuine. “I’m sorry, she’s just so silly sometimes, sorry,” I stammered. “Oh, and we’ll talk! Come back here, Sally!”

By the time I caught up to my girl at the bottom of the stairs, she had this anxious look on her face. She thought she had done something wrong, so I completely baffled her when I swooped her up and told her how much I loved her. A second later she was in the car with me drinking her juice box and eating her cheese string like it was just another day. She gave no thought to the fact that only a day ago her daddy told her never to run away and now he was strangely happy that she had.

I drove home confident the matter had been settled.

But I was wrong. The mom was all laughs and smiles the next time we met over cubbies, and I had no choice but to promise to look at my calendar and let her know soon.

The next few days were ridiculous, even by my standards. Instead of dropping my daughter off at 8:30, as usual, I acted like some drive-by dad who drops his kid off as soon as daycare opens. And at night, I replaced my leisure drop-in times at 5 or 5:30 and now waited until the last possible moment to collect my daughter, in the hopes that no one else would be around.

My play date phobia was getting the better of me. Even worse, it was messing with my little girl, who through no fault of her own was losing out on every social invite because of her dad’s silliness.

The next afternoon I happened to arrive at the daycare early, and before I could rush in to pickup my girl I saw her laughing and playing with the little boy whose mom had been so relentless. It was time for me to toss in the proverbial towel – again.

“Uh, how’s this Sunday for a play date?” I offered the mom when I saw her the next day.

Of course the mom accepted. Of course my daughter had a great time. And of course this woman made me pay for my previous games. And so it was that when I arrived to pick my girl up, Mrs. Play Date walked onto the porch and said, in full view of my daughter and her son, “Well these two little darlings played like two peas in a pod and had a lovely time, but I think your girl wants to ask you something.”

“What’s that sweetie?” I asked.

“Daddy, can Max come over to our house for a play date tomorrow — please Daddy?”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>