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Ask Amy: Preschool play dates put mom in pickle

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • November 20, 2013 - 2:33 PM

Dear Amy: I have a 4-year-old, a toddler and another child on the way. I am a stay-at-home mother. One perk of parenthood has been meeting lots of new people through community organizations such as the YMCA, library programs, playgrounds and now my oldest child’s school.

Since my son started preschool, however, I have been thrown for a loop. Several parents who have never met me or my child have e-mailed me to make arrangements with their nannies for our kids to have play dates.

They have prefaced these get-togethers with reasons such as, “Our son needs more boys to play with,” and “Our nanny is looking for something to do.” I have never met their nannies.

Maybe I come from a time and a place where play time was less structured, but on one level this feels presumptuous and on another downright rude.

Thus far, I have tried to gently evade these requests by stating something like, “I’d love to meet you sometime — I’ve heard a lot about your son from mine.”

This doesn’t always work. I’m fine with socializing, and I’m empathetic to the life of working parents, but when someone I don’t know asks me to schedule my time to hang out with his/her employee, I have to balk. There is rarely a minute of the day when I am “looking for something to do.”

Am I being overly sensitive in an unfamiliar situation, and what is the best way to approach this without feeling like a doormat or being snippy?

Amy says: When I was a stay-at-home mom, I frequently found myself lumped together with the neighborhood nannies, some of whom became friends. I also found myself occasionally treated like an employee by other moms whose daytime parenting seemed to comprise mainly making arrangements. Some of this awkwardness goes away when the children get older and their play dates are no longer automatically accompanied by the caregivers.

Clarity about what you want will dictate how you should act. If you (or your son) want to have a child over to play, you initiate. If a parent contacts you for a play date and your son is interested, then accept. If you don’t know the parent, the nanny or the child very well, then politely decline — as you are currently doing.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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