I really don't like hosting play-dates. I dread them. I see other mothers picking up extra kids in car line all the time and I don't know how they do it. My two boys play great together at home. I can count on a good two hours every day of my kids playing quietly together using their imaginations to go on adventures around the house or build elaborate Lego structures. There is laughter and the occasional fight, but overall our house is pretty peaceful most afternoons. But, when we throw more kids into the mix all Hell breaks loose. And usually it is by no fault of the guest. Play-dates do something chemically to my kids to make them crazy. The minute our guest gets into our car or steps through our door, all rules known to my children are no longer recognized by them. And any control I had over them disappears. The word "chaos" comes to mind.
Play-dates also make the mean mommy in me come out. The cranky unhappy mommy. But really, when I arrange these play-dates I don't expect to find myself saying "don't put race cars in the fish bowl", or "no Purell on the cat". And, what is the right reaction when you find your kids and their friends trying to "wash" the dog in the upstairs hallway with a pan of water and the kitchen sponge? I can stay calm, but I'm not happy. I was really not happy when I came into the kitchen to find my son and his friend had climbed onto a shelf and ripped it, molly bolts and all, out of the wall. The sight of a hole in the wall and plaster all over the floor makes me very cranky.
I normally am very proud of my kids' judgment. They normally possess good common sense, or at least the sense of what would be allowed and what they should maybe ask to do first. Play-dates impair this judgment severely. I wish I knew what happens in their little brains to make them crazy when their friends are over. Their voices are louder and higher pitched, and they move ten times faster than they normally do. Maybe its just excitement, but I can't get through to them. My kids stop hearing me and I get a little dizzy with them running circles around me.
Hosting a play-date becomes a very time intensive afternoon for me. For damage control, there is an obvious need for me to be within earshot of them at all times. Often I stay close enough that I can glance at them if it suddenly seems a little too quiet. If I'm not watching them, I find myself watching the clock, counting down the minutes until the play-date and the alien invasion of my kids is over. That is no way to spend an afternoon.
So, I commend those moms who do frequent play-dates. Kudos to you. My limit is one a week. I will gladly meet for a play-date at the park, or lunch with the kids, but I know my limits. Maybe that makes me a selfish mommy to limit how many play-dates we host each week because it makes my life easier. But regardless, it makes me a much happier mommy. A happy mom makes for a happy family. There is a direct correlation there.