Friday, March 27, 2009
Dear Tips from the Trenches:

After reading your blog for at least 30 seconds, I was relieved and bolstered to see such thoughtful, sensible ideas for practical parenting. Your "40 Off-Label Uses for Toothpaste" post really helped me see that I've been under-utilizing toothpaste for years. In addition, your "Twix Fix" story brought me to tears. You are SUCH a good parent.

It also made me realize that you may have some good ideas for one of the biggest parenting problems I encounter....playdates. When I hear the word "playdate" my situationally-occuring ulcer starts to bleed. (It's pretty ornery that way.) Occasionally before a scheduled playdate I'll even wake-up the night before in a cold sweat. To me, the best playdate is one that involves substantial amounts of wine.

Please, please, please give me some ideas for making the less painful.

Please help me before I bleed-out,
Ulcerating in Myanmar

Dear Ulcerating:

Playdates are indeed one of the most challenges items on any parents "to do" list. In fact, they used to top my own "never do" list until I learned the following tips. I hope they will help you as much as they helped me.

First and foremost, the best action is preventative action. Instead of waiting for the playdate to start before you crack open your merlot or chardonnay, make sure that you ingest a minimum of 4 ozs of alcohol per child per hour of the playdate at least one hour prior to arrival. No more, no less.

Second, when scheduling your playdate, remember, a playdate should always end at least 45 minutes before you think it will. Usually this means before you get to the nitty gritty of the local gossip, you should be putting on your shoes and locating your sippy cups.

Third, be sure to have lots of movies on hand that the visitng children would not normally be allowed to watch at home. When things get tough, pop in a movie and you will experience a peace that you have not felt since you last slept through the night.

Fourth, charge up your iPod and go buy yourself some nice noise cancelling headphones. Keep them handy for those moments when redirection just doesn't do the trick. Vacuuming is a low-cost alternative to this method.

Fifth, plan a continuously flowing supply of food and drinks. The more systemically toxic, the better. I found that reading labels can help you here. The less ingredients you recognize, the better chance you have of it placating young minds and bodies.

Sixth, keep in mind that "don't ask; don't tell" is an important guiding principle for any playdate. For example, NEVER, EVER, EVER ask the child if he/she is allowed to do something at home. Your house, your rules. The less you know, the better.

Seventh, usually silence is the kiss of death when your children are playing alone, but the same rule does not apply on playdates. Silence is golden. Never forget it.

Eighth, don't clean up your living quarters prior to the playdate. Kids love projects. Put them to work. Suitable projects include cleaning the floors, sorting laundry, washing windows, loading the dishwasher, collecting trash and disposing of it, and don't forget all those annoying tasks that your hands and fingers are just too big to reach.

Ninth, block all exits from the premises. This will allow you to socialize in peace...well, realistically, you don't have much hope of that, but it should help make things a bit easier.

Lastly, remember the only way to conquer your fears is to dive right in and face them. Mano-a-mano. So drink up (I have a great recipe for Maalox Merlot) and get playing!

Let me know how it goes.

Yours in playdate parenting bliss,
Tips from the Trenches, Your Practical Parenting Connection


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