I remember the first time I was asked. I got so nervous, I didn’t know how to answer. I had noticed her across the room smiling at me a few times, but I didn’t know what that meant. She was so forward, it took me by surprise—I mean, I’m an open-minded guy, but I always thought I would be the one to do the asking. She was not at all my type, but I guess that didn’t matter.
“A play date? Um, sure…” I replied. I felt like we hardly knew each other.
And then the internal monologue started: Do I have to run this by my kid? I mean, what if Evan has no interest in Ethan? Sure, they both like the bubbles at the end of the music class at the JCC… but who doesn’t like bubbles? Does that really add up to enough for a play date?
“When are you free?” she pushed further.
I got very nervous and started to retreat. “I have to ask my wife and see.”
“Take my number and text me,” she demanded.
Wow, now that’s pushy. How do I add her to my phone? “Ethan’s Nanny?” “Woman From Music Class?”
Before I knew it, between music class and swim class, my phone was blowing up with nannies asking me for play dates. Was it Evan’s winning toothless smile? Or perhaps the abundance of drool making his chin shine that made them all interested in setting up a play date?
Do I invite them over to my place? Is that too forward? We do have enough Magna-Tiles to build a small city. Or do I go to their place? What if someone came home? That would be awkward. Anyway, this all feels so forced. I believe in relationships developing organically.
I suddenly began to get suspicious. What did they really want? Was this a ploy to get me to buy them lunch or watch their kid while they take the afternoon off? Why the aggressive push for companionship? I mean, he is 1.5, he doesn’t play with anyone, anyway. There must be a hidden agenda.
But then comes the awkward moment when you inevitably bump into them at the “hippo park” by the swings.
You quickly realize you have absolutely nothing in common with this woman apart from taking care of a kid of a similar age and spending an hour or so with her in a park. How to end this so no one gets hurt? Let her down easy. Find a logistical excuse if she tries to reschedule.
“Yeah, sorry, Evan had a late nap the other day,” is the best you can come up with.
But then I realized that my kid is spending all of his time with his mother and me. As wonderful as we are, he needs friends his own size. We don’t want him to be one of those kids who does not meet other humans until he’s 18.
The truth is, months later, I have yet to go on a single play date. Coordinating the schedules of two toddlers is virtually impossible. Between nap schedules, classes, weather complications, and family requirements, I am surprised that anyone ever actually gets together.
After 70 texts and 25 failed attempts at play dates, I realized there must be a better way. I turned to my computer. Maybe J-Date for Play Dates? You see a kid you like, you read their profile, you chat a bit during naptime and then set up a meeting. Profiles can include lists of allergies and sleep schedules. I picture Evan’s profile including his turn-ons: fire trucks and airplanes. Turn-offs: crust and greens.
Or maybe we need a Tinder for play dates? Call it “Kinder.” Who needs info? Just post a cute picture and favorite playground, and we will swipe left or right for any kid in the surrounding area… but that could get a bit creepy.
A friend once told me that online dating is about playing the odds. You shoot off as many messages as possible and hope that one works. Maybe this is why random nannies ask for a play date. They know that, chances are, one of the kids will have a cold or a late nap, and hope that eventually, if you ask enough, one will come through.
And then one day, you let your kid loose in the park, and just like that, you see him touching the superhero shirt of another kid. They exchange trucks and bump their heads while driving them. Both ultimately end up in tears fighting over a metal steering wheel.
Play date or not, kids will find a way on their own to break each other’s hearts.