The Fresh Hell Of A Playdate When You’re An Introvert

by Joanna McClanahan
Originally Published: 
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Let’s face it, whether you attend them or host them, playdates can be the freaking worst.

Say I attend a playdate with my 3-year-old son. Within the first hour, he’ll probably have stained something expensive, thrown a tantrum over food he didn’t even have to eat, and broken someone’s priceless family heirloom. Toddlers are super-fun to bring to other people’s houses.

Alternatively, there’s hosting a playdate. This is when I spend at least two hours rage-cleaning my house, only to have children come over and trash it within the first 10 minutes. And I’m essentially a hostage in my own home because I don’t know what the rules are about bossing other people’s children around when their parents are there.

But playdates are infinitely more awkward as an introvert. The combination of being in other people’s homes, making small talk, trying to make sure my kids remain fully clothed, and also not acting like hellions is exhausting to me.

From the moment I agree to a playdate, I begin to regret it: SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE? No good can come of it. What if our kids don’t get along? What if we don’t have anything to talk about? What if she doesn’t drink or swear? Do I even know how to not fucking swear?

Then, up until the playdate, I begin to make compromises with myself: It’s great for the kids. Maybe it won’t be so bad. We only have to stay for like an hour, tops. Maybe I could wear sunglasses the whole time so I don’t have to worry about the whole making eye-contact thing.

By the time the actual playdate comes around, I’ll have imagined every worst-case scenario possible. Immediately after backing out of my garage, I’ll begin to have a mini panic attack and blast the air conditioning. I get sweaty when I get nervous, which makes me more nervous, which makes me more sweaty — it’s a vicious cycle, really.

When we get to their house, I immediately notice how clean everything is and feel guilty that my toddler is probably going to trash it. I also try to find the bathroom as soon as possible to check on the sweating situation.

I try to make small talk with the mom, but we’re constantly interrupted by at least one of our children. And neither of us can remember what we were saying. I’d guess that approximately 30% of playdate conversations is trying to remember what you were just talking about before you were interrupted to break up a fight or distribute snacks.

By then, I remember why I hate small talk and I excuse myself to go hang out with the family pet for a while. (If there are no animals, I’ll settle for hanging out with the kids over making small talk with adults.)

Then I go to the bathroom again and try to think of excuses to leave early: I could always pretend I have some sort of stomach virus. I mean, if you mention the word “diarrhea” people usually don’t ask any questions.

Only to immediately talk myself out of every excuse: We just got here. We already came all this way. Do I really want this family referring to me as ‘The Diarrhea Lady” from here on out?

After that, I go back and make more mandatory small talk before pretending to have important business on my phone when really I just ran out of things to talk about and panicked: YES, I am sending an important work email and definitely not mindlessly scrolling Facebook.

Then back to hanging out with the kids. Then to the bathroom again. And by then it’s usually close enough to an hour that I can escape without feeling guilty.

As I drive home, I lament over my awkwardness, and I promise myself I’m not going to put myself in that situation again anytime soon. Then I remind myself that it’s all for my kid. Playdates are terrible, but worth it, even if I do consider making up hypothetical butt problems to get out of them.

Note to self: Buy more deodorant.

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