When Good Playdates Go Bad

by Turney Duff
Originally Published: 

“Hey, would Lola like to come over for a playdate?” the mom asked.

“Sure. That sounds great.”

“Have her bring her bathing suit,” she said.

“OK, no problem.”

Wait? What? Bathing suit? Lola was only 7 at the time, and I was soooo not OK with her swimming at someone else’s house when I wasn’t there. I barely knew this woman. Sure she was friendly when I’d see her at pickup every day, but I didn’t know her know her. The mom was attractive, usually well-dressed, and had an iPhone that she played with while she waited for her daughter. That’s it. That’s all I knew. A pit started to form in my stomach. I wasn’t sure if I was having a psychic feeling or just being a parent, but it didn’t feel right. My daughter had only been swimming for two years, and she hadn’t been in the water since the previous summer. I wasn’t sure what to do, but somehow we were en route to the friend’s house before I’d fully figured it out.

Maybe I should hide in the bushes, I thought. We pulled into the driveway. Screw that! I’m staying, I decided. At least for the first playdate—shit isn’t going down on my watch. So I “dropped off” my daughter—and never left. Sorry if that’s rude, but I just wasn’t comfortable.

This experience made me realize how scary leaving your kid in someone else’s hands can be. The idea of letting someone I barely know be responsible for Lola was and still is terrifying.

Thankfully, most playdates go off without a hitch, but sometimes things happen, and we just have to deal. Here is a list of some of the nightmare playdates my daughter has been involved in:

Softball Poops

Hey man, I know it’s hard to predict our kid’s poop precisely, but dude. One little 3-year-old girl who had come to our house announced she had to go the bathroom and she needed help. Then she explained that she had to go at home, but her mom didn’t want them to be late for the playdate (how kind). Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to deal with this one. Lola’s mom, Jenn, did. And it was awful. The girl spent 20 minutes on the bowl, and then it was the size of a softball. Jenn said she’s not sure modern science could prove how something that big came out of a girl that small.

Home Depot Babysitting

When my daughter was 7, we picked her up at her friend’s house. She said she had a great time, but then admitted she was a little scared. Of course we wanted to know why. Apparently little Nancy’s mom and her boyfriend decided to go to Home Depot and left the 5th-grade brother in charge. WTF?! Needless to say, Lola hasn’t had another playdate at Nancy’s house.

Don’t Lie to Me

In third grade, an impromptu playdate evolved right at pickup, and my daughter was going to ride home with her friend. I’d never met this mom before. I’d seen her around because she’s one of those moms who’s at every single event holding a clipboard. Slightly annoying, is what I’m trying to say. Anyhow, I figured, OK this woman is active so I assume she’s responsible. “My daughter’s booster seat is over in the other parking lot,” I said. “Let me run and get it.” “No, no, it’s fine,” the mom replied. “We have an extra one.” Cool, I figured, then gave her my phone number and told her to give me a call if there were any problems. I didn’t get any calls, but sure enough, when my daughter got home, she told me, “No booster.”

Pretty Clothes

“Hey, girls,” I said to Lola and her 4-year-old classmate. “Do you want to go outside and play?” “Sure,” the little friend said. “But I have to wear Lola’s clothes, because this dress cost $95.” OK: first of all, don’t send your kid to a playdate in expensive clothes if you don’t want them to get dirty, and second, there’s no way she wasn’t coached to say that. But of course I gave the girl some extra clothes and then pushed her into a puddle outside—just kidding, but I was tempted.

But It’s 10 a.m.

When Lola was in preschool, her mom took her for an early-morning playdate. Once they were inside, the other mother offered Jenn a beer. “But it’s 10 a.m.,” Jenn said to her. The other mother didn’t pick up on it. I have to tread lightly on this subject, because I have struggled with addiction and alcoholism—but I feel comfortable enough saying that if you struggle with similar issues, you probably shouldn’t be hosting playdates.

Where’s Barbie?

After one super long playdate when my daughter was 6, all of her dolls were missing. Jenn and Lola looked everywhere for them, but they couldn’t find them. We started to suspect maybe the little girl who had just left had stolen them. But how would she have gotten them past us and into the car? So strange. Then, finally, a day later we found all ten Barbies behind the chair in Lola’s room, with the heads severed off. We never saw that little girl again.

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