Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Club

Before I became a mother, I assumed that once I had a baby, I would be magically inducted into the Motherhood Club, complete with ID badge, secret handshake, and most important, invitations to play dates. It seemed like all of my acquaintances who had children participated in these mysterious activities. Once I was a mother, I too would have a huge circle of friends!

HellBoy arrived, and I waited with anticipation. Would the invitation come by mail? Or would there be a sudden knock on my door?

Maybe word got out about HellBoy’s hellishness, or about my social ineptitude, or both. Whatever it was, I was never invited into the Club. To be honest, I didn’t mind too much, because I never liked the uniform. But! Not long ago I (or rather we) did receive an invitation to our very first Play Date, from the parents of a little girl who is a classmate of HB’s.

I was excited and nervous. What to wear? Should we bring something? If so, what? Wine? Flowers? Toys? Were we supposed to arrive at the stated time, or fashionably late? (TrophyHusband and I can never get the timing right for attending social events. We never arrive earlier than the appointed time, but we’re commonly the first people there by half an hour or more, and have startled hosts in their sweatpants on more than one occasion. The one time we were inexcusably late, to a party given by my boss, I arrived with profuse apologies on my lips only to discover that for the first and only time we had timed it exactly right.)

Eventually we decided not to bring a gift, because in addition to being too busy/lazy, we reasoned that if this Play Date thing became a tradition, we didn’t want to be obligated to do it every time. We arrived 15 minutes past the scheduled time; hard to tell if this was okay or not, because we were the only guests. Nobody was in sweatpants or looked startled, at least.

We said our hellos (Smile! Look them in the eye! Ask how they are! Admire the house!) and were led inside, where I was pleased to see treats laid out on the dining room table. Oh good, I thought, we get to eat!

But no. We were led past the food and up the stairs. TH and I eyed each other. Where are we going? I mouthed. But he shrugged, at as much of a loss as I.

At the second floor landing, we paused, and I thought Oh, maybe we’re taking the tour of the house? I admired their baby’s room. HB ran the other way, into the master bedroom, which didn’t seem to alarm anyone unduly until he scampered around to the other side of their bed and located their lube and condoms, which he snatched up and brandished with glee.

Once the sex supplies were traded for a toy, we continued up another set of stairs to the top floor of the house, which turned out to be the playroom, and we finally understood that we were all to sit around and play. This disappointed me greatly, because I had hoped that we would all sit around and eat goodies and perhaps drink wine, and let the children play. This setup was beginning to look like work.

Then another slightly uncomfortable situation arose. It turned out that the little girl’s father was German, and spoke to the child in German. The uncomfortable part about this is that I speak German too (most useless language ever taught, by the way), and I wasn’t sure what to do to let him know that I could understand what they were saying. Announcing “I speak German too!” seemed unacceptably geeky. Simply breaking into German myself seemed unacceptably snobby (and besides, my German is way rusty, and there was a risk I’d say something unintended, like “I love your sex lube” instead of “I love your playroom”). Eavesdropping while not saying anything seem unacceptably sneaky. (Not that they were talking state secrets; it was just the usual “Up! Up!” “Do you want Daddy to pick you up?”) In the end I just tried to have a comprehending look on my face. Later TH said, “That was really weird that you didn’t say anything about speaking German!” Sigh.

So we all played and made stiff small talk. At one point HB insisted that we all hold hands in a circle and dance, which maybe some people can pull off without feeling idiotic, but I am not one of them. We were finally released when HB figured out how to turn on their stereo and crank the volume to 11 and insisted that this was the only thing he wanted to do for the rest of his life and how could we be so cruel as to refuse it?

So back down the stairs we went, and were finally allowed to have at the snacks. Which were very fancy. No wine, unfortunately, but good coffee. The small talk did loosen up a tad. It was a little hard to concentrate, though, because their house was very nice, much nicer than ours, and I was terribly nervous that HB would use his sippy cup as a cudgel and mar their (responsibly harvested) tropical hardwood table. Nothing of the kind occurring, we decided to get while the getting was good, and said our goodbyes.

I think that this was a relatively successful event. I’m sure I’m overanalyzing it, it being the first play date I’ve ever been invited to and all. I do wonder if the hosts had to report back to the Club on my behavior, and if so, will I be invited in after all?

I sure hope there's no hazing.


Anonymous said...

He didn't really find their lube and condoms. Did he? Since they have a small child of their own don't they know to hide that stuff? Not because it would corrupt their little one, but because the lube would make a huge mess?

It sounds very formal for a playdate. I belong to a playgroup, which sounds a bit more relaxed as there's too much commotion to make small talk. I'm always embarrassed at play group because everyone else has a huge room devoted to Play, and we have all of H's toys in the foyer, which we don't heat in the winter. (It's a big foyer, but still.) said...

Condoms? Cranking up the stereo? Destroying stuff?

HB is the reincarnation of Keith Richards!

What's that you say... "But Keith's not dead"? Of course he is! Just LOOK at him!

The current Dalai Lama was identified as a small boy, which leads me to believe that the Stones's road crew will be showing up on your doorstep any day now bearing gifts of frankincense and groupies.

B.E.C.K. said...

I'm reminded of the TV show "Scrubs," in which Elliot blurts out German words from time to time. I think you shoulda done that. ;^)

On playdates: When I first moved here, I met a couple of moms on Of course, their homes were totally organized and had rooms designated for play, whereas my place was all play, all the time (i.e., a wreck). We had a fun moment when I invited two kids (and moms) and the kids found the plastic kidney-shaped tray that I'd used when I brushed my teeth while in labor in the hospital. (We were told we could/should take home the stuff we'd used, as they'd be throwing it out or something.) Anyway, the tray had been used only for toothbrushing and, of course, had been washed meticulously before being relegated to the toy box (why I bought my son real toys, I'll never know -- he just wanted to play with hairbrushes and door stops), but I did see a raised eyebrow or two when the kids brought out the pink tray. Oops. I never felt completely comfortable with the whole formal playdate thing, and started taking my kid to the park to play, which worked out just great. Much less coordination involved -- just go to the park and play with whatever kids are there. Easy.

Feral Mom said...

Maybe it was a Very Special Playdate and HB was MEANT to find the the lights dimmed, the wack-a wack-a bass kicked in, and the German dude sprecht "Das is Ein LeibePlaydate, Herr Doktor Mutter!"

Anonymous said...

Now wait just a minute here...THERE'S NO WINE AT A PLAY DATE?!?!

Anonymous said...

There's most definitely hazing, that I can assure you. In the form of throwing over-the-top birthday parties, and baking all-too-fancy cupcakes. Good luck with it, my best friends are from that very Club.

Anonymous said...

This sounds much more intense than our playdates which are surprisingly easy and get you off the hook of entertaining your child(ren) endlessly. Never any wine provided, but, hey, it's the middle of Tuesday afternoon. Generally speaking, every playdate has been with a mother with whom I've something in common (other than our children's ages). Perhaps, this makes it easier?

Lunch for mums. Lunch for tots. New toys. Adult conversation. Go home.

Laura said...

oh forget the club....if I knew you more intimately, I would say screw the club!
I am mommy to five now and I am still waiting for the invite to the club....check that...after dealing with mommies in the club with my firt two, I will maintain screw the club.
Let's start our own club!
Great blog.
Can you come work in my unit? You're the kind of doc I would love working with!

Mignon said...

You and TH went to the playdate? My husband runs and hides under the deck if he's asked to come with us to the grocery store!

All of your commenters are smart. I would follow their advice (parks, things in-common, screw 'em, Dalai Lama, etc.).

Anonymous said...

I've been on many playdates, but never a family one. I think you survived the hazing.

At our playgroup a few weeks ago, the kids discovered a very large and very used tube of KY right out in the open in a very small house. Don't people hide this stuff?!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Deborah - no wine at a playdate? Man, I don't ever want to go to one of those, then.
You brave, brave woman.

Anonymous said...

Har! Anyone who makes me feel like there's a club I might be excluded from... well, I don't want to join them.

Conversely, I also don't want to join any club that'd have me as a member (yeah, I'm lifting that from Groucho, but it's SUCH a good line...)

The key, I guess, is to find folks who don't make it feel club-ish, but around whom you can be yourselves. It took a couple of years, but we eventually found folks from a wide variety of backgrounds and parenting styles that we can have dinner with while the kiddies play/destroy things (and the wine flows). Most people we know don't have dedicated "play" areas, though... that sounds so very German! My home is overrun with blocks, puppets, art supplies... you name it.

(Or who knows, maybe their home is normally overrun, too, but they were nervous and wanted to put on a good show and so cleared everything up!)

One day you'll be moved to invite someone who seems remotely normal/cool over for an afternoon. And just maybe, the grownups *and* the kids will connect. :)

DoctorMama said...

Denise: Oh yes he did. And I didn't see where exactly he got it from; it's quite possible it was tucked in a drawer -- he's pretty quick at getting in those.

TS: Keith Richards! That explains his British accent, too.

beck: one problem is that I get SOOOO bored at the park. And no wine there, either.

feral: maybe that explains all the scheisse comments too ... I thought he was referring to the diapers, but now that I look back on it ...

deborah: I KNOW, right? I promise that you can always count on something at my place ...

bihari: I bet HellBoy would love getting a few good shoves from Rabbit.

mignon and kimberly: If your husbands don't come to playdates, who runs after the child? That sounds even less fun than no wine.

laura: FIVE? Hell, you're your OWN playdate.

menita: see my response to deborah above!

jenny: I have had one more play date since the one described here, and it WAS much more convivial. (Though HB insisted on taking all of his clothes off -- twice. I think he may have picked up some odd ideas at the Germans'.)

Anonymous said...

Honestly, we don't do such a good job of watching the kids, but I only had to acknowledge that to my husband recently when my daughter's room was thrashed, thrashed as if we had hosted a kegger. The kids are normally in view or moms will take turns looking in on them to make sure nothing bad is happening (the room thrashing was an anomaly). The moms sit, talk and snack. Every few months the moms go out for a big boozy dinner.

Anonymous said...

so when's the reciprocating invite at your house? don't forget about that! but they have now set the playdate precedent. dilemmas. dilemmas. thank goodness i have 3 boys of my own and no one ever invites us over for playdates. however, just wait till little league baseball and all that starts. that is a whole new realm of playdates, and, yes, there are rules there, too. but no wine.

Maryn said...

For some reason, trying to be friendly with people with uber-clean houses makes me nervous, like they'll be judging me if they come over. So I made friends with moms whose houses are in even more disarray than mine. We lived in a house of constant remodel, but I made friends with women whose floors were also torn up for two years AND who were doing eBay bulk shipping on the side, so I never felt compelled to clean up when they came over. If it's not attracting insects, then it must be okay. Whoopee!

Dawn said...

If your child found our lube and condoms ( and c'mon, a leather whip MUST be close by) I would break out the tequila.

At that point, we're practically family.

You can come and hang out with the Bizarro BlogHer Moms.

Anonymous said...

I must say, the whole experience sounded a bit surreal to me, what with the circle-dancing and the German, but perhaps it will seem less so when I have children. I always thought (well, hoped) "playdate" meant you shut the children in a room with some unbreakable toys and drank alcoholic beverages with the other mother.
By the way, I am new to your blog, and it is lovely!

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to be glad I never went on a playdate. It was funny when I went to the 'new moms' meetings. I didn't fit in. I had the opposite thought you had--like it would be a cinch. It's new moms! I'm a new mom, so can't I talk to you? I was the new moms wallflower. It was sad. The good thing (in a certain sense) was that my husband was unemployed so I wasn't lonely as a new mom.

Anonymous said...

My experiance with mommy groups and playdates have been a disaster so far. At first everyone was super nice and tried to act like they were so mature they were close to death and then after a few dates they started visciously gossiping about whatever mommy wasnt there. I started to fear the dates I didnt attend because I just knew I would be the main topic of conversation. If only it was as easy as that first playdate but unfortunately it got harder and harder and I eventually said screw it. Now we are back to normal life.