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Girl Has A Play Date

Madeleine’s been getting more and more comfortable with other kids; between playing in the nursery before church, and hanging out at the park every day with other toddlers, she’s starting to understand that there exist other small beings than herself, and they get to play with stuff too.

And since I’ve been making a couple friends at our park, I thought it was time to hit another first: The Play Date. 

I mean, we’ve had friends over with babies before, but most were back when Maddie had only a vague understanding of life more than two feet from her face. The closest thing to a play date she’s had so far was when my girlfriend Renee came to visit and Eli got to hang with us for an afternoon. In that situation, though, Maddie was maybe 8 months, while Eli was days away from 12 months, which we all know is like a senior in high school hanging out with a seventh grader. There was a bit of interaction  but most of the time was spent with Maddie snuggled nervously in my lap, watching the cheerful tornado that is Eli.

So this was a big day for Baby Girl. I checked in with my girlfriend Abby, who gave me a couple tips. First, she said, limit the toys I’ve got out; if there’s a big crowd, certain toys may be so popular they start fights. And since all the toys are new to everyone but Maddie, every toy will be out by the end of the date, so think long and hard about putting out things like blocks, Leggos, puzzles, etc.

And second, don’t expect too much.

We were only having Naomi over, so I wasn’t too concerned about toy fights. And I knew my girlie would be overwhelmed and shy, so I was pretty certain my sights weren’t set too high. The house was clean, the carpet was vacuumed, the toys were out, and we were ready to go.

And I think the play date was a pretty big success. At not quite 14 months, Maddie’s not really at the age where she plays with other kids, but she can play amenably around other kids, and learn that not every toy is hers all the time. And at 19 months, Naomi’s older than Maddie, which can be intimidating. But fortunately she’s a sweet kid and was very gentle around Madster.

I’ll say that the first few minutes were a little tense for Maddie; her home is her castle and she’s not used to sharing the spotlight. Or her toys.

When Naomi first came in, it was Christmas morning for her – she didn’t know what to play with first, so she ran from toy to toy. Maddie’s eyes got bigger and bigger as she saw another kid fingering “her” stuff. My daughter began to get a little Rain Man on me: “Oh! She’s holding Elmo! Oh! Oh! That’s the pony! Oh! Oh! Oh dear! That’s my Runaway Bunny book!” She never challenged Naomi physically, but started rocking a bit in distress, her eyes wide as saucers. When she saw that she could still play with everything, though, and that Naomi wasn’t putting the loot in a bag and walking out the door, she began to calm down.

For the most part, they predictably played alongside each other rather than together. And yes, there were a few tense moments of on girl possessing a toy the other one suddenly had to have, and needing to sort out the whole concept of “sharing”.

But there were a couple moments of genuine interaction: Maddie and Naomi chasing each other around the coffee table and laughing together, rolling the ball back and forth, sitting in laps and looking at the same book. Maddie showed Naomi her stash of Cheerios in the kitchen and Naomi magnanimously fed them to my girlie. And at one point Maddie fell while I was in the kitchen, and Ingrid picked her up to comfort her and Maddie let her. Seeing her accept comfort from someone that wasn’t me, Brian, or my mom made me realize how far she’s come with other adults.

Immediately after the play date, Maddie spent a good 20 minutes running around the house and being loud and boisterous, as if she’d been intimidated and dampened a bit, and needed to get the excess energy out. And for the rest of the day she was a bit clingier than normal, but on the whole she seemed to handle the whole thing really well. When she met up with Naomi in the park the next day there was a definite – though small – change in the relationship; she was a little more relaxed with the girl.

So I am cautiously optimistic. Having friends around here for Madeleine will be great, especially when the weather turns cold and we’re driven indoors and away from the park. And having friends for me is no small thing, either.

Sometimes mommies want play dates too. 


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