Are playdates a time for you to kick back and relax while your child is finally, blessedly, occupied? Don’t let yourself off the hook that easily, you slacker. Don’t you know your kid’s popularity and self-esteem are riding entirely on your ability to be the hook that draws friends back to your house as easily as dirt is drawn to your stupid beige carpeting? Anyway, here are some tried and true ways to be That Mom that kids whisper about, and not just because you forgot to take off your whitening strips and talked with a lisp at pickup.
Every minute that your kid and his friend play on their own is another minute that can’t be spent on papier mache masks of dinosaurs. I mean, he SAID his friend liked dinosaurs. Look, you can use the popsicle sticks to make skull crests. Expert tip: The older the kids are, the more they like papier mache.
You used to play Barbie too! You had the Dream House and you would make Ken pick Barbie up there to take her to prom. Other times, you would make Barbie and Ken into parents and Skipper was their sassy teenage daughter. You think you actually have some photos of you playing Barbie, if everyone wants to join you in the attic with the albums. It’ll just take a sec.
3. Tell funny jokes.
Expert tip: Teenagers secretly like really corny knock knock jokes. Make sure to have at least 50 at your disposal. If they aren’t laughing by joke #10, bring out the ones that involve puns. Oh wait, that’s all of them!
4. Fit in.
If they’re playing dress up, you play dress up. If they’re playing rock band, you play rock band. If they’re giggling about boys they like in school, in the privacy of your daughter’s room, use a cleverly secreted baby monitor to pick up on their conversation, and yell loudly upstairs: “Josh is definitely cuter!” Total bonding moment.
5. Provide snacks.
Endless snacks. Every time they try to leave, give them something else to eat. Preferably filled with sugar and food coloring. Nothing says, “I’m going to drop my kid off here every afternoon” to parents like a kid stuffed with cookies and Pixie Stix an hour before dinner. Bam, you’ve made your kid a best friend.
6. Buy them stuff.
To really make a hit, buy your kid’s friend something really expensive and/or something you already know he’s getting for his birthday from his parents. Don’t worry, he doesn’t look uncomfortable, he looks grateful.
7. The more the merrier.
Host your book club at the same time as your teenage son has a friend over to play video games. When Martha starts crying about her divorce again, as she’s wont to do after too many sangrias, ask your son’s friend if he agrees that a beautiful woman like Martha will meet a new guy in no time, and one that isn’t a narcissistic controlling jerk. Relatedly…
8. Ask them for advice.
Your daughter’s friend has excellent fashion taste. What would she like more than telling you which of your jeans from ten years ago make you look svelte and which make you look dowdy? It’s fun for everyone. Make sure to tell her that the only reason you gained those extra pounds was comfort eating during that rough patch in your marriage a couple years ago. She’s very wise for a 7-year-old.
9. Invite their parents.
When your child’s friend’s mom excitedly confirms, “This is drop off right? So convenient because you live right by Ikea, and — ” make sure to cut her off and invite her for coffee and homemade pie. Don’t be shy to tell her how you found a special recipe on Pinterest for just this occasion and threw out two pies that came out wrong before this one. It’s so cute when moms and their kids are all friends together.
10. Invite them yourself.
If for some reason, you’ve tried all of the above tactics, and your poor, socially inept child has ended up with fewer friends visiting the house rather than more, don’t lose heart. Reach out to your kids’ friends yourself, via social media, text or, even better, handwritten notes. Don’t let your child become friendless on your watch. And your wedding video isn’t going to watch itself!
Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Pre-order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family.
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