Mom says play dates should stay stationary

July 25, 2013|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

 A spinning home office chair. And vomit.

These two items have no place among favorable conditions for a successful play date.

I gleaned this wisdom not from a parenting magazine or from an erudite friend, but from my 6-year-old throwing up on the basement stairs of a family I was just getting to know.

In my son’s defense, I probably didn’t do my part to set the stage for a play date paragon. The other mom and I had agreed to meet at her house at 2 p.m. I said I would bring something sweet.

I approached the engagement living dangerously from the get-go, trying a new recipe when people other than those living in my home would be eating it. It was for cake batter cookies. I had some boxed cake mixes to use up and it would save me from having to run to the store for the makings of something else.


In truth, it was a Halloween mix I’d never used. It had black and orange candies in it, and it was good until February 2014. My kids and I started baking late morning. We threw in some other candies of various colors creating a confetti effect. Though the recipe had been jotted with careless handwriting and vague instruction, the cookies came out colorful and delicious. But that’s where my luck ran out.

We cleaned up, packaged the still-cooling cookies and ran to the minivan. We were already running later than I’d planned when I decided that instead of following the directions I’d printed from Google maps, I would try my own little short cut and save some time. In doing so, I added 10 or 15 minutes to a trip that only should have taken that long.

When we finally arrived around 2:25 p.m., my daughter, my son and I hurried to the door and rang the bell. The mom came to the door with two young daughters at her side and a crying infant in her arms. I was so busy apologizing for being late that I didn’t notice how surprised and confused she was to see me. When I finished prattling, she told me the date wasn’t until 4 p.m.

“Oh, yes,” I thought. “I did get that text.” But I’d neglected to change it on the calendar.

We shoved the cookies in the door, told the mom we’d be back later, and headed home.

When we returned a little after 4, a few other moms and children were already there. The play date was for girls, but the mom said some younger brothers would be there. When the kids gathered at the kitchen island for a snack, my little man industriously devoured his candied cake batter cookies with superior enthusiasm.

Then he headed to the basement, where I didn’t know he was amusing the young ladies by sitting in the desk chair and letting them spin him around. And around. And around again. And again.

And there was nothing wrong with his plan. The children were amused, entertained. Everything went well. Except that he was unfamiliar with motion sickness. He stood up, light-headed and woozy, headed upstairs for another cookie, and tossed the ones he had already had.

The mom was gracious and unflappable. I was chagrined. When I’d finished pointlessly overcompensating by scrubbing not only “the” step but the unabridged vicinity, I couldn’t find my son. A plucky young girl informed me that she’d put him out on the porch with a barf-bag.

The magazines tell you what you already know about play dates. Keep it small. Keep it structured. Keep it short. I tell you something that could protect the dignity of those involved. Prohibit rotating chairs. Keep it stationary.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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