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OT - is there anything to be said?

moeilijk's picture

My DD3 has a friend, M4, who goes to school. DD also likes playing with M's little brother, E2, at daycare or on playdates.

Personally, I find M to be annoying. But I blame the parents. They both spend most playdates interacting with M and directing activities for her or setting up something she randomly asked for. E gets relatively very little attention, but still more than me. I only do playdates because DD likes them so much; usually my philosophy is that playdates are for me to socialize and the kids to figure out how to play together.

The mom recently invited me for a playdate. She wanted to go for a long bike ride but I can't (physical limitations). I explained and then I suggested we take the kids for a walk, then bring them to the childcare at my gym and do a yoga class together.

My thinking was, yoga is something I enjoy, maybe something to do in the future with the mom since I don't really enjoy time with her while the kids are around, fun for the kids - nice and tired after a walk, plus DD is very familiar with the childcare environment and leader so the adjustment for the other kids would be fairly smooth.

Of course, if M and E were my kids, I would mention the upcoming new activity a few days before, talk about what we know will happen (play with DD, DD knows where all the toys are kept, etc) and, if I wanted to try the yoga class, I'd do it. I'd also assume, or ask if I had any doubts, that I'd be called out of the class if my kids were having a terrible time.

Anyway, the mom's response was that it would be to stressful for M to leave her in the care of someone new, so my plan won't work.

Now, I do understand. We all have different values and different priorities. If I had more of a personal relationship with this mom I'm sure I'd be way more chill about finding something to do. But I don't think she wants a personal relationship, she just makes plans because M likes DD. Which is ofc my motivation as well, lol, and I'm finding it's just not enough.

So anyway, I'm not sure what a pleasant way to move forward is. I could offer to watch all 3 kids once in a while - not just M because she's not that nice (I'd have to manage a lot of conflicts and cannot expect her to do as she's told) and it would be easier for her if her brother was there as well. But the kids are really young for that in NL culture. Usually playdates that the parents don't stay for start around age 5 or 6. And, I don't see the mom going for it if she wouldn't go for a professional, with tons of toys and other kids, for an hour.

I would be OK leaving DD with her for an hour or two. I know DD is obedient and that the mom, much as we have different values for parenting, wouldn't allow any harm to come to her. But I think it would be a bit weird to "offer" that!

My confrontational, somewhat selfish side wants to tell this mom, "Don't you think that M and E would have a great time with DD? Just do some preparation, and they'll be fine. If not, they'll pull you out of the class. I've got the free passes and I'd love to find someone to enjoy them with!"

If someone said that to me, I might not be comfortable but I would give it some consideration. But I don't know if she was genuine about why she didn't want to go. And I get the feeling she is very committed to keeping M happy (hence the bad behavior from M, and the lack of attention to me as a guest).

So far, I've just accommodated these plans (within my physical limitations) but I generally try to avoid weekends and not more than 2x per month, ince these playdates are not fun for me.

What might you do?


moeilijk's picture

For the most part, I'm ok with differences, so the fact that these parents have different values in how they choose to raise their kids is ok. I hadn't really reflected so much on whether or not I liked the mom so much before your comment, but I guess that's really it. Because so many of my relationships are conducted in foreign languages, or, if in English, with people who speak English as a second language, I have come to assume that *something* is lost in translation rather than looking at things on a more personal level (in general, lol!).

I tend to not invite them to my home when making arrangements, because I dislike how M doesn't listen and how the parents don't back up my rules (like shoes off, no jumping on furniture, etc). Most often we go over there, and DD just joins in whatever is going on... which changes every 10 minutes, including the parents being willing to disappear for 15 minutes to find some obscure toy while I sit there and stare into space. Seriously, that happened once, on a weekend when the parents invited DH and I and DD over. They were so engaged in playing with the kids that they seemed to ignore DH and I. Ugh!

I won't suggest any more playdates. Usually the mom contacts me with some social question (How are you? Did you have a nice week? When are you going on vacation?) and I tend to respond and then suggest getting together.... but I can just respond but not up the ante.

I've also noticed that she asks me lots of questions but never seems to comment on what I say or share anything of herself. She does mention M a LOT! lol.

secret's picture

If it were me (and I've been there) I would let her know that I planned on taking my child(ren) to the park on Saturday at 10am if she'd like to join you.

If not, no biggie.

If she does, great... and let her go ahead and direct the kids' play... if she comments to you about why you're not doing the same, just tell her that you believe kids should be able to figure some things out on their own... and leave it at that. If she declines the next invitation... oh well.

I can't stand parents who are all up in their kids faces directing every move they make. Let them play... have some imagination... have conflicts... and let them most importantly figure out how to navigate them. Some guidance is alright, of course... but to be micromanaged every minute of every day... ugh. Not for me.

moeilijk's picture

I think that's a bit more the way I need to go. I tend to be a bit too accommodating - like, I dislike making a playdate on a weekend, or in the morning, because that's why I go to the gym or have time with my family all together. But most kids under 4 sleep after lunch.... DD hasn't since age 1.5, so I've got those extra couple of hours that I'm looking for something to do when other parents are getting dinner started or drinking a hot cup of something!

I think I'll be more specific about the current playdate being planned, and less open. TBH, it feels really aggressive. (I'll fit right in with 'direct' Dutch culture - she's one of the Dutch-speaking moms I socialize with!)

secret's picture

For what it's worth... any "play dates" with my kids were in a social setting - parks, parties, that kind of thing... I never really had anyone over for the same reasons you stated above.. and I very rarely went over to someone else's house... when I did, it was because the parent and I were friends, and we'd sit and chill with a cup of something (wine or coffee/tea) while the kids played and we watched.

I really wasn't up for taking my kid somewhere so they could socialize... they did plenty of that between themselves and with other kids outdoors. If I planned something, it was just as much for ME to socialize... lol

moeilijk's picture

"If I planned something, it was just as much for ME to socialize... lol"

EXACTLY!! I met this particular mom because the leaders at daycare mentioned how much M and DD played together so I invited M to our house for DD's 3rd b'day party. All the other moms I am friends with I met outside - at a park, on the street, whatever. I sometimes meet a group of moms via a FB group at outings at the park, but we're not 'friends.'

And all the other moms are also expats. One has been here 18 years, another 10, and two more 2 years, although one of the 2-year moms did her Bachelors' degree here as well. So maybe that's it too, that I just naturally tend to look for relationships for ME to enjoy, since I'm still at the stage of creating my own social network as well. Many adults no longer seek to make new friends since they tend to have enough to meet their needs as well as busy lives. People who have moved great distances have to seek out new contacts and it's a challenge when others just aren't open for that. Plus, Dutch people are kind of famous for keeping their friends from the village they grew up in and never making new friends past university. It's really so weird - but yeah, for a tolerant society, they are very insular.

secret's picture

It sounds like while you want to make playdates to spend time with HER while your kids play, she goes on playdates for the child and doesn't consider these times mom social time.

I wouldn't sweat it, it's just a different outlook on time you both both view differently. It may not have anything to do with YOU, but more about how she's thinking it should go for HER CHILD.

If I were you, I'd seek out some women who are in similar situations... maybe you might have things in common...which it sounds like what you are doing, with the other expat moms. I'd say stick with that. Your DD will have tons of time to "socialize" once she starts school... focus on her, and you, and your family, while she's still only 3.5... December will come quick and you will miss it. *hugs*

moeilijk's picture

It's not that I seek out expat moms, except on the one local FB group. It's that those moms are receptive when I start chatting with them, which I do if I overhear anyone who sounds nice speaking French or English. Dutch people are just not... casually social.

The first few times DH was in Canada with me, he kept asking, "Why do people talk to me?" I told him, "People talk to each other here. It's a nice way to pass the time." The last time we were there, he said he'd gotten used to people over there. He was pushing DD on a (free!) playground and some random dad was also pushing his kid so they started chatting, and DH knew there was no point to the conversation. He enjoyed chatting just to be friendly, with no actual objective. This is not a Dutch concept!!

Acratopotes's picture

Moe - DD obedient...well behaved.. really :? :? What did you do with my little fire child giving you hell day in and day out... like only a 3 year old can ... Biggrin

Nah this woman is using you and you are using her, this will not become a friendship, I suggest you tell her, lets meet in the park.... this way you can meet other parents, with kids same age as my little Phoenix, kids will play and adults will chat away.....

I feel for E... cause he will always be in M's shadow , DD is rather playing with E, and this is why the mother invites you for play dates, DD is baby sitting her youngest while she spends time with her beloved spoiled M and you are there to observe them all, sort of keep an eye out....

Have you thought about enrolling DD in a daycare school for 2-3 days a week... this way she socialize with her age, you have a break and you both will meet other people

moeilijk's picture

Acra, DD is a hugely challenging kid, really demanding and needs a lot of direction and attention. But, she is obedient. At least, for the most part. She will ask why or sometimes want her way first... and I've had to figure out how to handle that without making it a battle of wills. But once I explain something to her, she accepts it and doesn't do what she knows is not allowed (in general, she is struggling with hitting when she loses her temper, but yeah, she's 3.5, so it's normal, lol.)

I think you're right. The mom only wants to make time with me because M likes DD. But I'm just not willing to spend my time doing stuff I don't enjoy. What a waste! E is a darling kid, DD seems to enjoy playing with him much more than with M, but talks about M more.

DD goes to daycare 2 half-days per week. She's now among the oldest kids, since kids stream into school at age 4 over here. It's getting a bit boring for her, but she's starting school herself mid-December so I keep her busy with lots of challenges and playdates (with moms I like!).

moeilijk's picture

So, you were a stay-at-home mom, and spent all day every day with your children, but never ever did anything except take care of them, support them and (help them) fulfil their needs? You never sought out anything for yourself out of your life, unless it was the odd evening out? How did you ever have anything to do on those odd evenings out, if you didn't have any friends or any hobbies?

It sounds like you think you're better than me. I wonder why you would think that?

It sounds like this mom is like you. All about her kid. Which is ok, but not my style. And I'm kind of glad I'm not raising another kid who thinks the world revolves around her, there are enough of them and they're annoying. Like M.

My kid is awake 13 hours per day. I am awake 15 hours most days. I like to spend those two hours with my wonderful DH or relaxing. During the day, I take DD with me if I go to the gym, if I visit friends, if I run errands. I share my life with her. I don't create a fantasy environment where everything is centered around her. She has that 2 half-days per week when she goes to day-care, where everything is safe and kid-oriented and all about helping kids be kids, together.

I'm not so invested in what this mom likes or dislikes, except if she wants to spend time with me, we need to find some common ground. If she doesn't want to do activities I enjoy, and she feels like spending time with me causes her to do things she doesn't like such as packing the kids up or missing nap times, and she doesn't even want to be friends with me, then I find it truly bizarre that she reaches out to me to spend time together.

I guess it's like HeavenLike suggested above - life is too short to waste my precious time and energy on people and events I don't enjoy. I think the currently planned play date will be the last one I do.

moeilijk's picture

Ok. Because I asked for thoughts about my situation. I can see yours was very different, and I'm open to your perspective, but I wasn't asking for you to talk about your situation. Especially since you also sound like you didn't like your situation much - that's not really something to aspire to, you know?

When I invited the mom to do yoga, I thought she'd accept if she wanted to do yoga or if she wanted to spend time with 'me' (not really me, since you are not supposed to be chit-chatting...). But she didn't accept, and said it was because M couldn't be expected to play at the childcare at the gym.

So from my perspective, I expressed how I find this frustrating and don't really understand what's going on in terms of what this mom is 'really' saying. And I asked for ideas about how to move forward. You replied about how your values were all about what you thought your kids needed. So I understood you to say that I should only consider what is best for my kid and that my value, of enjoying myself too, should not be considered. But now you're saying that you were just sharing your experience, which was also based on being controlled and not actually based on your own personal values.

That's totally fine, but it's really not responsive. Nor was it clear that's what you were doing.

If DD3 was older, I would facilitate her friendship with M because I wouldn't need to be there. And if the mom was ok with M coming over here, that would last exactly as long as M could follow the rules - although I can't imagine the mom being ok with that for some years yet. I have had DH do playdates a couple of times, but he also finds the parents annoying. TBH, the dad is worse than the mom, lol!

I actually think this mom likes me and would like to be friends, but is mostly motivated in life by what she thinks M might want, so that distracts her. And because I'm very different, I guess she doesn't really know what to make of that.

One my mom-friends, who I've known about 6 months longer than this mom, is much more like me in terms of parenting. We come over, the girls go upstairs, one or the other or both comes down if things deteriorate, but mostly we drink coffee and chat. Unless there's a REALLY loud noise. If the girls are playing downstairs or outside, same thing, except they interrupt more often and she says, "If you can't get along, I can put the toy away." Or I say, "If you can't have fun together, you can play on your own for a while."

When M & E's mom comes over, it takes 20 minutes to 'convince' M to take off her shoes. I've usually helped E and he and DD are playing by now. The next 20-45 minutes are M sitting on her mom's lap, refusing to play and the mom trying to convince her to play. I make tea. DD and E play. The next 10-30 minutes are M playing on her own with DD's toys, refusing to play *with* DD and E. I offer a snack, DD and E play. Then M joins in playing for about 10 minutes, and the mom notices it's time to go home. 10-15 minutes to convince M it's time to go home, and off they go. Fuuuuuunnnnn. Not.

moeilijk's picture

I have very limited energy. I very rarely do more of an evening than sit and surf or watch tv or read or study.

It can be very difficult for others to understand, but if you remember how you felt the last time you had a really bad cold - not quite feverish, but definitely not up to more than sitting on the sofa and blowing your nose, well... that's me every day. On those days, you would call in sick, cancel appointments, and let non-emergency tasks slide. In the past decade I have only made appointments in the evening on every other or every third Saturday evening, when I can for sure sleep in the day of and the day after.

It may be a cultural difference, but over here (Netherlands), no one leaves their child alone for a playdate until at least age 4, more likely age 5 or 6. DD is 3.5, so we're not there yet.

M is sort-of shy. Mostly, her parents don't expect anything of her and indulge her at every turn. I know some kids are shy. My kid is shy. If the tables were turned, I would help M adapt to new situations by giving her more new situations and preparing her for them in a positive way, praising the new skills she develops, and expecting that she will learn. I know I could never have the whole picture, but I've seen and interacted with M when her parents aren't around (daycare) and she's sociable and relaxed. Yes, familiar-ish environment probably played a role... too.

For example, I wasn't sure but I thought the regular person at the childcare at the gym today might be on vacation. So yesterday I mentioned to DD that it might not be the regular lady. Then this morning I mentioned it again, a few times. When we were walking in, I mentioned it again. Then, when DD was shy once we did introductions, I just stood there for a bit, holding hands with DD until she felt comfortable. I was relaxed and comfortable with the new lady, and didn't really explore DD feeling shy, just allowed it and showed that I expected it to pass. There have been times that DD really takes 15-30 minutes to adjust to new people or environments, sometimes hiding or being upset as well. So I offer comfort, but don't change plans. DD is not in charge, I'm in charge. I'm nice, and we do lots of things that DD likes, but I like to do yoga so I expect that to be possible.