Playdate Success {hope for this weary mom}

Playdate. The very word sends a shiver up the spine of any mom who is raising a strong-willed toddler. I am no exception. I actually have nightmares about playdates. Graham burned down a house. Seems irrational,  but it could happen. I awoke in a pool of sweat and prayed no one would ask us over. Then, halfway through the next day, I was praying someone would ask us over. I needed a break.

Graham is in my care 165.5 of the 168 hours in a week. I am told by his Sunday School teachers that he is good the 2.5 hours they have him. Actually, that is what they tell my husband…he does Graham pick-up. I have taught nursery-6th grade for 10+ years. If I picked up Graham, I would be able to see it in their eyes. I would know if he was actually good, neutral, or bad. We teachers often use the term, “Had a rough morning.” We haven’t been told that in about a year, so I am going to assume he is good. Or at least neutral.

The stay-at-home moms in our Life Group have a Tuesday playdate. I decided I wasn’t going to go. We are still new to the group. These people don’t realize just how trying Graham can be. Most people don’t understand how strong-willed children behave when they are at their worst. It is not something you can share without sounding like a totally incompetent mother. Only a fellow comrade in the strong-willed army can truly comprehend the embarrassment. So, we didn’t go.

Two weeks ago, I decided we were going to at least make an attempt. I needed some time with other moms. Graham and Adelaide needed some playtime with other kids. We role-played being in another person’s house. We discussed behavior and consequences. We packed everything we would need. We arrived only 4 minutes late. I couldn’t find my keys…which we have already discussed in a previous post. {Editor’s note: Keys have  been on the key rack at all times since November 2nd!} Graham immediately went to the toys. He was so excited to be anywhere but home. Too excited.

Once the other kids arrived, my nightmare – minus the fire – came true. Graham was pushing, yelling, throwing toys, hitting, hollering (yes, that is different than yelling), arguing, shouting (yes, that is different than yelling and hollering), and talking back to other moms. I was consistent with my discipline. I did everything Dr. Dobson would say to do…I was practically reading the script. Other moms even corrected Graham. That is when you die of embarrassment. When it was time to go, I packed up all our stuff. I hid tears, because I knew the other moms wouldn’t understand. Their kids also got into trouble. And stopped the first time they were corrected. Graham was disciplined 12 times in 2 hours. He was spanked in a stranger’s bathroom. Another mom actually showed me where to find her wooden spoons, because she {rightly} assumed I would need to borrow one. So, I died a second time. As I was leaving and someone said, “See you next week!” I was thinking, “No, you won’t! You are all too nice and your kids are too good. My child will eat your children, like some sort of troll living under a bridge.” I cried all the way home. I called Dave sobbing and a left a desperate message. I texted my friend, Heather, and told her I could never go back. I was done. The kids fell asleep on the way home. We all sat in the van for 30 minutes, while I cried and read my Bible. I felt so defeated. So weary.

Once inside, I put on a movie for Graham and researched strong-willed toddlers and playdates. I was looking for something to change my mind. Maybe a silver bullet? I just needed one person to say it *could* be better next time. I found a Parenting Magazine article.

One strong-willed child is an interesting challenge. Two strong-willed children makes for a tough playdate. So play matchmaker. Maybe your bossy girl is more comfortable playing with kids who are younger and will let her call the shots. Or perhaps she finds it easier to play with older kids, who are indisputably in charge. While playdates are a way to teach sharing, there’s no need to make them extra hard by having two kids with personalities that don’t match.

Great. I was making it “extra hard” for everyone else. I told my Mom I was going to schedule Adelaide’s physical therapy at that time. Easy out. No one would ever know why I was never coming back to Tuesday playdate. She told me he needed practice. He needed time. He needed a time-out mat. So, I had some practical tools for the playdate, and some encouragement, but I still needed a fix for the despair. I felt like a bad mom. I felt like I was coaching the losing team. I was responsible for the traveling Ballew circus arriving on a Tuesday morning and destroying a perfectly good playdate. We were doomed to stay home forever. Dramatic? Yes. My true feelings? Yes times two.

So, I downloaded a book. Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess. Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin had me hooked with the title. Graham wasn’t the only one “having a rough morning” at playdate. I was a mess on the inside. I was comparing myself to every other mom there. I was convinced I was completely alone. I was grieving Adelaide’s lost milestones. Her friend was walking, picking up toys, riding on toys, and bouncing on a trampoline. Adelaide was sitting in my lap. Not even able to sit on the couch by herself. A younger friend was learning to crawl. I was broken. I wasn’t mom enough to parent Graham and Adelaide. Graham needed the strongest mom around, and Adelaide needed a strong mom for entirely different reasons.

I read the introduction and bawled. I read the first chapter and bawled some more. My favorite line from Chapter 1:

There is always someone prettier, skinnier, and more together than me. Surely, that mom is available. She probably even has an app on her phone that keeps her mess in check. 

This was a lie Stacey told herself. It was the same lie I told myself. My kids needed a better mom than me. Lie. We couldn’t even go to playdates, because we were a mess. Lie. I read Chapters 2-10 in one sitting. I read funny stories from moms in the trenches. I read heart-breaking stories of moms who had suffered great loss. I read Scripture. I read Truth. I read a book that didn’t rhyme. I allowed God to work in my messy heart.

Hope for the Weary Mom showed me the importance of Tuesday playdate. It was crucial for  my spiritual health to be around other moms going through the same chapter of life. Their children may be better behaved, but they are still children…with their own messes. I don’t have it all together, but I am the Mom God has chosen for my children. I train them up the best I can, always learning better ways and becoming a stronger mom, but they will make their own choices in life. I am not a good mom because my child is great at a playdate. I am a good mom because I am faithful to follow God’s commands, heed the Spirit, teach them about Jesus, trust in His promises, and pray for my amazing little blessings. I am a good mom because I keep going…even when I am so weary I don’t think I can nurse one more time or clean up one more pottytraining mess. I am a good mom because He makes me a good mom.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-12 (ESV)

Wasn’t this supposed to be about playdates? Yes. We went back to playdate on Tuesday. Graham was great. He obeyed. He played nicely. He even went outside in an open backyard sans Mommy. For the first time. I watched from the kitchen, fighting the urge to go out and check on him every 45 seconds. He did need some redirecting. He did have some toys taken away. He did tell another mom to “Stop talking!” but my attitude made all the difference. I had hope…even in our mess. 

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8 thoughts on “Playdate Success {hope for this weary mom}

  1. Oh how I love this post! Thank you for taking us on your play date and letting us go from weariness to hope with you! This is life, this is God meeting us right in the middle of our messy days and us letting Him move in our hearts, make us like Him and move through it not getting stuck!

    Praying for you!

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  2. Elise says:

    I just love you Lyndse. I love your willingness to be open. You’re amazing. Hang in there. And wow…how cool are you, the author of the book messaged you!

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  3. Suzanne says:

    Oh how unfortunately I related to what you shared. We have 6 kiddos. When #5 gave me 9 months of scares & horrible sickness before he even arrived I should have been better prepared. This child, started life mad. Temper as red as his hair. Even the nurse that bathed him said she had never seen a baby with such a temper. Awesome. Just what I was hoping for. He is now 2. I still attempt taking him places however I can only face the stares so many times as he screams thru the store in protest of the cart. At a bday party this past weekend he scratched a little boys face! I’ve long said we learn long suffering thru marriage and humility thru kids. He alone makes me weary.

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    • Lyndse says:

      Suzanne,
      Praying for you! We have had one successful playdate this week, and left the other one because Graham wouldn’t stop punching people. Redirections, timeouts, and spankings were doing nothing. We mamas of strong-willed little ones understand one another in these trenches. Love you!

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  4. Amy says:

    I really needed to read this today… being a mom of two very active children both with a strong willed streak (the little one more so than his sister) i could relate when you were talking about other moms not understanding how to deal with your kids…. I just bought the book on Amazon and am looking forward to start reading it :)

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