A mothers' day observation:
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus I'm not sure where moms are from. I have noticed that there is a fairly complex and subtle communication process between moms when trying to negotiate playdates, sleepovers, and carpools and I think that most dads are not attuned to it. That is why if a kid has stayed at your house through not one but two meal times without a phone call from home you can pretty much assume that mom is gone for the weekend and has left dad in charge. Dads are all about the status quo and see no need to call the neighbor's house to ask a few sublte questions to find out if little Suzy has overstayed her welcome. In fact, most dads are pretty much oblivious to the unspoken mom-to-mom communication rules that exist.
I know at our house, Jeff is aware that they exist but also aware that he doesn't really grasp them very well. Still, he's a good sport and gives it a try when called upon.
Take the other night when I was going out for dinner with friends. As I left the house Lilly looked at me with panic and said, "But you can't go! I need to set up a play date!" I pointed out to her that the man sitting at the kitchen counter, her father who runs a mid-sized company, was probably capable of taking care of that. He nodded affably--yep, he could do that. So I set off for dinner knowing that the issue was in competent hands. The problem was, I forgot that this was a first-time playdate which has a certain decorum attached to it because you need to assure the mother who has never met you that you are responsible and on top of things.
The next morning I asked how it went. According to eyewitnesses, here is how it looked:
First Lilly called her friend and invited her to play next week. Kate said yes and at this point, as is custom, handed the phone to her mom to finalize/authorize the transaction. Lilly handed the phone to Jeff who at that moment realized he did not, in fact, know how to set up a playdate. There was a protracted silence on both ends of the line and finally Jeff said, "Hello, Kate's mom?"
"Um, I guess we're setting up a playdate. Bear with me, I don't usually do this."
Kate's Mom, laughing nervously as she realizes she's been stuck talking to the second-in-command, "Oh, that's alright."
Jeff,"Okay, let's see --what do we need to do to make a playdate? Well, let's start with a date."
"Yes, the girls were talking about next Tuesday."
"Okay, and we need to know how they will get home. Can Kate take the bus home with Lilly?"
Now Jeff had committed a major playdate blunder--Lilly does not take the bus--she walks to school. In fact, she has walked to school for nearly a year but this tiny detail has escaped him. The blunder?--by revealing his lack of knowledge in his own daughter's life, he shows the potential playdate's mother that he is not a very involved parent, thus sending up a red flag for her as she decides whether or not she wants to entrust her child with us.
Lilly, who knows a social faux pas when she sees one smacks her forehead with her palm and hisses at her father, "I don't take the bus!!"
To his credit, Jeff immediately realizes his gaffe and the depth of his crime, "Oh, ha, ha," he says trying to laugh it off, "My other kids take the bus, I must have gotten confused," and he resists the temptation to show just how much he really knows about Lilly by spouting the name of her school and teacher (which is a good thing because he can do neither) and moves on to finish up the transaction by exchanging cell phone numbers and establishing a pick-up time.
All's well that ends well and the playdate went off without a hitch but I learned a lesson. If I'm going to leave it up to Jeff I'm going to have to give him just a little more direction on the unspoken rules of the mom world. I'm hoping that if all goes well and he pays attention he may graduate to being able to set up a sleepover! But that might be a little ambitious.
Anyway, I want to wish a Happy Mothers' Day to everyone out there who knows just how to set up a first-time playdate, a sleep-over for tweeners, and a complicated, two-stop, three-neighbor-kid car pool without missing a beat.