First-grade social scheduling for the socially inept parent

My younger son made a few friends in his kindergarten class last year, had one over for his birthday party, went to the birthday of another. But because I’m not very good at meeting people and thinking of the things that go with it, I didn’t keep the names or phone numbers of his friends’ parents. My son has told me he wants to have his friends over sometimes, and I’m looking for some guidance on how one does this sort of thing - my older son didn’t live with me during this phase of his growing up, so I haven’t the foggiest idea how it works nowadays. (When I was in first grade, my friend’s mom babysat me, so my social activities were just part of my day.)

At the birthday parties, the parents of the kids hung around while the kids did their thing. Does anyone drop their kids off for birthday parties or just to play at someone’s house for a bit on the weekend? Or does having my son’s friends come play mean I have to entertain their parents? Is there an age where that’s more appropriate or expected? How does the invitation process work for a play-date? I’m totally baffled by how to proceed with this.

I can’t tell from your post if you do the drop-off and/or pick-up for your son at school - if you do, that makes it undoubtedly easier, but it’s not impossible otherwise. The way it worked for me (my daughter has just finished her first year at school) involved a lot of lurking around, usually at pick up time. My daughter would identify someone she wanted to invite over, I would lurk a bit to spot the relevant parent, then I’d just approach them and introduce myself. It took a while before this happened - the first couple of months were just friendly hellos as we (the parents) passed each other at the school gates. I’d tend to be aware of the person as so-and-so’s mummy (or daddy or whatever) first of course, and approach them that way. You know, ‘hi, you’re Joe’s mum, aren’t you? I’m Charley, OldestDaugher’s mum’. From there you mention that the kids want to play together, fix up a date, exchange numbers etc. I find that an amused mention of the fact that ‘ha ha ha, I don’t even know your name! I only know you as Joe’s mum ha ha ha isn’t that funny?’ seems to break the ice, even though it’s the lamest, most predictable thing imaginable in the circumstances.

I am chronically shy with people I don’t know, and it’s hard to approach them, but I found that most people were in the same boat and at least we had the children in common. I wasn’t looking for friends, just other parents - although as it happened I’ve made some good friends this year.

Where either you or the other parent are not around after school, I found a note passed home with the other child works almost as well. Same lame joke, same subject matter etc. Here every child has a book bag that they use to transport stuff to and from school, and it’s quite common to have communications passed that way - I assume it’s similar where you are.

The contents of the playdate might be diferent where you are, but here (the UK) for children this age (5-6 this year) it’s almost always an after school till tea thing. Usually the hosting parent will pick my child up with their own, take them home and they will play and be fed. Either the hosting parent drops her off, or I pick her up from theirs, around 5.50-6.30 (school finishes at 3.15 for her). There have been a couple of weekend things, some after school trips as opposed to house playdates and so on, but they’ve been with children whose parents I’ve got to know, and never the first time. Some of the other parents are more cautious than I am, and have insisted on going over to the other party’s house in advance of the playdate to check it out, but I’ve never felt the need to do that. For this kind of playdate, in case it’s not clear, I’ve not been there. For arranged parties, I tend to stay - initially in case the whole atmosphere was a little overwhelming for my daughter, but for the last few months because it’s a nice opportunity to chat with the other parents and spend a couple of hours not attached to my younger daughter. We’ve also had a playdate with a younger girl (3) who we know from my childminder, where her mum did stay with her as she was a bit young to be left. We sat in the kitchen and drank tea whilst the girls disappeared upstairs.

That turned into a mammoth post :slight_smile: Hope it was helpful, at least.

For what it’s worth, I hate this stuff and never know how to go about it either.

I don’t like to have my kids just go over to a stranger’s (to me) house when they’re just 5. I prefer to set up playdates where I invite the other mom to come over for a cup of tea and we chat while the kids play. Once I get to know someone, it becomes one of us dropping a kid off at the other’s house for an hour or two after school, or if they’ve gotten along well in the past, for a longer playtime on the weekend.

Usually I call or e-mail the other parent using the info in our school directory. That thing is damn handy. And now that Chloe’s 9, she often sets something up with the other kid, and I just have to call and check that the other mom is OK with it.

I avoid having other people drive my kids around unless I’m confident my kid will be properly restrained. That means carting Chloe’s booster around, and Claire’s not ready for a booster yet, so basically I just drive her everywhere. All this makes things a little more awkward (It’s hard to avoid the subtext of “Hi, I see you drove up with your 8yo boosterless in the front seat - your parenting sucks and you can’t drive my kid around.”) and it’s more work too, but car safety is important to me, so I drive my kids to friends’ houses a lot.

Our school night standby has become the nearby neighbors. Nothing like sending the kids out the front door to engineer their own “play date.”

We don’t have a school directory and most of the kids ride buses so meeting in front of the school doesn’t work well.

What I’ve done is send a note to school in an envelope with a note clipped to the outside asking the teacher to put it in Hannah’s backpack. In the note I say that my kid would like to invite Hannah over to play and here are a thousand ways to contact me, contact me and we’ll set something up. I also include that we could meet to play at a playground. That way if they’re not willing to drop their child off at a stranger’s house the kids can still play. And by the end of the playground date you’re not strangers anymore.

When I send birthday party invitations I always include the line “feel free to drop off or stay with your child”. I don’t really remember it ever being a problem to drop my kids off at a party.

My wife usually has my son pass out invitations to the buddies that he wants to invite at school. The invite has all the relevant information on it about location and time of said birthday party. We usually get an RSVP and go from there. On the date of the party, the parents and kids usually show up and do their thing. It is terrifically awkward meeting all these strangers, but what can you do? I haven’t had any parents drop off their kids and take off yet, but then my son only just started the 2nd grade. Perhaps that is more likely to happen when they are older.

Our schools produce a school directory with addresses and contact info, so I usually just e-mail the parents of the kid in question. When we wanted to arrange a playdate with a kid who transferred in mid-year, I e-mailed the teacher to ask for her parents’ contact info. No problem. I do find the introductory e-mail awkward, though.

Standard playdates with school friends around here (DC suburbs) generally involve either the host parent walking the kids home from school, or, if the host kid is a bus rider, then both kids ride the bus home. My kids are walkers, and they think a bus ride is a tremendous treat. Except for one very awkward incident, I haven’t had a parent stay over with their kid during a playdate since the kids were 3ish. As for birthday parties, parent drop off becomes the norm in kindergarten around here.

Thanks for the suggestions. There’s a day-before-school starts social event coming up next week, so I’ll start actively stalking… er… trying to meet some target parents. And when that fails, I’ll go to notes in backpacks! :slight_smile: