Does Not Playdate Well with Others

I’m doing playdates (for my children) wrong, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Two recent examples:
At Flora’s request, I invited one of her classmates to the house one Sunday. I picked the girl up, and first we went out to lunch. Kate was with us, too. Flora and her classmate huddled together over her DSi at the restaurant, and giggled about stuff (and picked at their lunches). Kate didn’t seem to mind very much. She wasn’t too wild or whiny, and she ate quite well.

Once we got home, something changed. The classmate didn’t want to do what Flora wanted to do; Flora didn’t want to do with the classmate wanted to do; and suddenly, the classmate and Kate were playing together more.

This didn’t sit well with Flora. As you can imagine. Dan and I were left managing our older daughter’s emotions about the situation.

The second example was less about what happened on the playdate, than what happened before. I actually know why I got blowback on this one. I had committed the girls to a playdate and sleepover, and, frankly, they didn’t want to go. It had nothing to do with the little girl (who is between Kate and Flora in age; she’s in first grade, and isn’t a classmate, but a neighbor); it had to do with activity burnout (we are terribly busy), the weather (they wanted to hunker down with me and Dan), and the fact that *I* had committed them to something without asking. So I know how to deal with that in the future.

After asking them to please do me this favor, go on this playdate, they did agree to, and they did seem to have a good time. They came home Sunday excited about the neighbor’s Xbox and hopped up on Sour Patch Kids. The condition was that I wouldn’t commit them to such things in the future without asking. They can say no. I think that’s pretty fair.

I’m not sure *what* to do in the first scenario. Stop having playdates, of course, is an option. I don’t invite kids over so that I have another little person to supervise. I actually am open to playdates to reduce the number of children I have to supervise — my assumption being that two or three little people will play together, and I will have one or two children to supervise or occupy. That day, I was thinking of stuff to do with Kate while Flora and her classmate played games or something. When that didn’t happen I was caught quite flatfooted.

Of course, there are logistical difficulties in our house right now. We are engaged in demolishing and rebuilding our basement (a project we expect to take months) to turn it into one large area, a great deal of it set aside for our children (and their toys). So the girls can play in their room (which I’m okay with as long as there’s no bed jumping — which, fat chance), or in the front room (where all the toys and the TV are now), or in the kitchen at the table. If M is awake, they like to go to their room… and close the door, which, again, I can’t blame them for. M has to learn that the girls have their own space and he doesn’t have to be included in all their activities.

I also understand that sometimes three is a crowd, that it’s easier or more desirable sometimes to just play with two rather than three. I see this with my daughters all the time. (Does this happen with boys? Is it an age thing? Kate and Flora are only 27 months apart.) When Niece comes over, sometimes tempers flare when all three girls aren’t on the same page — worse when two are and one is left out. I’m not sure if there’s anything to do about this except to tell the one to deal with it and/or offer an alternative activity.

Do you do playdates? Are you good at them? Any advice or commiseration for this mom?