For me, the play date is a funny thing. I grew up at a time where playing with a friend was just a Swatch Watch phone call and a few blocks on my Rollerblades away. Therefore, I find it odd to set up a time for my kids to play with their friends, days, even weeks, in advance.
Even so, I love this thing called the play date. It gives us something fun to do, gets us out of the house, and allows us connection. You know how some parents use the third-person pronoun “we” to talk about their kids? Like, “We got our first tooth!” or “We are a little grumpy today, aren’t we?” That’s not what I’m doing here. I say “us” in a literal sense. The play date doesn’t just meet needs in my kids, but it meets needs in me too. And anytime everyone’s needs get met at once…it’s pure bliss.
In the silly, fantasizing, sleep-deprived parts of my mind, I like to think of the play date as a celebrity outing. In the same way that I’d meet up with a fellow celeb at Tavern on the Green and escape the paparazzi with an inconspicuous stroll in Central Park, I meet up with a fellow mama or caretaker. We have a lovely picnic lunch, enjoy a nearby park, and stay incognito in our Old Navy workout pants and aviators. We discuss recipe successes and failures, books that we’re reading, goals that we have for the moment, and lessons that we’re learning. We’re so fabulous that we both have our own entourage of little people. Sure, they get noisy and needy at times, but such is the price of fame.
A few weeks ago, I had a play date with a friend who is quickly becoming one of my people. Bahahaha! Oh, dear. Freudian slip…I should say, “My kids had a play date.” Two beautiful boys and their mama came over to our house to play, and we had a blast! Fruit snack, super hero, ninja turtle, monster truck, and bounce house fun ensued!
About an hour in, against my better judgment, I found myself apologizing to my friend. “Please excuse the piles of laundry all over the house. I’m still catching up from being on vacation.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I wanted to take it back. I try not to make a practice out of apologizing for unjustified things like undone laundry, and I certainly don’t want my kids to overhear that sort of insecure, overly perfectionistic vomit come out of my mouth. But my gracious, gorgeous friend responded in the most delightful way imaginable.
“I’m just so glad you’re normal.”
Little did she know that she had just given me the Best.Compliment.Ever. She called me normal.
Before you jump down my throat with your best Juno impersonation (“Whoa…Dream big!”) allow me to explain. I spent way too many years, decades even, of my life trying to be perfect. It was a slow suicide of sorts because with each passing moment of pursuing perfection, the real me became nothing but an outlined figure in the rearview mirror. I was miserable.
I vowed to get rid of the perfectionism mindset, and normal became the goal.
By saying, “I’m just so glad you’re normal,” my friend said a whole lot more. She said to my heart, “I’m so glad we don’t have to pretend with each other.” “I’m glad I won’t leave here today feeling worse about myself.” “I’m glad that you feel like life is hard sometimes too.” “I’m glad that we’re on the same page.” “I’m glad that hanging out was more important than our to-do lists.”
And, just like that, she affirmed in me that I’m not the same girl I was years ago.
Perfectionism is a vulnerable issue for me. If I’m not careful, it can creep back in so easily. I am quick to believe the lie that being perfect is easier, more powerful, and more desirable. I get caught up in chasing the dragon, always looking for the newest way to blow average right out of the water. I know that if I present a perfect package to the world, it will limit my connectivity and keep people at a distance. Since I often feel unsafe and overly sensitive in this life, limited connection and thicker boundaries are oddly comforting.
Ultimately, I know better. Perfect doesn’t exist on this side of eternity. And any pursuit of perceived perfection, well, that’s just a homemade recipe for loneliness pie.
Therefore, I’m learning to be intentional in acting opposite to my perfectionistic instinct. I do this in gentle ways, knowing that I need to be at least somewhat put-together in order to be credible. So, if you see me at the grocery store or in the preschool pick-up line without make-up, it’s deliberate. And, if you ask me how I’m doing, and I give you a response other than, “I’m good; how are you?” I’m doing that on purpose. And, if you get a text from me, and it has a misspelling or faulty punctuation, that’s likely intended, even though it makes me cringe every single time. Remember: recovering from perfectionism is a process, and I can always count on Siri to help me in that. And, if you text me to set up a play date, I promise you I’ll do my very best to be normal. But be forewarned: I can’t say the same for my entourage. They’re part daddy!