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Play Date Mismatch

My 2-year-old daughter is pretty much smack in the middle of the road when it comes to temperament and behavior – really – even her teachers say so. She’s not difficult, but is spunky. She’s never a terror, but can be impish. She throws the occasional tantrum, but it’s not an everyday occurrence. She’s most certainly not laid back, but can usually be reasoned with. But just when I was feeling full of confidence about our parenting of this “middle of the pack” little girl, I took a poorly calculated risk and accepted an afternoon playdate at the mall, capped off with dinner at a restaurant, with one of her best friends from school and all four parents.

My daughter has two terrific friends at the center, one boy and one girl. They are three peas in a pod, with three very different personalities. Had the little boy’s mom invited us for dinner out, it would have been all hands on deck to keep both kids in their seats, and I would have felt we’d have been on an even playing field. Instead we were with this little girl who is a model of good behavior, even at just 2 years old. She can run around the halls of the mall laughing and giggling with the best of them, and then when it comes time to wait for a table, wait for the food, eat and then wait for the bill, she sits patiently, quietly content to draw pictures, pick at her pasta and examine a spoon. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted run through the maze of tables, patrons and waitstaff while the hostess tried to seat us. She was doing gymnastics on our side of the booth, trying to climb over the bench, under the table, and everywhere else. My husband and I appeared to be in yoga poses as we twisted and turned ourselves to keep our daughter in one place while making a feeble attempt to eat our own meals. Crayons kept her occupied for 30 seconds while books became Frisbees and food was of no interest. Across the table, our dining companions were calmly eating, sharing food and conversation. They were even relaxed enough to order dessert – albeit to go. Had we been alone, I wouldn’t have considered my daughter’s behavior to be unreasonable for a toddler, but compared to our company I felt like I just got a world class drubbing in the game of public parenting. I think my ego will take a spot on the injured reserve before looking for a rematch.

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