How To Navigate Play Dates With A Vegan
by Brenna Jeanneret
Ever thought about navigating play dates with a vegan?
“It’s ok,” I tell myself, “it’s only been two days.” I pick up my phone and check my texts and Facebook messages one more time just to make sure.
Nothing. I try to put it out of my mind but I keep replaying the date in my head.
I was nice, right? Charming? Funny, but not obnoxious.
Was my departure too abrupt? Did I stay too long? Did I talk too much?
My one-year-old son and I had a playdate last week and even though the whole experience was set up for him to make friends and help him develop socially, let’s be honest, that’s kind of what I was going for too. I found that after having my son the extent of my social circle shrank to include me, my husband, and my son. Even though I am lucky enough to consider my husband my best friend, the three of us have spent so much time together that we are starting to interact with each other the same we interact with my son. The other night when I asked my husband what he wanted for dinner he started a game of peek-a-boo with me! Without missing a beat I responded with my surprised face and said “uh oh!” This is a ridiculous, and hilarious way for a married couple to communicate.
Needless to say, I don’t think a few mom-friends would hurt, and if nothing else, it would at least get me back to speaking in full and complete sentences. I figured finding mom friends would be easy. “I have a kid, you have a kid, let’s be best friends!” I was wrong. Since my son is only one, he doesn’t really have a discerning check-list of traits he’s looking for in a playmate. I mean, at this age they don’t really even interact. They just play next to each other. It may or may not even be in the same room. Parallel Play, if you want to get technical.
The point is, the purpose of the playdate is for the mom’s (or dad’s) to get to know each other, form a connection, figure out if they have anything in common or at the very least, can they stand each for about an hour a week so their kids can get together and play in the same area with different toys while being mildly aware of each other? If you read that and thought it sounded like dating, you’d be right. It’s just like that. Only worse, because this time around it’s not just for me. I’m putting myself out there, being vulnerable, risking all dignity to get a laugh from some kid I don’t even know by speaking baby talk and I’m doing it all just to be ghosted! (That’s right, I’ve decided I’m cool enough to use that term. I’m trying a lot of new things lately.)
Before I go any further let me classify what I mean by a “successful” meet up
- First, for lack of a better term, it is not just a one-day-stand. Meaning, there is a second one.
- Second, we make future plans and they are actually followed through with. Not just texting to cancel, reschedule and repeat.
- Third, our kids are close enough in age that they generally enjoy the same outings.
After I recovered from being ghosted and several other failed play dates, we actually made some friends! It’s been great so far, but we are trying to play it cool and not seem too eager. We have gone to the park together, some other outdoor places and are planning to meet up next week. The best part is, I’m not the one putting in all the effort, desperately trying to make friends for my little guy so he doesn’t grow up an isolated weirdo! It seems to be mutual, so far. I am still left with a bit of anxiety though. There is still one thing that hasn’t come up. One hurdle we haven’t addressed.
When should I tell her we’re vegan?
Are we at that point in our relationship yet? How serious are we? I have found this to be an extra piece of the puzzle to sort out in setting up playdates and navigating play dates with a vegan. It’s bound to come up at some point because so much of a toddlers life (and the rest of us) revolves around food so it seems to be harder to set up play dates with other vegan families. Snacks if they’re upset, snacks in the car, snacks as a distraction, snacks before snacks. Plus, we are teaching them how to share that is age. It’s simple math here, lots of snacks plus sharing. You get it. If I tell them right up front, it comes off as awkward and abrupt. “Hi, I’m Beth and this my daughter Sheila. What’s your name?” “Ahhh, we’re vegans ok! I can’t eat your beef sticks and my son can’t share your string cheese but we love to play outside, chase birds and draw with chalk and we still really want to be your friends!” So, panic. Sheer panic. That’s what happens.
However, I’ve found the longer I wait to tell them the more shocking it seems. You can almost see the betrayal on their faces. The most difficult thing I’ve found is that when it does come up, sometimes it’s taken personally. I’m trying to make friends here, not push them away and alienate them, so you can see how this might be contrary to my end goal. This news tends to put a lot of people on the defensive and I get it. Food is a big deal. It’s comforting, it’s part of your family culture, it’s celebratory and its survival. By saying that I have chosen to eat vegan it’s one more small step to the left to feel like your whole lifestyle has just been insulted. Of course, I’d love for everyone to be an animal advocate but the reality is that’s just not how everyone sees the world. I am sure there are lots of people out there who disagree with me and how I see things, but I’ve found if I don’t lecture people about it and simply eat the way I always do it tends to start a conversation. It creates a way to ask questions and sometimes even changes people’s minds.
For right now, I am a new mom, in a new city trying to make friends for myself and my little guy and trying to set up play dates with a vegan. It’s stressful and I am doing the best I can. Being a vegan in a small Midwestern town has added a bit of challenge to the whole situation but I’ll keep trying. I’ll try mom dating sites (if they exist), I’ll try a speed playdate, I’ll even try out a few pick up lines at the swingset if I have to. In the meantime, here’s hoping our next play dates with a vegan family! I know you’re out there.
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Tags: friends with kids, making friends, parenting advice, parenting questions, play dates, play dates with a vegan, social settings, socializing, toddlers