What Bugs Me About Play Dates

What Bugs Me About Play Dates

I recently read a statistic that in a baby’s first year they’ll contract 6-12 infections that will last 7-10 days each. That’s roughly once a month that I can count on my kid contracting whatever hot new bug the kids are passing around at the time. My neighborhood mom group jokingly calls them BTD’s (Baby Transmitted Diseases).

Boogie caught her first cold from a play date which led to her first ear infection. Then the ear infection came back less than a month later, and it took two (more) rounds of antibiotics to send it back to hell.

She caught a rowdy stomach bug at a Valentine’s Day play date, which led her to vomit all over a friend’s vacation condo the following day and poop on a previously adoring stranger.

More recently, we thought we were in for another ear infection due to a fever, but turns out it was Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (!!!). Cue a ten-day self-imposed quarantine and then we happily came out yesterday to a field trip on a beautifully bucolic farm with a dozen or so other mom/baby pairs.

We learned about permaculture, rainwater harvesting, and habits of chickens. We ate homemade whole wheat pistachio macarons. It was spectacular.

The picnic lunch during which the babies stole one another’s toys and slobbered on each other’s water bottles triggered a small, quiet terror in the back of my mind, but I didn’t want to be “that mom.”

That mom” who silently grits her teeth at the sound of a coughing child sitting next to yours. “It’s cool. It’s cool,” we tell ourselves while diverting our googly eyes as the cough-y baby reaches for your baby’s pacifier. “Sharing immunity, or whatever. GAH!” Aren’t we all secretly “that mom,” though, or have I just not been momming long enough?

And I get it about the sharing immunity thing. I feel like Boogie’s neighborhood friends have all shared each other’s bugs enough that they can play together without getting sick every week. It’s the getting sick part that sucks though.

So early this morning Boogie vomited. At 2 a.m. as I mentally went through the appearances of the children on the farm I remembered one child in particular who had extra green snot streaming from his nose. A kid we’d never met before. He was sitting next to Boogie. I’m sure they shared toys. Dammit.

So what bugs me about play dates is the lack of disclosure from some of these moms. Each time my child has gotten sick following a play date, I’ve contacted all of the mothers who attended to let them know. I call it the BTD Call of Shame.

After the V-Day stomach bug I worried that the mothers would think it was my child who was Patient Zero. But as I spoke with my family and friends about it they all agreed that it’s always the mom who doesn’t say anything who’s at fault. TRUTH, right? Something like eight other babies and five moms caught that same bug. We only learned that because I was the first to disclose Boogie’s symptoms to the group and others chimed in afterward. Would we have known otherwise?

I realize that we’re not always going to know that our child is sick at a play date, but if we do, it’s our duty and responsibility to disclose it to the other parents. We don’t know the condition of others’ immune systems—my sister, who has lupus, for example, has a very compromised immune system. A cold to us is not “just a cold” to her. I don’t take my sick kid to play dates or public play areas, and that keeps my conscience clear.

Look, the BTD Call of Shame sucks. But knowingly exposing others to your kid’s cooties is worse. Just own up and speak up, and hopefully others will respect you and your kid more for it.

UPDATE: Twelve hours later there was no vomit or diarrhea to speak of. I think it was just the one-time, middle-of-the-night freak vomit occurrence. Thank the lawd!

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