And They Canceled AGAIN

We are lucky to have quite a few lovely sets of mama/kid friends.  Since I have a flexible work schedule and tend to keep a somewhat neat-ish house, the play dates usually happen at our place.  I'm most often the one to reach out with ideas and invitations plus I'm often the one prep-cleaning and setting up as well as cleaning up after.  This set-up isn't balanced and I was frustrated by this at first as a new mom, but I think it is just reality in today's busy world.  I have an only child (second grader) and the world isn't such that kids can wander their neighborhoods anymore, so this is the new reality.  What IS frustrating, though, is that it seems like we get many enthusiastic yes-reponses and then people often cancel last minute or fail to show.  More than once this summer we'd have ten or so yes RSVPs that then dwindled to none actually attending in mere hours.  If we had known earlier, we could have made other plans.  Depending on the activity, my kid is bummed or crushed by all the no-shows.  I am okay with my kid being disappointed sometimes.  That's life.  But I don't think my mama friends who are joiners rather than instigators understand how it feels and I'm tired of how often it happens.  When we get an invite, I check our calendar to make sure we aren't overextended and to try to anticipate if my child will be too tired from a previous activity.  If I think it will work fine, I then give my kid a choice about participating and RSVP accordingly.  When the time comes, we only cancel if there's illness or something important/unforseen.  If my kid is tired or not-so-interested when the time comes, we honor our commitment but simply don't stay as long.  I think this is simply polite, but am I just old fashioned?  And am I not considering how other cultures function?  I'd like to speak up and let them know we'd appreciate if they would RSVP more thoughtfully, but am not sure how to do that without sounding preachy.  Thanks for any insights and advice!

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RE: And They Canceled AGAIN ()

Maybe put less work into the playdates? By second grade, I think the parental role can dwindle to providing snacks and supervision, and there shouldn't be a lot of prep or cleanup.  I do think it is really difficult when you plan on someone coming over (and maybe even turn down other invitations that you get later) and then they cancel at the last minute.  If someone is a repeat offender in this area, they aren't likely to change. They just don't think about this from the point of view of the host. They just think what they want to do and what works for them.  For those people, I'd suggest meeting at the park, or going to the movies, or doing something where you can still have fun with your kid even if they don't show up.  And I also think it's OK to say "Oh, I'm so disappointed you can't make it. I've been looking forward to it." But, honestly, I'd see less of people who treated me like this. If you aren't close enough to say "I hate it when you cancel at the last minute - please don't say 'yes' unless you really mean it" - how close are you? 

RE: And They Canceled AGAIN ()

I only give flakes two chances and then they stop getting invited. We do have one family who cancels a lot but we really like them so we keep giving them more chances. But I always tell my son that we might do something with them but not to get too excited until it's actually happening. He understands. If I was hosting parties at my house (a playdate for 10 is a party in my mind) and no one came, I'd stop planning them. People here suck about these kinds of things. Kids do get sick, have meltdowns, etc. and everyone does cancel sometimes. But that's different than making a commitment and then bailing for a better offer. People who do that are not my kind of people and I stop spending time with them. It's not behavior that I want modelled for my son and I really don't want him to think that it's okay to do that. I would not waste your breath on giving feedback to them. That will just create an awkward situation and they won't change. I'd just stop inviting them. If they were to ask why they weren't invited, I'd just say that I got the impression that they weren't interested in coming but that I'd be happy to put them back on the list for future events.

You are not old fashioned, you're awesome! We would show up for sure (or give you plenty of notice if we couldn't).

RE: And They Canceled AGAIN ()

Hi, 

I like hosting play dates too & the cancellations you're talking about are really a bummer. I think it's reasonable to say to your friend, "My daughter was really disappointed when you had to cancel. She cried & I didn't know how to explain it to her." Parents can forget that kids get hurt this way. 

By now I know which parents are flaky, and my kids know which play dates are iffy & they don't feel as bad.

Another thought, if I read your post correctly, you had invited 10+ kids to a playdate? That sounds really hectic -- maybe some kids don't do well in such a big group, or parents think their child's absence won't be a big deal in such a crowd.

For second graders, 1:1 was better for my girl. I didn't plan anything, except to have snacks around & intervene if someone was mean. And the kids clean up together at the end of the play date (otherwise my daughter has to clean up by herself). 

RE: And They Canceled AGAIN ()

*Sigh*.  You're one of the good ones.  Not a lot of us out there.  Commend yourself for keeping up your end of the bargain.  As a single, working mother of one child, I discovered early on that I was going to be the one to make (a herculean) effort to keep the social fires burning. I came up with a group jaunt or play date activity, and devised countless play dates whereby I hosted the other family's child(ren).  After doing this regularly for 8 years, by second grade I got kind of tired and backed off some.  You know what happened?  Parents started asking me what I had planned, then they started stepping up to the plate. Here's what worked for me: (1) I never held the group play dates at my home, because I couldn't afford the prep and clean up time; I just chose a park or interesting location, where everyone brought their own food or we could purchase something.  So much easier just to jump in the car and go. (2) I invited individual children on play dates (those I could have at my home or elsewhere), and eventually parents started reciprocating.  As for the no-shows, the more they read things like this in BPN, the more they will get the message that it is discourteous to not RSVP, and unforgivable to not show up (without good reason) after you have RSVP'd 'yes'.   And a special note to dual parent families: your single parent friends are lonely, tired, and feel dejected.  Please remember to include us and occasionally be the one to come up with a plan.  We will thank you heartily!

RE: And They Canceled AGAIN ()

It sounds like what you have is more of a social group than a playdate.  It's harder to coordinate with a bigger group of people as opposed to a play date with only one other kid. But it's not impossible, and there are a lot of benefits to having regular social get-togethers. I have been hosting weekly get-togethers at my house for years (my kids are older so now it's more about parents socializing while the big kids amuse themselves).  I've also organized a bunch of ongoing playdates, multi-family travel and camping, and a long-term babysitting co-op. Here is what I have learned: 

  1. Most people are not as organized as I am. They are happy to participate but they don't want to run the show.  So I do it and I don't mind doing it.  I don't mind hosting either - we have the biggest space.  Everyone brings food and everyone helps with the clean-up afterwards so it's not a huge chore for me.
  2. You need to have at least a couple of dependable regulars for your group to work.  If you don't, re-think your group. Is the time commitment too much or the frequency too often? Do you need to change the activities? Are people just not that in to it?
  3. Have a regular meeting time. Could be once a month or once a week. Get a consensus about the best time, especially from the dependable regulars. We have a google calendar because over the summer people are gone and we meet less often, so in theory everyone knows ahead of time when we are getting together.  Also you can keep track of who is away so you can skip dates where you don't have a quorum.
  4. Always send an email reminder a few days before the event.  This is important. Individually follow up with people who don't respond within a day.
  5. RSVP's: In our group of 5 families there are 2 families who always RSVP immediately and can be relied on to come if they say they will.  The 3 other families typically wait until the last minute to respond. Sometimes they show up without having responded.  However, this improves over time - see #7.
  6.  A day or two before the event, I follow up with individual people who have not RSVP'd yet.  After you do this a few times they either start RSVP'ing sooner or they give you a clear signal that they can't make the commitment and you can stop inviting them.
  7. This social group is so important to me and my husband that we just accept the fact that some people that we love can be flakey. On the upside, I have found that as time goes by, the group becomes more important for everybody, and they are more motivated to participate and RSVP more quickly. When new families have joined the group, there is always an adjustment period where they are deciding if they want to make a regular commitment. It can take a year or two for this to happen, so don't give up, it's worth it!
RE: And They Canceled AGAIN ()

I think you're right about manners and about not commiting to attend things that won't work in practice. I'm the same-I never bail at the last minute if I said I was going and I don't allow my children to either. I am careful about what I say yes to though as honestly, life is too short to commit to things that are more effort than they are worth! 

It sounds to me like maybe you are trying too hard and making too much effort where it is clearly not valued or maybe not even wanted/needed. Maybe pinning people down to activities and invitations makes them feel pressured? If people aren't showing up, your energy could be better spent elsewhere.

I would try putting less effort in. Be more laid back and spontaneous and maybe do more 'we are going to x place at x time if anyone wants to join us.' That way, you are keeping it easy for everyone and not setting high expectations for yourself and your child. If people come it's a bonus, but if not, you two can still have fun together.