• A Two-Family Play Date Hits The Jackpot

    Our editor on the intricacies of bonding with another family.

    By Eric Messinger

    The plan was set for our first dinner with a neighborhood family, the mom being one of my long-standing morning buddies who I regularly walk to the subway with after school drop-off. Her daughter is in third grade with my son, Adam. When I told him the plan his reaction was negative, but not kicking-and-screaming negative. “I don’t really like her,” he said, despite previous evidence to the contrary. His schoolmate, I heard, had a much stronger reaction. “Adam’s coming to our house?” she echoed, aghast at the prospect. “Does he have to?”

    When two families first “date” each other, the equation is rife with variables: Will the adults who don’t previously know each other get along? Will the adults who already like each other like each other as much in larger dosages? And what about the children, who, by their very nature, are variables? Still, if it feels right, it’s a worthy attempt. Finding a match in your neighborhood where everyone genuinely likes each other is a jackpot: good friends and manageable logistics.

    So how’d it go? The adults played very nicely, I thought, but not nearly as joyfully rambunctious as the kids. The flow of the evening reminded me of how a circus performance alternates between the main acts and the crazy clowning.

    The adults would be enjoying cocktails and conversation, and then Adam and his friend would enter the room immersed in their own plan: putting the family pet hamster, encased in a plastic globe, on the floor and using a piece of lettuce to encourage him to roll himself across the living room.

    The adults would be lingering at the dinner table, long after the children exited, and suddenly Adam and his friend would crash the scene immersed in a fencing match.

    Their occasional fits of fun were all the more impressive given that it meant vacating the enormous bean bags they occupied while watching TV.

    The next day, Adam confirmed that he had a good time. “I didn’t know she was so wild,” he told me, approvingly. .

    For my own part, I enjoyed hanging out with my friend in a setting considerably more pleasant than the platform of the downtown 6 train—and I enjoyed meeting her husband, a sailor, an eclectic tinkerer, and self-made success who told me that the “best decisions of his life were working for Legal Aid (early in his career) and marrying Nancy.”

    Jackpot? I’m optimistic.

    Eric Messinger is Editor of New York Family. He can be reached at emessinger@manhattanmedia.com