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Mama, Can I Have a Playdate?

No one told me that when the kids reach school-age, I could spend all of my spare time coordinating and supervising playdates. Sure, it wouldn't be bad if it were just one. But all three of my boys ask for them, on a daily-non-stop basis. The littlest one is 3, and he asks for them because his brothers ask for them. He's had one, and on that one opportune occasion, he got lice :-)

If you can't tell from the tone of this post, I am not fond of playdates. Whatever happened to the spontaneous kids dropping by to see if your kids are home to play? I like the drop by since the expectation is that I am not responsible for coordinating, text, emailing, and calling other parents. We do get those, and more frequently in the warmer months.

What about you? Do you subsribe to the playdate circuit? Do you lay down limits?

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I feel the same way, and it seems like if you work from home (as I do), most of the burden of hosting (at least during the school week) falls on you because many other parents work outside of the home and are not available in the afternoon to host.

Our situation is exacerbated by the fact that we have almost no kids living within a few blocks of our house in any direction - I only know of four - two toddlers much, much younger than either of my girls, a little boy much older who has no interest in playing with my girls, and a little girl who is only around on weekends. So, if I want to get anything done on afternoons when my kids don't have afterschool classes, play dates often seem like the best alternative (better than my girls fighting with each other all afternoon and telling me every two minutes that they are "bored," anyway!)

Much as we like our house and our neighborhood, my husband and I have been talking A LOT about moving to a neighborhood with more children in hopes of more spontaneous/drop-by play and fewer scheduled play dates. I would let my older girl (10) walk or bike to a friend's house if she had a friend nearby, but our immediate neighborhood is mostly singles and empty-nesters. We rarely see kids out and about on our block or the adjacent blocks, and believe me, I am always looking! :)

I have a special needs kid. If I don't schedule the playdate, he will not get a chance to practice social skills. The older he gets, the less often he gets invited to other people's playdates.

Funny... I used to live in a neighborhood where playdates were planned. All of them. Parents shooshed their kids in the afternoon when they came out asking to have a friend over or to go over to someone's house because they wanted to plan it.

In our new neighborhood, we've had a few stop ins to see if we can play. More often than not though, it's the barrage of kids after school who come running up asking to organize a playdate here or there RIGHT then. If other parents are up for it, I am too. I kids playdates. For the most part, for my kids (aged 5 and 7) playdates mean that they are kept busy so I have some extra time to fold clothes, make dinner or get some more work done.

And, on the rare occasion that all three get invited to different houses on the same day, I really do enjoy the blissful after school silence.

Some kids I don't mind having over... you know... that addition that makes your house just hum along and you don't really have to intervene cause all the kids just play together so nicely you almost forget there are five of them upstairs? Other times, I have to brace myself and plan the ones where I know my kids love the other child they want to have over, but I know the playdate is going to involve constant intervention on my part.

It's a balance. We generally have a couple per week. I can't wait until Spring when it's nice out and we can all just hang out at the school playground for our post schoolday "playdates".

We tend to hang out on the playground after school unless the weather is really miserable. The kids run around and get some play time without the hassle of transportation later in the afternoon/evening and disruption of routine. If we stick around long enough, the kids who do aftercare at the school are back out on the playground, too, so my daughter gets play time with those friends, too.

In the summer, we now live on a block with kids who are close in age to my daughter and I am loving that she can go ring the doorbell and invite them out to play. We do less of that during the school year just because we're busier.

My son is old enough to set up his own hang-out times (I don't think I'm supposed to call them playdates anymore!) and get himself too and from. I am really enjoying that.

For "bungalowgirl": my response to complaints that my kids are bored--after two or three repetitions I say "you can either play with your sister/brother, figure out something to do, or I will give you a job." It actually works, since at the very least they'll go off and be bored quietly and not look to me to come up with some brilliant idea.

Between play dates, sleepovers, and birthday parties, I feel like my kids' social secretary and chauffeur. I'm committed to supporting their social needs, though we are usually over scheduled and I get bitter when they aren't appropriately thankful for my effort.

We moved to a neighborhood specifically near friends who also attend their school and it turns my older kid isn't as friendly anymore with the friend who lives just three blocks away. His current friend is across the river, so back to driving.

Also, I work 8-5 each day, so all of their supported social time is squeezed in to weekends and school closures.

J -

I have resorted to that also! I tell my 4th grader if she is really bored, she can scrub the the toilets for me or scoop the dog poop out of the back yard. Somehow, she never seems quite as "bored" when faced with those options. :) Still, I do wish we had more neighbor kids for her play with!

Shout out to Anon and your special needs kid. My son has Asperger's and therefore the term "playdate" has a much, much more loaded and complex meaning for me and my family. In the words of Richard Lavoie, a great disabilities educator and advocate, "playdates are the coin of the realm." Guess who doesn't have the coins?

Like J, we tend to hang out on the playground after school instead. It's much easier in many ways. And my younger child can play along and not feel left out.

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Hear hear. Playdate coordination is time consuming and quite annoying. I am recently learning I can say "no" to my child and to others. As a parent of these days I've found that hard to say before. Word to the spontaneous. Word to hanging out where other kids are. Word to family time. And word to being bored. We all lived through it somehow.

My daughter is an only child and is extremely social. When she was in K, it was really hard because she wanted playdates all the time, and I am terrible at organizing them (we both work full time). I also hated to commit family time on weekends to playdates until I had a sense of what the weekend would be like - by then, all of her friends had other plans. This issue is actually the one I've felt really guilty about, and I generally don't subscribe to maternal guilt.

Our neighborhood has kids a few years older and a few years younger. She has played with all of them regularly, although the older kids have now moved on (although we now have neighbor babysitters, which is blissful!). Now that she is in 3rd grade, she is able to seek out the younger neighbor girl on her own, which is great.

And, she and her friends are able to be a bit more proactive about pushing for time together, which has helped a lot. We also now have some friends who aren't over-scheduled that I can call up on the same day to arrange atime.

We are buying a house this year (if all goes well). We're hoping for a neighborhood where we'll have more kids for spontaneous get togethers. Where are these places? Inner NE and SE?

Lots of play dates for us. This is just part of the good parenting racket. It also falls more into "stay at home mom" duties because working moms aren't available during prime playdate hours and play dates seldom happen on the weekends.

But yeah, I hosted as much as I was able so that I could choose the toys, snacks and such that I was concerned about. Thank goodness I was able to find other like minded moms so that I didn't have to worry too much about when my kid was visiting others.

As a family with two working parents and with a majority of the families at our school the same, scheduled playdates are what we do and are glad to do it. Also many of our kiddo's friends were in daycare - again two working parents. Not sure when "stop by" playdates are supposed to happen during the school year with aftercare, homework, work meetings, sports, etc. I am fine scheduling playdates - just like I schedule my own social life.

with full-time working parents and kids who go to aftercare, plus 1 special activity per week, per kid (ballet, soccer, etc.), we don't do a lot of playdates. they're fun and i'm happy to make them happen occasionally, but more than that seems like packing the schedule way too full. there's no way we could fit a playdate into the week, and we DO need chore time and family time and down time on the weekends. maybe it's less pressing because my kids are close in age and play well together most of the time?

also, nearly all the hours they're awake during the week - they're already having social time. so, playdates are a nice treat once in a while, like when i manage to set up a coffee date with a friend. not something i feel pressure or obligation about.

Even though there are other kids on our block---generally my daughter doesn't seem to like any of them. Her friends always seem to live far-ish away, so "playdates" are (and have been since pre-school) the only way to make this happen.

I never particularly minded since they were generally reciprocated (or other accomodations are made), from an early age my daughter understood I was not the referee---so if they couldn't agree, it would just be cut short. A lot of it generally is just bringing another kid along to an outing, anyway.

I will say, now that she's 12 turning 13, I hate the expression "playdate" because she isn't a toddler anymore.

I'm in the WISHING I had your problem camp... my child isn't comfortable asking to play with others and they often just don't think to include him as they have others with whom they've already established an easier playdate pattern. And people often say 'no' to us- then it's hard to have to tell your kid that other people are busy. It's also hard to see other kids inviting each other in front of others at school pickup- I was taught never to do that, you don't invite in front of others are aren't invited. And I'm home afternoons, so I'm totally up for it... but we've learned to make ourselves occupied in other ways because the playdate thing just doesn't work for us.

It feels that we are always the ones who have to ask, and it may be reciprocated once, but usually not after that. And most of that is just who my child is and how he relates and how much he likes his time on his own, but I wish he had an easier time getting to play with other kids, since we don't have a strong neighborhood kid-network (ok none at all, no idea where one lives for this cause it's not here) nor does he have siblings. Ultimately though, he doesn't care so usually I don't... he interacts well socially in school, has one good friend out of school that he's happy to see monthly, etc. But this is all a glimpse into that 'other world' that others live in and we don't. More than once a week... just amazes me.

ps, I think I'd also fall over in a faint if any child came to our door to ask if mine could come out and play... no one would Ever do that up here. We have one little girl who could call over the fence- this happens about once every year, if that. They have not much in common so they do their own thing, as do we. There's kids within a few blocks, but they don't make it down this way and I've also managed to have a knack for never being at the park when others are. It's just how it is!

I've never quite figured out how playdates apply to older kids. My 12-year-old stepson came from another culture and hasn't figured out the skills required to ask another kid if he wants to come over sometime. I tried to organize playdates for him a few years ago when he was new here, but it seems awkward in middle school to try to arrange things through the parents. I'd be happy to help with the logistics of driving or paying for movies or something, but I need some impetus from the kids. He doesn't complain about having no one to play with, but I know he's bored on the weekends. We don't really have any kids around in our neighborhood, though we're moving soon and hopefully we'll find some!

ED--
My son is 13 and has always been a socially-savvy kid. More so than I am, for sure. But I hear what you're saying. We've done some subtle support when we've wanted to encourage a particular friendship or activity (or just less moping around the house). So we talk about an activity (rock-climbing gym, movie, etc), say "who do you want to invite?," then say "ok, call frank and ask if he wants to come. if he does, we'll pick him up at 4:00."

My son makes the phone call, but we've prepped him with the details ahead of time. then, while on the outing, I just do my best to fade into the background.

If your stepson is a little shy, sometimes it helps to try to gather a group. Three can be awkward, but more than that works well.

So it's true that the parents are less obviously involved in the equation when the kids are older, but I think there are still channels to work through.

J, thanks for the advice. I've tried asking, "who would you like to invite to go swimming/visit OMSI/etc?" but he doesn't have any particular kids that he feels close enough to single out like that. It seems like the only thing that his group, however loosely defined, does is hang out at the park near school and play basketball after school. That's a start, but it just seems like we haven't been able to go anywhere from there.
I try to sign him up for activities like soccer where we just show up and there are 15 kids to play with, but obviously I can't always pull together a full soccer team on a random Sunday afternoon when he's bored. I've tried suggesting that we piggy-back on soccer practice by inviting a kid or two over for another activity afterwards, but he hasn't been able to identify anyone in particular he'd like to hang out with more.
Heck, I even organized the ski bus for his school this year just so he would have 30 kids to go skiing with--we'll see how that goes starting next weekend!

ED--
Sorry to have oversimplified. I should have guessed you'd already tried the obvious approaches. I hope I didn't sound patronizing.

And wow, you are providing a lot of good social support. I wouldn't want to be in charge of organizing the ski bus!

Maybe when he gets to high school he'll find either a couple of kids he clicks with better or just more teams/clubs to join to get his social fix that way.

J--thanks for the positive thoughts! Maybe he's just moving at his own pace and I shouldn't rush him. (PS, I didn't take your comments as patronizing at all.)

Playdates were the coin of certain realms. In a school where we were the odd ones out, it was torturous watching the children who looked alike inviting each other or parents extend invitations right in front of you and your kid as though you were invisible. Luckily ther was a kid with two moms on the Asperger's spectrum, so she and the little brown girl became playdate buddies. 12 years later, moms are still friends even if kids aren't. More often than not, playdate for "others", i.e. single moms, poorer parents, ethnic differences (usually more about the parents than the kids) were dictated by what moms got along than who the kids were actually friends with. And work schedules, etc. In school that were more diverse and the kids were pretty well mixed (not the two separate schools in one school building deal) playdate invitations were a bit more plentiful.

AN older mom friend would always tease "PlayDATES?!?!?!? when I had kids they just played. . ." There was some spontaneous play, when our next door neighbor (about 3 or 4)would show up and demand that my daughter play with her.

I would say that it would be ereally school if people didn't set up stuff like that in front of kids who aren't included.

I just want to say that I am really, really enjoying urban mamas right now. Great discussion.

@Protestmama - while I do think there's some of what you say (I'll detail below), I think you see more snubbing just because some parents are snobbier than others.

That said, my daughter's current best friend's mom is a single mom and they have a lot less money than we do. Annnnd who cares? I like her the best of any kid my daughter has ever socialized with and her mom is awesome (and helps me out with my non-driver thing). My daughter has also had richer friends, poorer friends, pretty much the same as us friends, brown friends, latino friends, etc. We couldn't care less.

What we DID hate were the two snotty moms who lived next store to one another and made it very clear that since they were best friends, so were their children and no one else need really bother to apply. But eventually, we stopped bothering to invite them to our parties and accepted that not everyone will be friends with everyone else.

Not to mention, friendships among kids (I certianly see this with my middle school aged daughter) can switch on a dime. My daughter hates her "good friend" from earlier this year (a boy and I think part of it stemmed from my daughter developing a crush on him) and her best friend above (of several years) was her enemy in early elementary school.

So, I have a related question for y'all: Do you (especially those of you who have younger kids) prompt your kids to initiate playdates with kids who your own child doesn't seem to show an interest in? I guess where I am going with this is that, at the young ages, friends seem to be like clothes: kids try them, change them, try them again, just seeing what fits. I see lots of kids in my son's kinder class who seem really sweet, but my son may or may not identify as a friend. Is it weird to initiate something between the two of them? I mean, who knows if outside of school they may click?

SJ - it depends. My kindergartener tends to play with everyone and doesn't really need a push to interact with kids outside his usual crowd. But, with my second grader, we sometimes push getting to know kids from outside of her class (which only has 6 girls!). We actually recently signed her up for a dance class with an acquaintance from another class. The girls giggle together constantly in the car to/from dance, and have begun interacting on the playground during recess.

So, for us, it really just depends on the child.

It's funny, me and some other moms will now admit that we forced our kids to play together, even though they didn't particularly like each other because we liked each other. We would've never admitted it back then. I thought "Yeah, maybe we should gotten the hint whenyour kid tried to hold mine underwater at that lake. repeatedly"

I am with all the posters wishing for more playdate invitations. It has taken a tremendous amount of effort to develop the mom network/playmate network for my child I/we have now, which is not as rich as I would like. I will never understand the arrogance (?) and disinterest I have encountered in other moms over the years.

About the "but I like his mother" thing. It's there, but it all depended on where my daughter was in her kid life: in preschool she was very, very popular---besties with 2 other girls and every other kid wanted to be part of their trio.

There were other kids who I thought were cute, their parents seemed friendly, etc---but she set the tone, so I (besides politely inquiring) didn't push it past that.

Sadly, it all changed when she started regular school and became a looooong target of varying degrees of bullying. But when he friendship warmed up with a girl who had attended her preschool, I was really touched when that girl's mom told us how she had always wanted them to be friends, cause we seemed cool. And I realized, I had always felt the same way.

My husband also has work friends with children of similar and varying ages--where all the kids (granted, everyone's split all over town, so we're talking only a couple of times a year, max) got along really well, so that was nice. But maybe it wouldn't be quite so friendly if the kids saw one another more often (or for that matter, we did).

@Pauline - our posts appear to have crossed, or I would've commented. Some moms are just really super snotty. I don't get it either. Or maybe they're just shy, but I think more likely snotty. Their loss!

On the Westside it is MAC or no MAC from preschool through high school. MAC families only play with other MAC families, period, and anyone not MAC can forget it even if the kids really like each other and get along great at school, etc. You'll hear kindergarteners! say, "oh, sorry you're not a MAC family".

@anon - oh, eeewwww! Plus it isn't like everyone on the westside is rich or evern approximating rich---my much needier relatives all live there!

Funny. I just moved to SW from NE Portland. I read anon's comment and thought she was talking about the Multnomah Arts Center in Multnomah Village!

So far haven't run into anyone who has mentioned the other MAC. Scary.

I take issue with the MAC comment. As members of the MAC and with kids ages seven and five, my kids don't even register that others aren't members. I would say about half of their classmates are members, but they don't care and it doesn't factor into the play date discussion at all.

I too take issue with the MAC comment. We are not members, know a few of my kids classmates who are, but have never heard of it having anything to do with playdates or friendships. A few older kids play in MAC sports leagues, but otherwise I've never heard it mentioned. I'm sorry if this is happening at the poster's school, but I don't think it can be a blanket statement for the entire Westside.

I've lived on the westside for six years and I don't even know what a MAC family is...? What is it?

It's the Multnomah Athletic Club---that thing that's across from Jeld-Wenn/PGE/Whomever their next corporate sponsor will be Field.

It's presumably fancy and exclusive (though obviously not everyone is) and has around 20,000 members, I believe.

We've lived in NE and SW. I have known MAC members in both neighborhoods. It's never come up as any big deal though. I certainly don't feel like my children even know or care about MAC, and they definitely haven't been excluded from playdates by our membership status (or lack thereof).

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