Playdate: a compound word consisting of play, and date. And they simply do not belong together…whoops, that’s not the definition. Playdate by definition: a play session for small children arranged in advance by their parents. #gag
Merriam-Webster says the word was first used in 1975, the year I was born, and yet, I don’t recall ever hearing or knowing about it until long after I had kids of my own. I imagine it only being used in uppity social circles by parents who spent an awful lot of time mapping out their children’s destinies. I could be wrong on that, but hey, that’s why I said, “I imagine…”
Sandwich generation, also a term from 1975, referring to a generation of people who were caring for their aging parents while supporting their own children…. hmm… one can only wonder if these two are related. Could it be that there was an entire generation, or at least part of one, who got really into meddling in the lives of all of their relatives?
Where Am I Going With This?
Haven’t you ever heard a word that drives you bonkers for whatever reason? Maybe the word bonkers drives you bonkers? I won’t get into how the term “really grinds my gears” triggers an eye-roll that physically gives me a headache. Anyway, the word playdate is one of those words that I hate. I can’t decide if it’s because of how stupid the word itself is, or if it is purely based on the concept.
If I’m being honest, the word and everything associated makes me cringe. It reminds me that society has fallen into a system of micromanagement wherein parents have accepted responsibility for making sure their kids are entertained at literally all waking hours. Maybe this makes them turn out better than you did?
As an extreme introvert, however, I have interpreted this as the very definition of high maintenance, and by all accounts, unnatural. Making and maintaining friendships used to be the job of the individual. Give a kid a fish… or teach them to fish? When did we get away from that? Is it just so much easier to do literally everything for our kids that we have expanded the responsibilities of parenting to include finding, making and maintaining friendships for our children?
I am against arranged friendships in the same way I am against arranged marriages. Both represent a level of meddling we could all do without. Did you need your parents to arrange friendships for you? And if they did, did they pair you properly?
One of the reasons we make best friends and keep them forever is because of the beautiful, natural course of events that occurs when you meet someone you have everything in common with. In the weird arranged friendships you are paired with someone who may or may not end up being able to relate to you in more than a superficial way. In other words, what are the chances that you will have anything in common with the people you have “friend-appointments” (yes, that’s what I’m calling it) with? Your parents are friends and you live in the same neighborhood…? BAM! Friendship.
Thanks for that, mom.
…are so many moms are obsessed with setting their kids up in these strange, forced friendships? In a society where parents, led by moms, have evolved into slaves at the beckon call of their children, there seems to be an undying dedication to doing absolutely everything possible to make sure junior turns out normal, popular, liked, admired, and even envied, not to mention consoled, coddled and oh yeah, spoiled. I can’t for the life of me figure out why achieving these goals are important. Wait, that’s not what’s going on?
Let’s Call It What It Is
playdate …? really?
Right. Ok, so, I don’t know. None of those things seem right when being used to describe kids making friends or just playing.
So I think I might understand. Playdate is a term referring to parents with kids the same age, under 5, presumably, getting together. And since these kids are not likely to express interest, let alone the need for these get-togethers, shouldn’t the playdate properly be referred to as the mommydate. Because let’s be honest, kids under 5 do not need some other kid coming into their personal space and playing with all their toys. And they certainly do not need another kid at the park or at McDonald’s playland to be able to enjoy that.
Dear Society: Don’t Project Your Stupid Expectations Onto Me
Because I’m good. And my kids are and will be just fine without my unnecessary obsession to find friends for them. I am all for kids playing and having fun and making friends, but it’s not going to disrupt my day in any way other than a possibly involving a short drive to drop-off/pick-up or sending them outside to play with neighbors. And I am not, nor will I ever be the go-between/messenger when some kid wants to hang out with my kid. If my kid is capable of deciding he/she wants to hang out with a someone, I will encourage him/her to take action —make that phone call, go knock on a door. But I’m not doing it for you.
Kids are capable of making friends. Put them in a sport or art class they have expressed interest in and they will find kids they have things in common with. Even in the homeschool environment, your kids are 100% capable of leading you to their desired level of engagement. And this may well be when you realize, oh, Junior is an introvert or extrovert. If you don’t know the difference, do your kid a favor and look it up.
The Parent-Child Disconnect
For the extroverted child with an introverted parent and vice versa, this could end up being an awful struggle. The introverted parent is likely to not recognize the need for interaction and engagement of the extroverted child. And the extroverted parent is likely to push the introverted child into situations he or she finds absolutely miserable.
My advice is to let your child lead when it comes to finding, making and maintaining friendships. Having open conversations that include questions and a genuine interest will lead to parents and kids being on the same page. Communication is the most important when it comes to what’s best for your kids. Encourage your kids to grow friendships without your unnecessary intervention. Your kids need to be able to make friends on their own and in a way that is in line with their individual personalities.
The modern “playdate” pairs kids up with more people who simply cannot understand or relate to how they feel. Encouraging your kids to find friends who they feel comfortable sharing the most intimate details of their lives with will go a long way when it comes to maintaining self-esteem and having confidence throughout childhood, which, in case you don’t remember, can be pretty rough.
I will not answer on behalf of my child when they are too young to have an independent thought about what they want. Don’t call and ask me if my kid wants to play with your kid, no. If we are friends and have kids the same age, fine, we can hang out. But don’t call it a playdate or I’m out.