Friday, July 13, 2007

Playdates? Can't we just ...hang out?

2 years ago we moved off of a very busy street from a house that we loved to a "fixer upper" on a small cul-de-sac.

Why?? Well, so the kids could play. We scoped out many neighborhoods, looking for swing sets, minivans, trampolines...classic indicators of "children in the hood."

Our small little cul-de-sac, embedded in a farm area is idyllic. Kids, cookouts, no traffic....

However, the cul-de-sac has become a bit "too cozy." Unfortunately there were only 2 families on the road with children. We all burned each other out about a year ago and the kids, much like siblings can no longer cope with each other.

Which brings the dreaded "play date" into picture again.....

My 6 year old, Cal has always been pretty good about finding things to do and playing with the other kids in "the hood." My 9 year old has had more challenges. This is probably due to the fact for the first 3 or so years of life she got entertained 100% of the time by my mom (who watched her for the first year after I went back to work), myself or my husband. She was my first experience with the concept of a play date.

Over the years we discovered that these play dates needed to be scheduled and structured....what are we going to do? what are we going to eat? who is picking up who? Quite the challenge for a casual friend to come over for a visit.

Where are they days of just hanging out? Why all the parental involvement (lets do a craft, lets cook something, lets go to the zoo, lets all play a game)? Now I understand for safety reasons we can't just let the kids run around the streets unsupervised, I mean, I am casual but not that casual. And I certainly do not have a problem with setting up the slip and slide or taking out some lemonade and cookies....

Classic example. My 9 year old was moping around the house one afternoon while I was busy doing laundry etc... I gave her a suggestion. "Hey Angelina lives right around the corner, why don't you ride your bike over (I am talking RIGHT around the corner), and ask her to play." That sent a wave of panic down Cat's body. "What do you mean? just go over?" "Yes Cat, don't just invite yourself in, just ask Angelina to play or ride bikes on our street"....eeessh..."Can I call her first?" (getting play datish already...) "Sure if that makes you more comfortable".....

5 minutes later "Angelina's mom wants to talk to you"
"Hi, Cat wants to have a play date with Angelina?"
"Well, we were just hanging around here doing nothing and I thought maybe the girls could hang out?"
"And do what?".......
"ummmm, maybe ride bikes"
"Angelina's bike is in the shop"
"well, it doesn't have to be that...they can just know hang out together, climb a tree or something"
"climb a tree?"
"well umm, maybe...some crafts"
"Angelina is pretty busy today, she just came home from swimming lessons and has gymnastics early in the morning"
"well (sheepishly) perhaps another time"
"yes lets schedule something"

Now I work full time so I know how tightly I need to schedule something to find balance... but what is happening here? Are we so over scheduled that we have lost our imaginations, don't kids just know how to play? By the end of this summer the kids in the hood (mine included) will ask me a dozen times during the next 8 Saturdays and Sundays what to do. Where is the fun in just hanging out, climbing trees, riding bikes. Now in the fear of sounding like my dad...but...when we were young, we would leave and play in the morning with our friends, come home for lunch, play again (outside) and then after flashlight tag my dad would whistle us home.....

Is it me?


"Sometimes the laughter in mothering is the recognition of the ironies and absurdities. Sometime, though, it's just pure, unthinking delight. "

Barbara Schapiro, O Magazine, May 2003


Kris said...

yes...hang out I cups all around and who cares what the kids do......

seriously...yes, they should be able to just GO FIND SOMETHING TO DO! I agree!


Neana said...

girl...I feel ya!

Dana said...

This reminds me of when I was a kid. Things were so much more simple then. I have to wonder if "playdate" was even a word back then.

Izzy said...

I wonder the same thing all the time. Why can't the kids just hang out? Why can't the adults just hang out? Why does everything have to have a plan and a theme and be scheduled down to the minute? HATE IT!