When I was a little girl, I never had a “playdate.”
Honestly, I probably spent as much or more time as my own kids at other people’s homes, but they weren’t arranged playdates.
I did not grow up in the era where we all just ran free through the neighborhood, willy nilly, without a care in the world. Growing up in the country in the 80s meant that, sure, we had a few neighborhood buddies with whom we’d play kickball or frisbee golf, but we also had school friends who lived further away.
Here’s how that went–
A friend would call:
“Hey, can you come over Friday afternoon?”
“Let me check with my mom.” ((“MOOOOMMMM! Can I go over to Tara’s house on Friday?”))
…”Yeah, sure. Mom says that’s fine. What time should she drop me off?”
After that, it was literally a matter of getting dropped off at the friend’s house.
That, alone, separates our get-togethers from the current method of mothers having in-depth text conversations about times, activities, and dietary requirements.
But, anyway, what was even MORE different is what we actually *did* at these times.
We played, sure. We played outside. We played games. We looked at magazines together. We coordinated dance routines. We built forts. We might ride bikes.
You know what we DIDN’T do? . . . Go places. I’m absolutely staggered by the “playdate” invites my kids receive. They really ARE more like dates! “I was thinking I could take them mini-golfing and then swing by for some pizza on the way home. They can play some Wii and then we’ll have an ice cream bar.”
It’s all a heck of a lot of work, to be honest.
I remember– vividly– a time I went to play at the aforementioned Tara’s house. I don’t honestly remember a ton about her, beyond her feathered dark hair and the fact that her little sister was named Aimee and I thought that was the most GLAMOROUS spelling of “Amy” ever.
Anyway, I had gone over to play and have supper. We were outside, throwing a ball onto the roof, letting it roll back down, then attempting to catch it. Lest this sound hopelessly boring to you, let me assure you that it was SO fun that a few neighbor kids had wandered over to play with us. Anyhow, I digress…
We were outside playing this “game” and Tara’s mom called us in. Tara and Aimee needed to put their laundry away before supper.
So, they did. They gathered their piles and went upstairs.
I was left in the kitchen where Tara’s mom was tossing iceberg in a mustard yellow bowl. She turned to me and said, “Jessie, why don’t you go ahead and set the table? Plates are on the counter, there.”
And so I did. I laid out the fiesta ware and carefully set a fork to the left and a spoon to the right.
This wasn’t an odd request. I mean, I was there to eat with them– part of the family. Didn’t it make sense that I could help with this small task?
I wasn’t put out by this. It didn’t in any way ruin our good time. Tara and Aimee finished their chore, came back down, we all washed up, and we sat around the table eating chicken and rice baked in cream of mushroom soup.
When did everything change? When did “playdates” become, I don’t know, EVENTS? When did we decide that we needed to be sure to have lots of fun, planned activities, along with snacks and food sure to please any palate?
When my kids get invited to others’ houses, I get floods of FB messages and texts, “Does G. like kiwi? What about cantaloupe? Does she prefer drinkable or spoonable yogurt?” “What kind of milk does C. drink? Is 2% okay? Is she allowed to have cookies?” “Will A. eat anything on his pizza or does he like just cheese? What about parsley? Does that bother him?”
And, honestly, it takes all my power to not just say, “Give them whatever! They’ll be fine! I seriously don’t CARE if she likes it– she’ll survive!”
I don’t. Because, you know, that’s kind of rude and yell-y to people who are obviously trying to be really considerate. But, seriously? Why all the hoops?
I’m not sure I have the answer to this and I don’t really expect the culture to shift overnight.
But, what I can tell you is this–
When I recall my memory of that long-ago day tossing a ball at Tara’s house until it was time to set the table… it is with great fondness. I had an AWESOME time.
And I’m convinced that it’s not today’s KIDS that are the difference.
It’s the choices we make as adults.