Lately, there’s been buzz about ending the playdate. People like DadNCharge say it’s “ruining the spontaneity of our children.” It’s too fancy. It implies planned activities. It implies planned “dates” with certain children, based on the parents’ preferences. Mostly, the arguments are a lot of caterwauling about biking to your friend’s house without pre-planning and going to poke dead things in a creek somewhere. Or something.
Well, my kids can’t ride their bike to other people’s houses. First, because they’re under 7, and second, because no friends live close enough to bike to. Yes, I’d like for them to go poke dead things in a creek somewhere with friends. When you find an available creek my kids can play in without anyone bitching about trespassing laws, let me know. Most of the moms I know would be down with dead fish poking. We’re just short on dead fish to poke.
Hence the modern playdate. It goes like this: My kid asks (or I know he wants) to go play with another kid. He’s got some agency here — no matter how much I like a mom, I won’t do a playdate with a kid who beats the crap out of him. The other mom and I agree on a time and place. If it’s my house, I clean frantically the day before because I don’t want her to see that my kids scattered Legos all over the formal living room and then the 2 1/2-year-old decided to make it snow pieces of styrofoam on top of it. The mom comes over, with her kid in tow. My kids all squee and run to the back room to play pirates or deep sea mission or space cowboys, or just make a giant mess by getting out every single toy and discarding it. The mom and I sit in the living room and talk. Then they go home, either at my prompting or theirs.
This is awesome, for several reasons. My kid gets time with another kid. He’s homeschooled, so we only get out into large groups maybe twice a week. But even schooled kids only get hangout time during recess, so our kids are really hurting for one-on-one time with each other. My son gets to pick who he hangs out with; he has a stable of friends he likes to pick from. He will ask, “When are we going to see so-and-so again?” I know that’s a cue to get on the ol’ texter and message a mom. Then I can set up a date and give him an answer.
Normally, playdates take place at home — or at least, ours do because it’s hotter than the steps of hell right now, so parks or hiking aren’t an option. Playdates at home are both good and bad. They’re good for the mom who gets to travel somewhere else, and hence leave her messy house behind. They’re bad for the mom who has to clean, because no matter how many times someone assures you not to clean, you have to clean anyway. It’s a mom rule. But you needed an excuse to pick up those toys anyway, right? So we can say home playdates are good all around — you just need to resign yourself to some picking up. Also, you can’t schedule them around lunch. No one wants to host kids and another adult for lunch —no one.
Then, once the kids get here: bliss. They’re thrilled to see each other, as are small brothers and sisters who can play on the periphery. They disappear, usually to a playroom or bedroom, and you’re left on your own with another adult. Resist the urge to hug them and not let go, or break down weeping. Put on the coffee or break out the red wine. And talk. Talk about hemorrhoids, or birth, or how much you love coffee, or how much you need red wine. Ask her what music she prefers and put it on in the background. Discuss terrible music from the ’90s. Discuss terrible music from the 2010s. Feel old. Occasionally yell, “What was that?!” at some loud thump coming from wherever the kids are.
Basically, you have another adult to talk to for two hours. Unless you’re a selective mute (really, no judgment there), you can do so much with that. You don’t need to offer her cheese. You don’t need to cook for her, or apologize for the state of your kitchen (but you will). You can even watch the first episode of Stranger Things together while the kids are busy. Playdates equal freedom, my friend. Take away my playdates, you take away my mom dates. I happen to need my mom dates.
Then, if she has any sense, she’ll make her kid help your kid pick up before she goes home. Don’t tell her the room was a mess to begin with. Let her help you clean it. Bliss.
Playdates rock. They rock for kids, they rock for moms, and mostly, they get us out of our regular lives and into someone else’s house. And you can’t ask for more than that.