I found your responses to my poll last week rather interesting, and as always I thank you for playing. Many of you assumed I was the responder to the email about the playdate. I was, in fact, the inviter, and I specified the date and time, as well as indicating that the child could be dropped off or she could accompany him. The other mother replied that she could not do that date and time, but she could do Tuesday. “We could meet at a park,” she suggested.
This has happened to me several times. I have tried to make a playdate, offering my house but being willing to go to the other child’s as well, and the parent has busted out with, “Let’s meet in the park.”
Now, what the fuck is up with that? You wouldn’t respond to a dinner party invitation by saying, “We could meet at a restaurant.”
Is my house not suitable in some way? Have we gotten a reputation for somehow hosting lousy playdates? Perhaps you have confused my house with some den of iniquity and are trying to tactfully avoid having your kid hang out in an opium den?
News flash here, people. Not every kid wants a playdate in the park. Zachary, in fact, refuses to meet kids there. The other kid is often late, which frustrates him. The kids rarely end up actually playing together. And, perhaps most importantly, he cannot keep up with the child.
In fact, now that we’re on the topic, he sort of stresses about outdoor play with other kids he knows, even at school. He has gained a lot of confidence, but historically, the school play yard has been an anxiety-provoking place where the lack of clear structure and rules, as well as lighter teacher oversight, has often led to teasing or exclusion or sometimes just a misunderstanding that he couldn’t get past. While people run around saying kids need more recess time and less structured classroom time, all I want to reply is, “Maybe that’s what your kid needs. Don’t generalize to include mine.”
Granted, Benjamin definitely needs frequent run-abouts. But Zachary? Much as he has learned to navigate the school yard and much as he loves a playground when there is no pressure to perform in front of a kid he knows, he sure ain’t signing up to do a playdate there. Quite to the contrary: he sees playdates as a chance to interact with the other child in a calmer, more controlled seting, one-on-one.
One more thing – not every kid wants to go to someone else’s house, in unfamiliar territory, and find a pack of children there. Yet, several times, I have had people invite him to a playdate, only to mention casually at the last minute that they have decided to invite a couple more kids along.
Yeah, that oughta help with the social anxiety.
Please, when you try to schedule a playdate, feel free to mention doing it at the park or with a passel of children, at which point I will honestly tell you that my kid likes your kid a lot but has a very hard time with playground or group playdates. But, if I have invited your kid over, either explain to me why that arrangement would be hard for you or your child or just graciously accept the damned invitation.
If Zach wanted a playdate at the park or if he wanted you to start inviting other children along, well, that would be what I would suggest from the start.
Um, and one more more thing. If you do accept the playdate and I arrange the schedules of three children and two adults to ensure that Benjamin is out of the house and Lilah is napping, please do consider writing in down on your calendar or tattooing it on your forehead. Whatever you think it’ll take to help you to actually show up.