Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why All the Play Dates

I get pretty excited any time I am not responsible for my children's entertainment. In a perfect world, my kids would run outside, knock on neighbors' doors, and create their own entertainment with friends. Unfortunately, that is not the neighborhood I live in.

If they want to play with friends, it's usually a scheduled event. I find the act of scheduling play dates for a first and fourth grader patently absurd, but it's the only way to bring kids together. There are few children in our neighborhood and, because my kids attend private school, most of their friends don't live in our town.

We even have a hard time getting together with the couple kids whose yard abuts ours. All our kids are in multiple after school and weekend activities, so finding a time when both families are home is pretty hit or miss.

These circumstances pose a problem, because there is no greater recipe for disaster than for all four of us to be sitting around the house with nothing to do on the weekend. If we are home and have no plans, I'll invite kids over for at least one of the days.

I always assumed that other parents were as desperate to schedule play dates for their children as I, but I find that's not the case. For many families, weekends are "family time." These families often have fun, scheduled field trips--the beach, apple-picking, or a family bike ride--but even when not, they seem perfectly content to just be together.

Kids on Step - Flotsam of the Mind

I find myself wondering how they do this. Maybe they just like each other more than we do. Maybe those parents love to play imaginative games with their children, while I want to scratch my eyes out. Maybe they can play more games of Uno than I can. Maybe they're just better at this.

Maybe. But I hypothesize that much of it has to do with the fact that neither my husband nor I have siblings. "Family time" wasn't a special event in our childhoods; it was all the time. We didn't need to find a day when Suzie had no swim meet and Tommy had no track practice, all at the same time Betty wasn't babysitting. When Mom and Dad came home from work and I came home from school, all were present and accounted for.

Because we had no siblings, both my husband and I also are trained to look outside the family for entertainment. When I was a child, I loved to read and to spend time with my aunts and uncles, but if I wanted to play with another kid, I had to find one. I do the same for my children, even though they have each other.

Despite my husband's busy work schedule and the kids' many scheduled activities, I feel we see plenty of each other. The kids don't need more of me on weekends; they need kids who want to do kid stuff. If you're not having family time, we'd love to have you over to play. We'll just need to get out our calendars and find a time that works. Hopefully we can work something out before summer.

Is our family atypical, or do you find yourself scheduling your children's playtime even when they are in elementary school? Is your family time sacred or are you willing to give it up in a heartbeat for another child to entertain yours?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting idea re only childdom being responsible for this. We have playdates during the week, usually, when one kid has an activity and the other doesn't, or somehow, luckily, we have an open afternoon. Weekends are family time. Husband is home; I'm usually not working. It's time to just hang and not have plans.