The term “playdate” has always been of interest to me. There aren’t many like it in the English language. It is the only term I can think of that is filled with formality, necessity and stupidity all at the same time.
On the formal side, a playdate is like an arranged appointment for playtime. Actually, I’m sorry, it’s not like an arranged appointment for playtime, it is an arranged appointment for playtime. I can understand why playtimes need to be arranged: We are busy. A scheduled playdate helps to keep things organized.
It just seems so formal to me. Formal and forced. Like I’m going to receive a confirmation call the day before the event. Like the kids should be wearing little tuxedos, or at least one of those little t-shirts with the pre-printed tuxedos on them.
Of course, I know the actual playdate isn’t formal. It’s just the term that breathes formality to me. We didn’t have a term for playtime when I was a kid. We had this:
Kid: Mom, I’m going across the street to play with Caren and then we‘re going to meet up with everyone else and play baseball, and then some kid is going to try and make-out with me and I‘m going to let him, and then we’re all going to ride bikes to the corner drug store so we can steal some candy. I‘ll be home later, before it gets dark. OK? Bye!
Mom: Bye! Try not to get hit by a car!
Sadly, those days are over. At least for me they are. We’re fortunate during the summer months because we live at an overnight camp for kids where my husband is one of the directors. While we are at camp, my kids are in a very safe, self-contained, utopia-style environment where they can walk anywhere and we don’t have to concern ourselves for one minute about their wellbeing. I may have worried once, for a moment, about the possibility of my two-year-old walking into the water by herself, but I have come to realize that my girls don’t get more than 10 feet without being bombarded by no less than 15 campers yelling: “Hi! What’s my name? You’re so cute! What’s my name? Do you remember my name?”
But during the off-season, we live in a neighborhood where the houses are kind of far apart and the closest kid is a bit of a walk. When I was growing up, my mom would let me jump on my bike and ride to pretty much anyone’s house, but things are different now. I don’t know if the amount of questionable men lurking around neighborhoods in hoopty green station wagons has actually increased over the years, or if we are just more susceptible to media warnings and scary stories via the internet and the news. Either way, isolated playdates seem to have become the standard no matter where you live.
I consider my neighborhood to be exceptionally safe, but I don’t know if I’ll be so quick to let my kids run the hood, unattended, looking for people to play with. They’ll probably be restricted to the house across the street and the one next door.
Unfortunately, they will be screwed because the lady who lives next door will be none too thrilled if my kids show up looking to play with her kids since a) she doesn’t have any kids and b) it seems she is still not over the time when my stubby-tail Golden Retriever, Floyd Coden, once got into her yard and ate all of her cat‘s food—like it was some huge inconvenience or something. Trust me, Mrs. Roper, it turned out to be a much bigger inconvenience for me at 4:00 in the morning. And the house across the street probably isn’t the most ideal spot for my kids to play either since I’m fairly certain that the lady who currently inhabits that house is dead.
At this point, I’m lucky. My kids are happy to play with my friends’ kids because they have no say and they don‘t know any better, but one day that will change. One day they are going to request a playdate and I’m going to have to arrange it. That is not unreasonable. I had friends outside of my neighborhood when I was a kid. I wasn’t a total loser. Sometimes I wanted to play at their houses, so either my mom or I would make a plan, and then she’d drop me off and drive away.
We didn’t refer to those times as playdates. I don’t think we had a name for them. We just did them. My mom would drop and then she would go. The next time, my mom would do my friend’s mom a solid and that mom could have her chance at the Drop-N-Go.
It was a good system but someone, somewhere must have disagreed because that person decided that we, as busy parents, were no longer able to do the Drop-N-Go. That person (not me, definitely not me) decided that the parent who was dropping the kid off would not get to go, but instead, STAY.
And that is the part I think is stupid.
It’s a Playdate. Not a Staydate.
My kid is the one who wants a playdate, not me. I’m good. I’m all set. Don’t be hurt. It’s not you. I like you and you‘re really nice, but I don’t have time to see the friends I do have. I need to have you over? No. I don’t think so. Oh, your kid won’t stay if you’re not there? Well, I guess that means no playdate at the Coden house. It’s my house that you’re concerned about? So, come in! Take a look around, go through my stuff, count the smoke detectors, whatever you want—but the play date is for my kid, not me. Once-over my house and then beat it. I got it covered on my end. If little Brooklyn is still wailing after 15 minutes, I’ll call you and you can come back and pick her ass up.
If she stays, I’ll feed her something decent for lunch. I promise not to let her go crazy on the Oreos and I’ll keep her fingers out of the outlets, but you gotta go. I have $hit to do. The reason I asked to have your kid over in the first place is because I need someone to play with my kid so I can actually get some stuff done. I promise my kid is much nicer than I am, and believe me, your kid will have such a blast at my house, you can skip your trip to Disney. Don’t you have an errand you need to run, a manicure you want to get, or a friend you want to spend some time with?
As you can see, I’m really not such great company anyway.
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