(From The Archives: July 19, 2011)
The term “play date” has always been of interest to me. There aren’t many like it in the English language. It’s really 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 play date 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 play time.
I can understand why playtimes need to be arranged: We’re busy. A scheduled play date 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 t-shirts with the pre-printed tuxedo on them.
Of course, I know the actual play date isn’t formal. It’s just the term that breathes formality to me. We didn’t have a term for play time when I was a kid. We had this:
Kid: Going across the street!
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 full of kids so my kids are in a very safe, self-contained, utopia-style environment. They can walk anywhere and we don’t have to concern ourselves for one minute about their wellbeing. I may have worried once about the possibility of my two-year-old walking into the water by herself, but they 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. Isolated playdates seem to have become the standard no matter where you live.
I consider my neighborhood to be extremely 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’ll 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 dog, Floyd Coden, 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.
For now, my kids are still 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 play date 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.
We didn’t refer to those times as play dates though. I don’t think we had a name for them. We just did them. My mom would drop and then she would 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 go, but instead, STAY.
It’s a Play date. Not a Stay date.
My kid is the one who wants a play date, not me. I’m good. 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? I don’t think so.
Oh, your kid won’t stay if you’re not there? Well, I guess that means no play date at the Coden house!!
It’s my house that you’re concerned about? Ok! 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. Hit the bricks, yo. I got it covered on my end. If little Brooklyn is still wailing after 15 minutes, I’ll call you and you can come pick her ass up.
If she stays, great! 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 s**t 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. Anyway, 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.