I Hate Playdates

BY  |  Tuesday, Sep 28, 2010 3:00pm  |  COMMENTS (7)

kids outside.jpgI even hate the word playdate. I don’t think any dates should be involved in playing. Kids should just play. Preferably outside or at somebody else’s house.

What ever happened to being locked out of your house by your mother and forced to play with your only sibling on the rusty swing set out back?

Growing up, every Saturday of my life until I left home for college was exactly the same. My sister and I would get up around dawn, watch the “Smurfs” and “The Flintstones” and trash the basement. At a reasonable hour my mom would call us up for breakfast, which signaled the end of our weekend. Breakfast was immediately followed by chores.
We’d be sent downstairs (protesting was not an option) to deconstruct the sprawling Barbie village we had lovingly and painstakingly erected that morning. Then we’d dust and Windex every item of furniture in our rooms, mop and vacuum before we were rewarded by being locked out of the house to play.

Those are memories my children will not share.

Instead, they will remember arranged and orchestrated play time. Certainly, my first child will because with her I was all about the playdate. I joined every playgroup in Essex County and was willing to travel to other counties. I sought support and intelligent conversation. But what I found was more akin to peace negotiations between very demanding and unreasonable little despots and detailed, lengthy dialogs on the best sippy cups or jogging strollers on the market.

The entire two hour (the typical playdate period) time slot was spent roving around behind the kids, cleaning up smashed goldfish and fetching additional toys when all I really wanted to do is lie on the couch, sip a cocktail and commiserate with other moms. Oddly, none of the moms seemed up for commiserating and there was an implication 10:00 a.m. was a little too early for cocktails. I was willing to wait until 11:00, but the breakfast happy hour idea never took off.

Then there are the playdates to which I never consented. On more than one occasion, and I’m still unsure as to how this happened, playdates to which I never extended an invitation ensued at my house. A kid would invite my daughter to play. I would grant permission, and then the kid’s mother would turn to me and ask what time she should pick her kid up. What? The rule is if you invite, you host.

I presumed the parents were unaware of the invitation their child made as kids like to plan all sorts of things without consulting adults, but then there was the time a parent asked me point blank if my son would like to have a playdate with her son at my house. Just like that, too. I stammered for a minute trying to process the question before I had to ask her to repeat it. I thought I must have heard it wrong. But, no, she did in fact invite her son to my house. I had to decline.

Then the the day finally came when my kids could play with friends without their parents’ involvement. I was thrilled until I realized I was now the parent to more than my own two children. One little friend noted she didn’t like the snack offered and inquired about other options. That might have been preferable to the time another little friend found it perfectly acceptable to walk into my kitchen, open the refrigerator and rummaging through. Then there was the time my son’s friend removed the cylinder to the old-school, metal crank pencil sharpener mounted on the shelf and dumped the pencil shavings all over my floor or the time a little friend had an accident in my bathroom and refused to come out.

I still have difficulty accepting that kids can no longer be kicked outside to play like normal people. My home is half a block away from three little boys in my son’s class and my daughter is now old enough to walk the two blocks to her friends’ homes. But no one does. No one just goes outside and plays. I suppose it has to be scheduled first. Perhaps I should send my kids into school with Blackberries to schedule playdates in their daily planners. Once kids are penciled in maybe then they can come out to play.

(Photo: Flickr/ND Strupler)


  1. POSTED BY Schooled  |  September 28, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

    Kids on my block run all over the place. Front yards are considered play areas (except for two residents), and they play outside relatively unsupervised all the time. My kids are too young for *that* still, but I appreciate playdates as times to get together with another adult and have my kids distracted by someone else for a while.
    And while your gripes are truly annoying situations, just say no to the kids – or get stern with them. You’d be amazed what a deep stare and a one tone louder than normal “We don’t do that in this house” will do. If the other parent doesn’t reciprocate to give you a free hour or two, then it’s truly a pain. If not, just deal with the hassle and know that your kid has a chance to do the same (and be told no) later.

  2. POSTED BY BloomfieldMama  |  September 28, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

    Maybe you’ve romanticized your childhood, but it sure doesn’t sound like a memory that I’d want to have!

  3. POSTED BY Debbie Galant  |  September 29, 2010 @ 8:21 am

    I love this post! Maybe there should be play speed dating, play mixers and blind play dates too.

  4. POSTED BY bitter melon  |  September 29, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    I live on a busy street and the houses are largely separated by fences, so we’re not able to have the running across yards and neighborhood the way I grew up. I’ve been in Montclair for 2 years and seen the little girl next door outside once. ONCE. Not to mention the other kids on our street are either too old or too young for my kid to play with. So I find playdates helpful.
    Aside from leaving our house in shambles with toys all over the playroom and bedroom, I haven’t had the otherwise negative interactions you’ve experienced. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.
    I’ve been trying to train my kid and his friends to clean up one activity before they start another. And if they haven’t done that, they have to clean up before they leave, and the parents usually help out. And we do the same when we go to someone else’s house.
    We’ve also had plenty of playdates at the park or playground so no one is put out. Now that the kids are getting older and play together well, the other parents and I are able to relax a bit more and chat. Like I said, maybe I’ve just been lucky.

  5. POSTED BY NNN9495  |  September 29, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

    When I was a kid, there were 30+ kids in my neighborhood all within a few years of each other’s age. We were outside ALL DAY and my parents had to come looking for me and my brothers quite often LOL. Playdates were unheard of!
    I find playdates that last a couple of hours to be OK – more than that and a meltdown usually ensues. I’m not fond of them and get really irritated when I’m hosting the playdate and the parent of the invitee shows up late to pick their child up.
    Lately playdates have faded in my house and sleepovers have taken their place. Arrrrrrgh – my 2 kids each had a friend over to spend the night last weekend. It was a little noisy but OK ;o)

  6. POSTED BY jennymilch  |  September 29, 2010 @ 8:24 pm

    I was very struck by a study I read years ago that said the number 1–number ONE–predictor of adult happiness in life was…chores in childhood.
    Without wanting to get into the subtleties of that conclusion, let’s just say it rang true to me, and my kids have had chores since they were able to locomote basically. My first grader is responsible for packing her own snack (lunch involves heating things up) and both kids put away their laundry, make their beds, and help with dinner set up and clearing.
    Like you, I did the dust/vacuum/mega clean of the house as a child, and I’m sure that’s why it doesn’t scream child-labor to me to see my kids toil in these little ways. Hopefully it will better them–or help make them happy adults as the study suggested.
    In terms of roaming free…all I can do is sigh. Like others of my generation, the media has scared me into being more protective. I worry about kids outside alone–not what the kids would or wouldn’t do, but who might see them as targets.
    Hopefully that curtailment won’t undo the good of all those chores I impose 😉

  7. Pingback: Chores and Today’s Child « One Funny Motha

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