Recently a friend of mine Chris Bernholdt has found himself in the media spotlight for his piece, “Banish the Playdate“. Give it a read, his perspective is not as original and unrealistic as some have argued because many of us have already had similar feelings towards the rules of the all powerful play date.
Chris claims, “The word playdate also gives off this connotation that I should be opening doors for you as you drop off your kid. They are only playing and there is no need for us to hang out unless you are one of those moms that feel uncomfortable leaving your kid with me. You probably don’t want to be THAT mom though because when I drop my kids off at your house I’m not loitering because I trust you.”
This seems to get to one of the core issues of playdates at least coming from some dads’ perspectives.
I am a husband and a father of three kids and a stay at home dad and founder of MainLineDads. The concept of the playdate is familiar to me as it is with almost every parent that I know but there should be some limits of the parental involvement. If your kid(s) are too young to be going up and down the block alone then playdates are almost a necessity. That is the primary job of parents, to be the gatekeepers, to make sure that the kid(s) have someone to interact with but also a safe environment to nourish social communications with children their own age and not be concerned with outside “issues”.
Once the kids begin school, the playdate rules should and need to be amended. They will be forming new friendships without the oversight of the parents. Instead of constantly deciding who they should and should not play with, a parent should use this opportunity to be introduced to the parents of these new friends. For my daughter, she is almost everyday asking to call her long list of friends to go over and play. Every single one of them has been from her school and I’ve met all of their parents. (For the record: We are fortunate to have 90% of her friends within a 5 block radius so clearly this does not fit all parents scenario.) She calls them and asks if so and so is home and if so, she rides her bike or scooter over then calls when she arrives. Simple. This in my opinion, allows her opportunities to learn several things: phone manners, personal schedules, social interactions and of course the exercise to get there. For the parents who think the world is too scary and dangerous, knowing your neighborhood is important. I know my crime stats and where any problem residents may be. I’ve also communicated with my daughter the need to be aware of her surroundings. Can I protect her from everything? Of course not, I CAN trust my kids to make good choices based on my rules that they have grown to respect and obey. Sheltering your kids, while lined with good intentions, will normally do more harm than good. Let your kids make friends on their own and make sure as parents we are there to pick them up if those decisions don’t work out just right.
The other issue in Banish the Playdate is how over-scheduling clips the creative “juices” that childhood is most known for. Let your kids get bored, turn off the phone or computer and send them outside. Within five minutes you will see a bored child turn miraculously into a pirate or astronaut. There is no need to make sure that kids have scheduled events all the time. Let them fend for themselves. So, back to the issue of banning playdates…my verdict is ban the parents from over-scheduling because the awesome part of being a kid is not having a schedule.
FREEDOM. The very thing every single one of us has wished for over and over again since becoming a responsible adult. Everyday we are bound to our schedules. We have to fit as much into our day as possible because, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” These are adult problems and our kids will find that out one day. Today, BACK OFF and let them enjoy their freedom of responsibilities and let them choose their friends and what they should do. The playdate itself is not the issue, the issue is over protective parents. We all need to take a step back to remember our childhood.
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