Two kids slumped on the couch, yours chewing a chunk of hair, the other staring at the floor. Your kid's been begging to have so and so over and nothing, nothing is happening. No talk much less play. They can't agree on what to do. They're bored. Moments away from asking to play Wii.
We've all been there. The playdate with The Kid Who Cannot Play.
The old-fashioned, unplugged version without adult intervention, the well-equipped playroom or the promise of snacks. This is the kid whose parent is amazed by the impromptu tiger hunt, the human pyramid in the backyard, the goth girl fashion show, the "dead man in a blanket" game. The logic-defying concoctions of children left to their own imaginations.
Behaviors I used to take for granted.
Critics have suggested that such coaching is yet another example of the over-scheduling and over-programming of our children. And, as someone whose scholarly work has consistently reinforced the idea that young people need unstructured imagination time, I’d probably have been opposed to recess coaches in the past. But childhood has changed so radically in recent years that I think the trend makes sense, at least at some schools and with some students. ....For children in past eras, participating in the culture of childhood was a socializing process. They learned to settle their own quarrels, to make and break their own rules, and to respect the rights of others. They learned that friends could be mean as well as kind, and that life was not always fair...Now that most children no longer participate in this free-form experience — play dates arranged by parents are no substitute — their peer socialization has suffered. One tangible result of this lack of socialization is the increase in bullying, teasing and discrimination that we see in all too many of our schools. Playtime Is Over, New York Times, March 26.Childhood has changed forever. Even Doc Elkind is throwing in the proverbial play time towel. What's next, Dr. Sears promoting infant formula? Autism Speaks advocating vaccines?
Even Wikipedia's got a spin on play time, rather the poor play-substitute, the much-maligned modern "play date":
A play date or playdate is an arranged appointment for children to get together for a few hours to play.
To play? As in interact. Okay, maybe....might need to tweak that wording.
Why do we need them?
...because the work schedules for busy parents, along with media warnings about leaving children unattended, prevent the kind of play that children of other generations participated in.
Like my dad and his 6 siblings playing kick the can in the street in the dark. Or riding their bikes down town without helmets, water or cell phones. While his mother, bless her, stayed home cleaning, cooking, and washing without benefit of Prozac, Oprah, or Facebook friends.
The intention of a playdate is to give children time to interact freely in a less structured environment than other planned activities might provide. Playdates are different from organized activities or scheduled sports, because they are not usually structured.
Unless the parent has prepared several planned activities or pre-packaged craft projects.
Playdates are a late 20th century innovation. Playdates are becoming part of the vernacular of popular culture and form a part of children’s "down time." Most parents prefer children to use these hours to form friendships by playing with other children either one-on-one or within small groups. When children are very young, most parents stay for the playdate and use the time to form their own friendships and parental alliances.Parental alliances! Juicy. The reason I dropped out of the "play group" scene years ago. Thank goodness no one's asked me to join a play group in ages. Talk about stress.
Has anyone actually enjoyed the company of ten moms and ten toddlers plus a few infants crammed into a living room? Maybe it's just me. I prefer my mommies and small children in small groups.
The good news, "play group" and "recess facilitator" are up for grabs on Wikipedia. Go for it.
Okay I'm caging the cattiness as I can no longer blame Vicodin. What about you and your play date woes? What's the worst no-play play date you've experienced? Anyone boycott play dates altogether? All you introvert moms of introvert children, be honest. Like pulling teeth, no?