Thursday, June 18, 2009

Playdates


One of the things I'm missing with my new summer school schedule is the social life around Daisy's school. It's one of those things I never thought about before having a kid in school . . . parents are thrust into a social arena based solely on geographical location and the age of the offspring. When I was a kid, I assumed all adults knew and liked each other.



The main thing we are missing out on at the moment is our playdate schedule. My father-in-law asked if I was making that term up or was it an actual thing. I can tell you that I heard that term before I really understood it. I'm not sure if it's like this in all neighborhoods, but at least in this one, kids aren't able to walk out the front door to find someone to play with anymore. In my childhood, my brothers and I ran wild with a ragtag assortment of neighborhood kids. We moved several times and it was always an option. Now, kids in the elementary school set have a social life organized around playdates.



I remember sitting at Daisy's preschool orientation, excited because it was a coop, meaning that parents work shifts to keep the tuition low. My boss was flexible enough to allow me to do it. The teacher leading the orientation explained that us parents would probably become close friends, and years later, she was still friends with some of her fellow preschool moms. I looked around the room . . . uh, no . . . I don't think so. I'm just really selective about women - and there were mostly women there - that I trust enough to get close to. Partly because when I was working 50+ hours per week, I found that I couldn't meet the expectations of a new female friendship. I was barely able to participate in my husband's social life and I already had my college girlfriends, childhood friends, and work friends. I didn't feel like I had the room.



I didn't do playdates for most of preschool, and sadly, my daughter suffered from my lack of participation. Once in awhile, I would have time to take her to the playground next to her preschool, where many of the parents congregated after school. The other kids seemed to pick up on the fact that we weren't a regular part of the group and often treated my daughter badly. It broke my heart and after one particularly bad day, I told her that we were leaving. She turned to a group of girls she considered to be her friends, "I have to go now." One of the girls turned to her and said, "I don't care," then turned back to the group, "Does anyone care that she's leaving?" They all shook their heads. Daisy cried on the way home.



It was time for me to put aside my own perspective and jump into the playdate scene. But I did nothing until I lucked out that one girl, who my daughter considered her closest friend, had a mom who reached out to me. She asked me if I'd be interested in having a playdate. I said yes, not only to that playdate, but to a fixed schedule of alternating playdates between us. From there, we added another regular playdate with another family.



For the last year or so, we continued our playdate schedule and that's about all my schedule could handle. The other days were reserved for job hunting or tutoring, while the kids were in daycare. After Daisy started kindergarten, we met new families and there were more playdate offers. I realized that playdates are kind of like actual dates. You're not sure if it's too early to ask the other party out, and when you do, you're not sure if you want to make it a regular thing. You're not sure if there are enough common interests to sustain something over the long run. Also, playing hard to get might lead to more offers.



picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregarch2/4264111913/

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