Playdates Are Different

When I was a kid, I had to be home when the street lights came on in the neighborhood. My mom threw us out the door in the morning and we came straggling back for lunch, maybe, more like when the fireflies announced themselves just before the ominous buzzing of the big florescent stopwatches. Winter Break was a series of snowball fights – if we were lucky enough to get snow over Christmas in Maryland – or if not, most definitely a playfest with all the new toys from Santa.

Declan has been home with me going on two weeks and he has played with a friend once. We had to do a bunch of finagling around schedules, the whens and wheres, to make it happen.

We also live fairly close to downtown, so I have yet to release Declan to the wilds of our ‘hood. At his age, I was free to roam, with or without my bike. But it’s just been in the last year or so that we even let Declan play in the front yard alone, or maybe run across the street to play with the only child on our block his age.

Of course, I didn’t ride a city bus until I was nearly 20 – Declan did that on a Kindergarten field trip.

It is interesting that our experiences are so different; everyone says it is the sign of the times.

But, I had gross dudes approach me in that neighborhood where I was free to roam. Back then. When things were supposed to be safe.

Of course, we also over-schedule our children now; they are running from one appointment to another constantly.

This is so true, in our family at least. I am constantly looking at my phone and calculating how much time I need till the next thing, how much can I fit in. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and be some floppy aristocrat who spent have the day getting dressed and the other half listening to music. But then I would have to corset, and that would never do, of course.

Point being, I long for calm, and I know my son does sometimes too.

So, sometimes I purposely don’t schedule things and let him goof off. Do whatever.

Sure, yesterday he watched about 8 hours straight of Looney Tunes on YouTube.

But he doesn’t do that every day. I try my best to find the middle ground. Some days playdates. Some days a book. Some days cleaning the house (he loves that one). And yes, some days vegging in front of the TV.

And then I sit and think, how will it be for him when he grows up? Will he look back and wish he had been able to run around in the streets like a maniac? Catch fireflies at dusk like I did? Will it influence where he decides to live? How he raises his children?

No clue, but he will be interesting to watch.


This article has 14 comments

  1. Megan

    I find it really hard to schedule and we DO live in a neighborhood where the kids are free to roam!!

  2. sue at nobaddays

    Your experience is mine exactly. There are times when I am so annoyed at the exactly scheduling of school and after-school care and homework during the school term, that I’m more than happy for Tau to veg out, watching cartoons or playing games for hours!

  3. JennyMoose

    Ah, some of my favorite memories are of chasing those fireflies with you, Aimee. A jar with holes punched in the lid in one hand, grape popsicle in the other, no shoes, sun toasted skin, hair still smelling of chlorine from the pool, we raced around in the dusk with absolutely no idea how lucky we were.

  4. Anonymous

    Considering I’m way older than you, I, too, did all that running around but even more so. We were never inside when the weather was good. We would play ball in the alley behind Oma’s yard or ride our bikes till we thought our legs would fall off. My friends and I loved walking in the rain in the summer because everything smelled so fresh. We very rarely had scheduled things planned but that never worried us at all.

    It was wonderful !

  5. Everyfann

    Really interesting questions. It *IS* so different now!

  6. Nancy

    Great post. There are days I feel less like a parent and more like an agent/personal assistant/scheduler for my kids. One of my resolutions for the year is to let them learn to entertain themselves more.

  7. Matthew Lewis

    I really do remember being a kid on Long Island which is why I probably find the term ‘playdate’ to be so amusing. With us, it was, “Go outside and play.” We’d play in the backyard, stickball in the streets, kick-the-can, or ride our bikes to distant destinations. Adult supervision was minimal, though, though I do think that other parents would keep an eye on us. We were mostly on our own. This is something that would never happen now.

    Summer time was the best time though. From the time school let out until it was back in session, we lived at the beach. My mom would spread out a blanket and read. We would swim and explore the dunes. (Thank you Robert Moses.)

    I miss those days.

  8. EatPlayLove

    We never had playdates, we just played. Quite often when I am in line to pick up G from preschool I loathe the sound of the word playdate…the scheduling, the planning, the logistics. Let’s just hit the park and have FUN!

  9. woolies

    I feel so lucky that when my kids were little (my oldest is now 19), we lived in a neighborhood where they could roam wildly. If you needed to find them, just drive around the neighborhood and look for the house that had all the bikes strewn on the front lawn. They knew how far they could go without getting into big trouble. Those were the days!

  10. J at

    It’s interesting to me to see how kids are different. My daughter is very much a stay at home and relax kind of girl. I do sometimes wonder if that would have been different if we had lived in a neighborhood that fostered being booted out the door after breakfast and coming home at dinner. We don’t live in that kind of neighborhood. It’s busy and not a lot of kids to play with and no really good places to play. Sigh. Then again, when I was a kid, we only had 3 channels on TV. (I lived in Alaska…no cable). We came to California, and got cable, and my outside time shrank markedly.

    I notice you mentioned when times were *supposed* to be safer. I agree 100%. Things were safer for me because I lived in a very small town. When we moved to a large suburb, the crap started. So I think it’s more a matter of population density than living in a more dangerous world. That, and TV and internet being different now. We find out about the guy 2 states over who murders or molests someone, when back in the day, we only found out about things close by.

  11. AmanDa

    I think about this so much. I was raised in the country. Like, cows, pigs, no neighbors for miles, country. It was a place where my sister and I could swim at my aunt’s house until 11PM if we wanted and then walk the 1/4 mile home alone! Now I raise three kids in the city and it is so different. They are only allowed to play in our yard, no riding bikes because people fly down our street and the farthest they are allowed to go is around the block to the dollar store IF they are all three together. Sometimes I wonder if they are missing out on something, if it will affect where they want to live when they grow up. Sometimes I really let the guilt get me, but then sometimes I think about all the things they do get to go that I never did. We can walk to the ice cream shop and the bakery shop and the library. We can walk to the park with a huge jumgle gym and basketball courts. The ice cream truck comes to our house and they can have impromptu play dates with friends that live on the street. Also, our dog lives inside. In the country, our dog always stayed outside. Fourth of July and Memorial day always bring block parties and lots of firework watching from the porch. Kids just need lots of love wherever they are being raised and it seems you have that covered 😉 Also, my two youngest daughters watched Netflix on the computer ALL DAY LONG yesterday and I didn’t even care. Sometimes they just need to relax too.

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