Raising Davis: Play Dates – Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

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Working mom Meghan Bradley says for her family, play dates aren’t very important.

Play dates? Davis can take them or leave them because he has had good experiences and not-so good ones. Here’s the thing: I’m a working mom so Davis is surrounded by friends at school, daycare and the after-school program all day, every day. As a result, the request for a play date during the weekend doesn’t come up very often. This is a relief, because I can take them or leave them, too. If Davis wants to have a friend over, there can be about 10 emails back and forth with the playmate’s family just to find a date that works. Then there’s planning to be sure we have accounted for the visiting child’s allergies, likes and dislikes along with mutually enjoyed activities and snacks. We had one recent experience where the child behaved so badly that Davis looked at me, 30 minutes in to the visit, shrugged his shoulders and said that he was pretty much done. Somehow we had to get through two-and-a-half more hours! This child had temper tantrums and hid under the furniture when he didn’t get his way. He yelled and bossed Davis around the entire visit and when suggestions were made for activities, the child would yell “No!” in such a way that I was thinking a two-and-a-half hour timeout might be in order! After this very long day, Davis said, “I wish it had just been you and me, Mommy.” My thoughts, exactly!
Davis was invited to at least a dozen birthday parties last year and also has lots of opportunities to play with his cousins and our friends’ kids. We have lots of social occasions on our calendar and the play date, for our family, isn’t very important. I also don’t want to miss one-on-one time with Davis because the weekends are our only time to slow down and be relaxed. Some weekend mornings we stay in our pyjamas long after breakfast, just because we can! I like building ramps out of old cereal boxes for his hot wheel cars and we challenge each other on our favourite video game, Little Big Planet. Paul wants his own one-on-one time with Davis and they wrestle and play driveway hockey. His teenaged sisters choreograph dance routines where Davis is the acrobat being tossed and flipped in the air. And we all go on family outings, finding new places to visit and new experiences away from home. Davis’s family weekends are pretty busy.
I think back to when I was growing up and I just opened the door and went outside to meet my friends. There weren’t any texts, emails, or phone calls between parents because our friends were right in the neighbourhood – and we played until we were called in for dinner. Today, our neighbourhood is full of teens and university-aged kids, so this is not going to be Davis’ experience. On the flipside, he looks to all of us to play with him and that gives me a chance to relive my childhood. At age 44, I can still bike, ice skate, rollerblade, ride roller coasters and play video games!
This weekend, we’re going to build the coolest indoor fort and watch Davis’s favourite movie. I cherish the fact that, for now, Paul and I get to be his number one playdate!

Published in November 2010.

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