Monday, March 24, 2008

We'll Set Aside Some Special Time Next Tuesday. We Require 24 Hours Notice For Canellation or Your Credit Card Will be Charged

As I was passing yet another note scribbled with my contact information on it to another mother so that a play date could be scheduled between our respective kids; it triggered a thought: How did my generation get to be so damned structured? What happened to the days of just going outside to play? And if your friend didn't live close enough to walk then you picked up the phone and said "hey, can I come over and play and oh by the way I need a ride can your mom get me?". And nine times out of ten they did. Or they just came to your house. Just so we're clear, I'm kind of anti-play date. Scheduling play time days or weeks in advance just seems a tad ridiculous. And what of the "exclusive" play date? What do I mean? As a for instance: Let's just say that your next door neighbor has kids that are your kids age and they play together a lot. And your child knocks on their door to see if little Johnny can play, only to be told that little Johnny can't play right now because he's having a play date. Apparently little Johnny is not a multi-play-tasker. Adding one more child to the equation is just too much and would somehow unleash something very damned scary; like an Earth sucking black hole abyss.

After school, when we were kids, we'd drag our friend over to our parent's waiting car and pointedly ask "Can so-n-so come over RIGHT NOW!?" and totally put our parents on the spot. And then run over and check with their mom at their waiting car and let them know, which they were usually fine with and only had one follow up question that was "Will you be eating dinner there, or what?" taking a long drag on her Virginia Slim. That was that. It's how we rolled.

Today, it seems like you have to pass muster in order for someone else's child to be allowed in your home. How many of you have invited one of your child's friends over and were instantly met with the "look" from the other parent. The parent who doesn't know you very well except in passing. The "look" that finally evolves into the uttered phrase "weeeelllll...howz about he/she comes to OUR house?!" and at first you're like "great!" because you're thinking of all the things you can do with your free time while your kids are with someone else until it smacks you in the head that you've just been judged and summarily dismissed. So then you might say something like "Weeellll...that's probably best because now I can tackle cleaning up the meth lab it's getting a little funky".

What was it that brought us to this? Is it the media? Were too many of us latch-key kids? Was it all of those Saturday morning cartoons? Too many Looney Tunes with the smoking, alcohol, ether, and cross dressing that frightened us into over protectiveness and this obsession with schedules? That somehow everything and all things must be planned to the inth degree or else we just can't function? We Gen-Xers are lacking in spontaneity. I'm so bored with me.

31 comments:

Karen said...

I totally agree, much to much structure for "play" these days.
Too bad you don't live next door to me. Your kids could totally come over and play any time! That is if my kids weren't already knocking on your door!

Melissa said...

This was very provocative--seriously. I am in full agreement. Our kids are too structured and scheduled and I believe it's a result of parents who instill it in them. When a parent was home, a playdate was scheduled spontaneously (or sleepover/dineover/whatever). Now, it's "I work until 4, but could drop him off after 5:15 when I bring his sister to baton lessons." What have we done??? In the name of what??? I love this post.

Jennifer said...

Geez. Is THAT how things are done now? That would annoy me too. Of course, looking back, my mom might've liked to have come home from work just once to an empty house instead of three or four kids jumping off the roof, swinging from the trees, or making forts in the front yard with my dad's extra lumber.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

This baby boomer (just made the cutof) totally agrees with you. In our neighborhood it's always been all about the general "playing outside." And we totally rock the spontaneous sleepover.

Burgh Baby's Mom said...

I was really hoping I was wrong when I started to pick up that the arranged play time is the norm. Can I please be wrong? I much prefer the spontaneous disposal of a kid from time-to-time.

And good grief, my parents never knew where I was. They knew I was in the neighborhood, and that was good enough.

Melissa said...

I think it came about as a safety issue but I agree, I hate this lets set a time and a date. I'm more of the fy by the seat of my pants. Thankfully, my kids friends parents (did you get all that) are also pretty much the same, so it works.

I thought it was just when kids were little that happened? So your telling me it doesn't get better? Crap!

THE MOM BOMB said...

Blech. I hate this too. And I totally know the feeling of being "checked out".

Part of the prob is all the structured lessons and activities. My daughter's been trying to have a friend over for a month, but this girl has gymnastics, ballet and music during the weekdays and soccer on the weekends.

Lisa Milton said...

Amen. All that planning makes my head hurt, especially when I'm forced to 'interview' beforehand.

ack

Angie said...

Angie's idea of playdate= open door. go play. come back if thirsty or bleeding.

Angie's neighborhood idea of playdate = arrange time. make special snack. write out list of prohibited foods and possible allergies. set allotted healthy amount of playtime. take a recent medical history to ensure Johnny will not acquire any illness he wasn't already exposed to at school this week. etc.

Actually, we have a couple neighbors who share my philosophy and it is great. The kids have the best time because there is no structure. Play ((DATE)) implies nervous jitters, awkwardness, expectations, etc.

KEEP BELIEVING

Allie said...

I totally agree. Spontaneity is the best. As you may know I don't have children, but if I did I don't know how I would feel about "play dates" and my child being rejected by one of their friends because they are on a "play date." Seems a little harsh to me.

pam said...

Amen.

Greta said...

I am also anti prearranged-playdate. The thing that BOGGLES me is when I moved to our new sub, tons of kids just kind of showed up and came inside to play. I don't let my kids play at other people's houses unless I REALLY know their parents. I'm not an axe murderer, but how do THEY know that??

Here's another somewhat unrelated question...how old does your kid have to be before you'll let him/her ride off on their bikes in the subdivision? I debate this one constantly. (Keep in mind, no matter where you live, there's no such thing as a COMPLETELY safe neighborhood)

Madame Queen said...

Ahh...the good old days. My friend used to invite me to her house all the time but she always wanted to play school, which I HATED. My mom and I actually came up with a sytem in which I would cough while I was asking her if I could go to my friend's house. If she heard the cough she knew to tell me no.

Fortunately, my kids are young enough now that we don't run into this problem. Yet.

QueenMother said...

Were you in my kitchen last night? Seriously-I was JUST having this convo with Mr. QM because we live in a neighborhood where all the kids do private school-different schools and on our block-our children don't really have playmates at all because I am the only Stay At Home mom and all the other kids are shuttled from school, home by a nanny, and to all of their "activities" that is a whole nother blog, I suppose. Anyhoo-we are moving to a neighborhood where all the kids do public and your neighbor could be in your class at school-makes impromptu playdates a given.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I'm with you, sister. Although I do find I have to make sure they won't be watching TV the whole time at someone else's house - they don't burn off any energy that way and come home more revved up than when they left. So, yes, I do check the other parent out - but more in a "Hey, as long as you're the type to kick them outside and leave them there all afternoon, it's fine with me" sort of way.

I know people who have kids who literally do not know how to amuse themselves. It's pathetic.

slouching mom said...

Spot on.

It's also that everyone's so afraid that their kids will disintegrate if they let them out of their sight. Hey, we used to ride in cars without seat belts, in the front seat... We went to friends' houses to play, alone, either walking or by bike. We survived!

You've echoed my husband's complaints exactly in this post. He hates the concept of a play date.

Shania said...

I have 13 years between my 4 yr old and his older sister. When one of his preschool friends moms asked if we wanted to do a playdate, I truly didn't know what she was talking about. I'm hip and with it like that.

Karen said...

Yet another reason I'm so glad that I live in Podunkville. We are literally 10 years behind the times in everything. (You should see the hairstyles people are still sporting.) We totally just call and say "can so-and-so come over right now?" And mean it. I really think that if anyone around here arranged a play-date they'd be laughed out of the county.

HRH said...

Amen...you are preaching to the choir. So, I don't know what is for dinner until 15 minutes before 6, but I am supposed to PRE-ARRANGE seperate age-appropriate playdates weeks in advance for my three children after interviewing each potential "lucky" (HA!) hostess? I agree with Angie and wish I lived next door. I say the words, "upstairs or outside" about 15 million times a day to whatever collection of kids has accrued in my household. I seem to live next door to people who would require an interview with me, but their nanny doesn't.

Mrs. G. said...

There was nothing better than those impromptu sleep overs or spontaneous invitations to dinner-especially when the meal was better than what you would be having at home.

I'm trying to figure out when it became our responsibility to organize play.

Minnesota Matron said...

You are dead on. Our two older children have neighborhood friends and just run down the block, all the time. I totally try to NOT schedule. And I am the slouch parent with my youngest who trusts that the mom in his preschool is exactly as benign as she seems and just say YES and bring him over, without Home Inspection.

But I was not this way when I started. I was the one certain of the meth lab's existence.

OHmommy said...

Perfect post.

You have read my mind. My post for tomorrow is about playdates. I just poured my class of wine to write it. How's that for spontaneity? Drinking on Mondays. LOL.

Marlee said...

Yeah, Snacks is only FOUR and the "play dates" are ALREADY killing me...

EatPlayLove said...

I try my hardest to breathe spontaneity into my friends with kids lives..I think I am slowly making an impact. I love the drop by or random phone call to meet up at a park. I hate the scheduling.

I definitely grew up dumping my bike in my best friend's front yard too excited to put it up on it's kick stand, do you ever see a random bike or bikes in a front yard today? sad.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

So my question is, why don't y'all live closer to me?! LOL!

greta~ There is a lot of traffic in and out of our house too, with the street kids. I'm not sure when I started letting the boys ride their bikes farther than in front of our house. It was kind of a gradual procession. To the mail boxes, to the end of the street, around the corner. Now, they can go around the cul-de-sacs and just stay off the main drag.

mrs g~ We rock the impromptu sleepover in our house too. Which is why I was stunned once when I invited a classmate of my sons to spend the night only to be told that they aren't allowed to do sleepovers at all. okay.

suburbancorrespondent~ I know kids like that too. Because their parents provide every aspect of their entertainment, the kids just don't know how on their own. Sad.

queenmother~ Welcome! I'm one of the only SAHM on my street too. So it's usually late in the afternoon or early evening that there are any other kids around.

angie~ Oh my word! The lists.

BBM~ "Spontaneous disposal" LOL!

JCK said...

You captured this beautifully, yet an ugly situation. I agree with you 100%. One of the cool things I like about where we live right now is that we have neighbors that we can just drop in on. Like tonight, BOY & GIRL were on their trikes, the husband and I afoot. We passed our friends' house, they saw us, all invited in to hang in the yard. Kids racing around and adults having a drink. It was cool.

I have such great memories of those days you are talking about. When it wasn't "planned out" with such urgency and forethought...

Great post!

1blueshi1 said...

here in Bammy we are a leetle behind the times...that is pretty much how play dates still roll round these heah paaaaahrts. Except I smoke Camel Ultra Light 100s ;)

katie said...

beautifully put. and multi-play-tasker... funny. I have 4 boys. I kick them out when they get too rowdy. no arranging dates, no call so and so... just go outside. why are you still in here. it's a nice day out. go.

I look out a bit later. There they are. With all the other kids that were kicked out as well I'm sure, doing what you ask? playing. what a concept.

I love my neighborhood. It's a throwback. Perfect.

Domestically Challenged said...

I'm with the Mom Bomb!
We do a mixture - only because of clubs...
I love it when the kids run out of school baying for 'thingy' to come back to play.
Spontanaeity is always more fun than planned things.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day...we had to be home when the streetlights came on. Real problem in Castaic in 1956.

Cheri said...

Totally.