Playdates take on a whole new meaning with school-age kiddos. When my oldest was a toddler, and still today with my youngest, playdates mean moms getting to spend time socializing while their kiddos play. Each mom doing their best to have their house as clean as possible afraid to be judged by other moms. Having a healthy snack on hand that is respectful of any kids allergies. Maybe even having an activity for the kids if you’re going above and beyond. Managing the idea of “sharing” while kids surrounded by toys all have to have the same one. And frankly just trying to connect with someone that is not a tiny two-year-old dictator. So, lots of layers, but none of those existed as soon as my oldest set foot in kindergarten.
The Playdate “Playfun” Evolution
Playdates or “Playfuns” as my 8-year-old calls them, because “they aren’t on a date” are what my oldest asks for the second she gets home from school every day. I kid you not, every single day. As a school-age kid playfuns are very different. This is an opportunity for school-age kids to bond. To spend time together playing and talking when they can just focus on playing and talking. Plain and simple it is a relationship builder. It can also be a point of contention for other kiddos who are not getting to come over. Those kiddos are missing out on building relationships and feel that emotion. It can be hard on surrounding relationships as a result. When my oldest gets home from school we often spend more time talking about the social aspect of the school day than we do the education piece. Frankly, a lot of days the social piece is much harder to process than what she has learned that day at school.
One of the drawbacks is that I have no added social time, which if you ask my husband I desperately need so that he can get a word in edgewise when he gets home. I am now acting as a babysitter to my child’s friends, but that is fine with me because it is about them not about me.
Trust is the Key
I do feel like you need to enter into this playdate partnership with other parents you know respect your time and efforts. A fellow parent that takes advantage of you can ultimately ruin your child’s friendship. There are also good parents out there that feel like they need to do a playdate because you had the kids over for a playdate. Fair trade if you will. I really try to tell fellow parents it’s not necessary. Getting free babysitting is not my intent, although honestly, it can be for others. I’m a SAHM, so I just have more flexibility after school than other parents and am happy to help.
The friends/parents my oldest has gone home with for afterschool playdates I have generally held in high regard and trusted fully. There was one exception to that rule when I chose not to trust my gut. That parent chose to take my child for an hour-long ride in the car and then sent her into a high school with her friend to get her friends sibling while she sat in the car. The mom never asked or let me know they weren’t at her house. I heard it from my then 6-year-old what had happened like it was totally fine. She just thought being in the car the whole time was boring. I thought if they had been in a car wreck the mom didn’t have any health or insurance information for her and I was furious. For two hours my child was not where I was told she would be. On top of that, I have to repeat the previous sentence that she sent my 6-year-old into a high school with another 6-year-old.
My trust was broken at that point and we stopped having playdates for almost a year. My oldest’s friendships survived but were slower to deepen without the extra time together.
Rules for Playdates
My general rules of thumb are as follows and some are super obvious so bear with me, but man I have been surprised by parents that completly ignored them.
1. Be respectful of other parents’ time and expect them to do the same for you
2. Set a time frame for the playdate
3. Find out if any of the children have allergies
4. Let the fellow parent know if there are any additional people that will be in your house during the playdate
5. Ask the fellow parent before taking their kiddo somewhere without permission
On a random side note, if you have not seen the playdate schedule on ABC’s “Single Parents” you have to check it out because it is a thing of beauty.