Did you notice I inadvertently scheduled two posts for yesterday at the same time? Oops. I also had to ask my Husband three times yesterday if it was Wednesday and I nearly cried when I realized I ate all the pretzels. Yesterday was Wednesday right? Don’t worry, I’m planning to diagnose my deteriorating mental state on WebMD during nap time today.
Anyway, you recall we visited with Chris’ family on Sunday morning. He has a sister who is very kind and very helpful. She’s always making all kinds of good suggestions about where to find this product or that product at a reduced price. Or suggesting good places to visit, good books to read. . .Yes. She does not have children.
So while we were at brunch, she mentioned that she knew a couple of folks with really “nice” 3 and 4-year-old children in the area in case I ever wanted to schedule a time for Mac to play with them.
And I just about snorted my coffee for a couple of reasons. . .(Oh Play Dates, How I Dread Thee):
1. The area she was referring to was a minimum of a 40 minute car ride from our home. There are at least 6 other children ON OUR BLOCK in the newborn to 4 year age range. If Mac wants to play with a kid, I’m not driving him 40+ minutes to do it. . .
2. Well, unless that kid’s parent also happens to be a close friend of mine. . . We have several friends in that situation and it’s so sad, but we hardly ever seem to be able to get our schedules to mesh. I miss my own long-time friends. I don’t necessarily need to make more parent “friends” just because they have children of a similar age to my own.
3. Furthermore, Mac still hasn’t moved into the developmental stage where he actually WANTS to play with other children. He’s around other children frequently – at church, at the playground, in the park, at friends’ homes. So far, he’s still engaging in the “parallel play” phase where he’s perfectly happy to amuse himself with something while other children do the same in his vicinity. He loves watching other children but he’s not ready to participate yet. I’m completely fine with this. I’m in no rush to drag him to 4 different birthday parties every weekend.
4. And furthermore, the longer I can prolong Mac’s realization that there is a plethora of ridiculous over-priced, plastic, small parts laden children’s toys available and other kids HAVE these things, I’m happy to do it. That and cake pops. If I NEVER have to make cake pops, I’ll die happy. (What kind of sicko wants a damned little ball of cake on a stick when you could have an entire cupcake or slice of cake anyway?)
5. The pressure that accompanies a “play date” with parents I don’t know well, far exceeds the pressure I felt while taking the Bar Exam. Is my house clean enough? Do I have appropriate activities “scheduled”? “Will the clown I booked for entertainment show up drunk again? Is my kid going to keep his hands out of his pants this time? It’s insane.
I tried to briefly explain the idea of Mac still being in the “parallel play” phase and Sister-In-Law asked “Shouldn’t he be practicing playing with other children?” Yeah. No. Not yet. If he’s not interested in engaging with other children, then the “practice” aspect is sort of just an uncomfortable exercise for everyone. Yes, I want to raise an appropriately social, well-mannered little boy but I’m not going to force social skills on him until he’s actually ready.
And furthermore, who practices playing? When I was growing up, there were a few kids of a similar age who lived on our block. Once we were ready, our parents basically threw us into the back yard with a tricycle and some sticks and told us not to come back inside until called for lunch.
And it worked.
We didn’t have scheduled “craft time,” or “music enrichment,” or clowns and ponies and cake pops. We went to the A&P to buy toilet paper for my friend Angie’s Mom – every day. Yes. Every day. (How smart was that of her Mother to give us something useful to do, learn about handling money, and get rid of us for 10 minutes?!) We rode our bikes. Sometimes we beat each other with sticks. But we learned to share, we learned to cooperate, we learned to care about one another’s feelings.
The current state of organized “play dates” blows my mind. Sure, once in a while, it’s awesome if a parent wants to invite a few kids over for lunch and a craft. I think it’s a great idea. I do not however, believe finger sandwiches, fruit cut into heart shapes, and live entertainment are necessary for every single “play date.” Nor do I believe parents should feel the pressure they do to provide such amenities.
The bottom line is: my kid’s not ready for all of this. And frankly, neither am I.
So Mac can keep parallel playing for as long as he likes. . .Hopefully by the time he is ready to actively play with other children, cake pops will have fallen out of favor. . .