“Please mom, can Joey come over for a play date?” The question that arises again and again in our house. Yet, choosing the “right playmate” to have over and who to avoid for a variety of reason (very active, parents do not share your family values, you don’t want your child to attend the reciprocal play date at their house) is a challenge. Isn’t it all like dating for kids?
Pre-kids I would get set up on countless blind dates, meet people at parties or at work, etc.. Deciding to take the next step of going on a date involved questions about shared interests and some chemistry. And for those I chose to go in the date with, the variables of the actual event- is it fun, is conversation easy, do we share the same interests? At least then I was only making decisions for me!
When your children are under the age of 5, you are in command of their social lives. Your friends and their children become your child’s buddies. Once they enter preschool or kindergarten they will undoubtedly get invited to social outings by families you do not know well. As the responsible adult, you will decide the course of this social experiment…sounds daunting doesn’t it.
My children are very fortunate and have a great group of friends that I am happy to have at our home for playdates. But there are undoubtedly, the times when things might take an unfortunate turn… The kids are fighting, someone doesn’t want to play that game, or they don’t like the snack you are offering. These are the moments where you ask yourself-Is the date going well? Do you have to police the playdate to make sure everyone is getting along? Is Joey going to go home and tell his parents that the playdate was awesome or awful? And in the big scheme of things, does it matter? (Are you having dating flashbacks yet?)
I learned many lessons from years of bad dates. I learned how to get along with others, to develop a stronger sense of self, and to look for the humor in mundane situations. I imagine that these are some of the lessons children learn while on playdates. Kids use their imagination and work on their cooperative play skills. They figure out what key characteristics make a good friend. They will grow as people and become more independent as a result. And this is what I choose to focus on instead of the flashbacks of dates of the past.
So the next time you are arranging that play date for your child, block out the bad dating memories. We learn from many different types of social situations. Good luck with your child’s next playdate!