More than one set of parents has rolled their eyes at the idea of a playdate.
That we’ve evolved to the point where our kids have scheduled play times with friends, much the way we’d schedule a work meeting with a vendor, is yet another way we’ve taken the spontaneity out of childhood.
Who do we have to thank for the playdate? Well, like most things, it’s not an entirely simple answer. Working parents. Helicopter moms. Over-scheduled kids. These are all contributing factors.
But logistically, we can thank the smart phone.
Back when land lines were common, a kid could learn to pick up the phone, dial their friend’s number, and talk directly to their friend. Together, they could dream up and coordinate whatever plan and be off and running.
Now, most younger kids don’t have their own smart phones (yet). It’s impossible for little Johnny to call his friend Jeff. He has to ask him mom to call Jeff’s mom.
This means Johnny’s mom has to find time to call, and then reach Jeff’s mom. That can be hours, or even a day. Then when Jeff’s mom reaches Johnny’s, the have to find a time that works for them – not Johnny and Jeff (because damn near any time works for the kids).
Once determined, you now have a playdate. But by that time, Johnny and Jeff have moved on from the idea and are building smash-up derby Lego cars (or they would be, if Lego hadn’t taken all the creativity out of their product by only selling Legos as part of sets that only make one, pre-determined thing.)
And, as a bonus effect, the dawn of the playdate was also the death of the multi-friend hang out. Before playdates, you used to call or assemble somewhere, and whomever you ran into along the way was welcome to join.
Now, with playdates, everything is very top secret. You don’t tell other kids you’ve got a playdate with someone, because it makes the feel excluded. So you just tell them you’re already busy. (Code for, “I have a playdate, and it’s not with you. But my mom made it, so don’t blame me.”)
Being a kid used to be pretty fun. I’m glad I didn’t grow up with a smart phone.