Sunday, June 6, 2010

Play Dates: Reason Enough Not to Have Kids

I may not be a parent, but through my close friend Sara who is a mom (and like a sister to me), I am privvy to the nitty gritty of what it's like to be a parent. I truly get a bird's eye view because Sara holds nothing back, good and bad. Let me tell you folks, while there are many, many good, sound reasons not to have kids, especially in today's society, the requirement of today's moms to plan and attend PLAY DATES has to be reason enough not to have kids.

I am sure most of you know what play dates are, but in the event you are unfamiliar, essentially young children of today no longer go out to play like we did when we were kids (you know..."Hey Mom - I'm going over Suzy's house to play. I'll be back later for dinner"). No, their parents (usually mom) have to organize and schedule play appointments with other parents and their children. Children can no longer play without adult planning and supervision. Here's how it works:

Mother #1 identifies that Mother #2 has a child of a similar age and places a phone call to Mother #2 to schedule a "play date". This is done to ensure that her child has friends and an adequate amount of play time. At the appointed time, both mothers and their children meet at an agreed-upon place so that the children can play with each other while the mothers sit there and watch. During this time, the mothers talk about their children and usually one (or both) of the mothers tries to get a leg up on the other by talking up her child's achievements and development. The mothers also like to compare their methods of parenting, each positioning herself as the best mom with the best mothering practices. According to Sara, play dates are also used as a time for moms to bash their husbands and moms (like my friend) who are happy with their husbands and do not feel the need to bash them, are viewed suspiciously and are eventually wedged out of the play date network, hence resulting in a lonely child with no friends.

I was out with Sara all day yesterday (yes, she actually took a full day to herself away from the family!) and she spent a significant amount of time venting about the politics of play dates. I truly felt sorry for her and it broke my heart to hear the feelings of isolation she was experiencing, not to mention her concerns for her children who - because of her not fitting in with the other moms - are becoming social outcasts. Talk about mother's guilt.

I have to say - the thought of play dates instantly activates my gag reflex. Is there anything more awful to contemplate than being forced to socialize with boring yuppy moms that you have nothing in common with, in order to provide a social life for your child? And to bear the sole responsibility of your child's happiness and social development via fruitful political involvement with said boring yuppy moms? Honestly, I think I'd rather get a root canal. And is there anything more sad than the loss of childhood spontanaeity and the overscheduling of every minute of the modern child's life?

When it comes to play dates, nobody said it better than my favorite comedian, George Carlin (may he rest in peace). So today, I will leave you with George's take on play dates (and other modern parenting offenses).


Surfie said...

Yes, what better way to suck the fun out of childhood than by scheduling every minute of it. When they aren't at play dates, they're taking dance, music, karate, or sports lessons. Heaven forbid an adult have a life. I'm so incredibly glad I don't have kids and that my husband and I agree that neither of us want them, EVER.

Fanboy Wife said...

I can't think of a time that I played with a a friend as a child and all the parents were there. The only thing I've ever heard about play dates before this was on episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond.

CFJ said...

Geez, since when is letting your kid be bored for awhile considered child abuse? I used to get bored sometimes when I was a kid, and when I made the mistake of whining about it to my mother, did she offer to schedule a play date for me? No, but she DID offer to let me do the dishes, or wash some laundry, or mop the floor, or dust the living room... And then I learned to entertain myself, all on my own! Imagine that!

By the way, I love your blog, and have added it to my blogroll at -- is that okay?

Anonymous said...

Play dates are political. If only I were a Christian, conservative with 4 children and one on the way, I would be the belle of the freakin' ball.

I hate playdates, but I do it for my only child's socialization skills. Also, I thought they were only for toddlers and preschool-age kids. When they get to a certain age, it's okay to let them play along. I remember being as young as 5 in my inner-city neighborhood left to play outside with my friends alone. As long as my parents knew who's house I was at and I stayed there, it wasn't a problem.

The only reason I can think of for actual scheduled playdates for school-aged children are in cases where you want your kids to play at another family's house, but neither family knows the other well enough to just drop their kid off with strangers or...a grown-up circle jerk where everybody can brag (or vent) and claim it's all "for the children".

Christy said...

Oh god, playdates sound like torture! But kids playing on their own are no bargain, either.

Yesterday, I was at my brother's, and my nephews came in, wailing and crying, after playing in the yard, and one of them had a crescent-shaped gash under his right eye. There is some building going on over there, and they told my brother, who immediately demanded an explanation, that one was sliding a piece of pipe through the inner workings of a tractor my brother borrowed, and hit the other in the face with it.

There was a moment of awkward silence and sniffling, then my brother took off his shoe and began to take turns whacking both of them while they continued to wail and run at their mother who pushed them back toward their father. It was such a comedy of errors, it was all I could do to stifle my hilarity, because my brother was not amused at all.

Children are just a boring, tedious, nightmare no matter whether you let them be spontaneous or whether you try to schedule every minute. I came home and told my fiance about it, and he just grinned from ear to ear. We decided a long time ago that we are never spawning.

I also enjoy peeking into parent's lives sometimes, because it's a great reminder of how lucky I am.

EY said...

Wow. I've not really known (or cared to find out) what a play date was. Mom would drop me off at a friend's house once she knew and trusted the parents and I could play until she came to get me. Have a disagreement with a friend at 2? Work it out, Mom's not coming until 4. Mom and every other mother I knew always had something else to do than watch my friends and I every second we were playing. It might be unglamorous stuff like laundry or ironing, but we all seemed to survive just fine.
And CFJ, my Mom had that same tactic for keeping me from saying "I'm bored". All kinds of "fun things" would be invented if I uttered that phrase!

lauracarroll said...

Why did play dates even develop anyway? What happened to just "going out to play" or "going over to so and so's to play?" There seems to be so much more effort on parents' part these days to keep their children entertained to the point where the kids are SO busy they get stressed at an early age. Why? Parents need to look more at themselves and their motivations behind planning every moment of the kid's life...

Erin said...

This reminds me of a story a friend told me recently. He coaches a youth basketball team (6-7th grade boys). One day at practice, he wanted to work with half of them on a certain skill. He told the other half to go to the other end of the gym and play 3 on 3. The kids just looked at each other. They didn't know what to do -- they didn't know how to pick teams, they didn't know how to call their own fouls, they didn't know how to play with 3 players instead of 5, etc.

We both shook our heads at this b/c we both played games & sports, rode bikes, etc. as kids and you always found a way to get together and play and / or to work out any problems without the assistance of adults.

He and I both realized this was a direct result of kids being raised in such a structured environment (vis a vis planned play-dates, events, classes) and they aren't given the opportunity and independence to make up games, solve problems or conflicts (as @EY referenced in a previous post), or even have fun.

@LauraCarroll - My response to your last comment is that in general, in my opinion, so many people parent their child in order to live vicariously through them or to simply one-up everyone else. You know, "my kid has to learn the violin, play soccer, become an eagle scout, and start a charity by age 12 in order to get into Harvard."

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting the George Carlin video (may he rest in peace).There is another piece in this same stand up show that I love, where he talks about how people with children tend to dominate social conversation with all the smallest details about their child's life (i.e. "Todd is in the 7th grade now and he's in the Cheese Club! ... Jezel is 5 and already she has had 9 periods!"...) He makes the point that no one but the parent really cares! My thoughts exactly, who cares!!

He also goes on to joke about people polluting the earth with more and more people(kids). While he's joking, I completely agree on a more serious level that there are enough people on this planet. We already have enough resource problem without what he calls "professional parents" who have many kids just to have them. I think many of these professional moms act like its some glorious achievement just to show they can procreate! Maybe they have nothing else going for them but their ability to have a baby. I say stop being selfish and think about the planet for a minute before you get pregnant again.

Here's the link to the part of the George Carlin stand-up where he talks about people who talk about their kids all the time:

Once again I have to thank the author of this blog! Reading it when I'm feeling particularly ridiculed for choosing to be childfree really helps me feel connected to a community of others who feel the same way I do. A thousand thanks!

Anonymous said...

That's so strange. When I was little I lived too far away from all my friends to just go over and hang out, but my mom never ATTENDED play dates--she dropped me off and then went to hang out with HER friends! It was like free babysitting; just switch houses every week. Made sense to me.

Anonymous said...

I have been perusing your blog on and off this evening and am finding it kind of like a car accident. I just can't look away. I don't mean that in a bad way, but I literally just can't stop clicking. Not because I'm a mother who "hates being a mommie" or because I'm going to come on here and trash you for deciding not to have children. Freedom of choice, it's a fucking beautiful thing yo.

As for the playdate thang. Lemme tell you, I have NEVER fell into the suburban bullshit of childrearing and the dreaded playdate. I have seen this George Carlin show (love him and miss him too) and as my husband and I were watching it and George said something along the lines of "don't kids just sit in the backyard and play with sticks anymore?" We laughed because that is exactly what our son was doing earlier that day. Not all parents are as you write about them on your blog. There are actually a lot of parents who hate those parents as well (raising me me !)

Bottom line, I don't judge you and put you into a category because of one choice you've made in your life, so please not to put every person in the "mommie" category.