“Playdate” is itself an awful word. It sounds obnoxious and even kids don’t like saying it. Scheduling a playdate? Not a bad idea. Everyone likes to have friends, and when you’re little, everyone likes to play. Most playdates probably went fine. You may still be friends with those people as a high schooler, college student, or adult. In fact, if you’re an adult still in touch with early childhood friends (not middle school, early childhood) and don’t live in an Amish community, comment below. I’d like to hear your story.
But some playdates don’t go well. Most people have probably been to one of these. The author is drawing from real-life experience on most of them.
1. The Boy-Girl Playdate
You’re not old enough to have thoughts about the opposite sex, but you are old enough to know you’re different from them. And that’s when it gets weird during games of “hospital,” “house,” and the umpteen other care-giving games little girls like to play. In early times, men were likely the hunters, women likely the gatherers, so it makes sense that little boys want to play “cops and robbers” instead. But if you’re the boy, you learn a lesson that will help you later in life: women are always right. So if she wants to play hospital, you lie down obediently on the couch. If she wants to play house, you buy as many camels as she wants. Old men will tell you those playdates often prove helpful when trying to make sense of things later. I was once asked to pull my pants down during a “hospital” game, which, if nothing else, prepared me for the doctor. (We were six).
- The Shouting Match
Or a “row,” as the British call it for reasons I cannot fathom as an American. This happens when a kid and his family, usually parents or guardians, start battling over something. It’s a problem they’ve been suppressing while you’re there and in rare cases, it can lead to combustion. You stand there, shrinking back into the corner, hoping it will be time to leave soon.
3. The Micromanaging Mom
Sometimes moms are so good at what they do that they start being your mom. That’s weird even at a young age. I remember being told by a mom, “Dude! Drink your hot cocoa, it’s getting cold!” Easy lady. I’ve accepted your hot cocoa. Maybe I like to take my time and wait for it to cool off. Also, I was entertaining the other children during this comment. Sorry I was doing your job for you. Maybe she thought “Dude” would make me feel super cool and I’d drink it.
- We Do Things Differently In Our House
Yikes. Usually this sentence is spoken after you violate some very conservative rule, such as “No gun hands.” It stings when you’ve been brought up strictly as well: your family feels inadequate, less conservative. The shame of a conservative person burns in your highly disciplined veins. You hear thousands of years of successful, hardworking ancestors turning over just-so in their graves. The only thing worse than this is when this family is very…not conservative. Then you find yourself bristling as they say “Ah, a little dog poop won’t kill ya.” Usually none of them are wearing enough clothes to have someone over and you feel overdressed…in shorts and a T-shirt.
- Stuff is Everywhere
I don’t mean a normal amount of disorganization. I mean one of the adults in the home is a hoarder. Spending time with people is about people, not their house, so bad playdates were the ones focusing on the house. Who has more or less stuff, more or less rooms, more or less yard…being on either side feels a little funky.
- Awkward Stuff is Going on Upstairs
A sibling is passed out. Not asleep, but passed out. An adult is changing clothes with the door open. Relatives are arguing, loud. Your friends’ friend is alone with an expensive item while everyone else is outside. That kind of thing.
- Nothing to Do
Oh boy. Especially when the parents don’t care that there’s nothing to do, or aren’t really home. This is a recipe for disaster. I remember a game some kid had in which each of us took a toy that worked like a tiny catapult and, lying on the floor, aimed for each others’ foreheads. I got hit a lot with plastic. I was then forced to watch a live-action rendition of Tarzan.