The other day I was walking home from school with MyFriendJen, and another mom came over to set up a playdate between her daughter and Jen’s daughter. The other mom was saying that she has fallen behind on playdate scheduling, and that’s a problem because she has found that the most popular kids in school are the ones with mothers who are on-the-ball about setting up their social life for them. Those with the most playdates win.
I had never thought about this before. I am pretty bad at scheduling social dates for my kids. I’m a huge introvert in real life, and I like quiet in my house. Even making idle chit chat with another mom as she comes to pick up or drop off her kid can be too much for me some days. My kids play really well together, and sometimes when we add another kid to the mix the delicate balance of sibling cooperation is thrown off, and suddenly I have four wailing, angry children on my hands instead of three who respond well to threats of never, ever getting cookies again.
So despite the fact that, as a stay-at-home-mom, I have it pretty easy when it comes to making room in the schedule for having kids over, I rarely actually find the energy to do it.
Suddenly I’m wondering if this is a disservice to my kids. I don’t remember my own mother scheduling many playdates for me as a kid, but on the other hand everyone we played with as children lived on our street, or a street or two over. We were allowed to come and go as we pleased; we all walked home from school so sometimes one of my sisters would just bring an extra kid home, and they were welcome to stay (if they called their parents first). There wasn’t any scheduling, but there wasn’t a lack of friendly play dates, either.
Now it seems we have to have a hand in this once natural process. We’re the ones responsible for making sure our kids have friends, have a chance to nurture any budding relationships. I have to admit, even though my kids play well with others at school, none of the three of them have anything like a “best” friend, or even a go-to circle of friends for recess time. All three float on the edges of the crowd on the school yard; they sometimes join in a game with a group, where they are welcomed (for the most part), but it’s a different group every day, and more often than not, they’re observing from the sidelines.
They’re the kind of kids who must ask to be involved, not the kids who are invited. They’re the ones going around looking for a game, rather than starting one up and having others follow.
I’m not saying that’s a problem, per se. They all seem happy enough and they never complain about feeling left out or lonely. In fact, until that other mom made her comment about playdates, I’d never even thought there was any kind of issue here at all. They’ll figure it out, I thought. Some day they’ll find their tribe. There’s always plenty of school friends to invite for birthday parties, and that’s enough, isn’t it?
After my post last week about the sleepover thing, I’m now wondering if I’ve been to tight with them, holding them too close. Am I standing between them and their peers? In my quest for a close-knit family, am I making it harder for them to be outside the house, in other groups and situations?
I’m really not sure. But I wonder.