Over the past year or so I've slowly become more and more aware that parenting has become the new "Keeping up with the Joneses". This is really evident in the area where I live. I nickname it "Middle-Classdom". Parents are often falling over themselves to provide the most original parties and Boden seems to be the choice of childrens and parents clothes. Children are over socialised and exhausted and I often joke that local toddlers are born playing the violin and creating works of art with their PlayDoh! When you have a 2 year old child who simply wants to race about at top speed, stopping only to quickly investigate something that has caught his eye knocking everything over in the process as I do, you quickly become used to the under the breath tutting and comments of "Oh he's very busy isn't he?"
"Yes he's 2! It's in the job description!"
Fear seems to be slowly creeping into parenting generally. People follow parenting gurus with a religious fervor through fear of getting it wrong. Parenting is a tough business that is filled with as much guilt as it is fun. Pinterest is full of arty parents who spend their lives photographing their clever arty projects for their children whilst the rest of us realise the words "arts and crafts" fill them with more terror than sitting an exam. School homework projects and Easter Bonnet Parades seem to say more about the creative abilities of the parents and not the child. I think the same is happening with playdates and it's really starting to make me feel angry. Parents are fearful that the children won't have had an amazing time if their time together isn't catered for to the nth degree. There are web pages dedicated to creating the perfect playdate and detailing all the rules that need to be adhered to. I've fallen into this trap myself so I'm not blaming anyone but I am highlighting it and asking if it's necessary?
Back in my day (are you ready to go back to Titanic?) in the 70's we did this radical thing....we played with our friends. We went to each others houses and played in bedrooms or gardens or garages or even out on the road (I'm not advocating that these days - obviously I'm writing about a time before cars took over the world!). A Sindy doll could keep us occupied for hours as could a rose and some water and a bottle (come on who else has made rose perfume?). We got bored and we found things to do. I can imagine the looks on the faces of the parents back in those days if they were expected to entertain their children on these playdates. For the parent that was the whole point of a playdate (we didn't call it that back then of course - we just played or called for each other!). The parents could get on with something else whilst the children were playing. It never occurred to me to wonder what my mum was doing. I could have cared less. I was with my friends. We made friends. we broke friends, we learned how to repair friendships because we had the space to do those things. We didn't go home over-stimulated. We chilled together. We weren't making pizza and candles as Katie did recently on a playdate. I will note that she was very late home from that playdate because the parent "ran out of time". I then had to battle a very over-tired and over-stimulated Katie into bed and she was even later to sleep due to the time it takes her to wind down her hyper-stimulation after a playdate. I would have much preferred her to come home minus the candle but on time if I'm honest. She didn't actually "play" with her friend at all. She was sad because she didn't get to play in her bedroom. Often for adopted children the act of going to someone else's house for a playdate is enough. Anything else on top of that is just too much. Our children are often emotionally rather much younger than their peers so might find a playdate that's too highly organised a bit too much of a challenge.
I'm going to suggest something radical for this linky. My suggestion is this. Let children actually play. Let them make up their own games and invent what to do with their own time. Believe me you will all be a little happier for it. Why not make yourself a cup of tea and stick some fish fingers and chips in the oven and treat yourself to a little moment of calm. Give them the yoghurt for pudding if you want to. Be at the ready if an argument breaks out but remember it's important for your children to have arguments with their friends. They will become far more rounded human beings for this than learning how to make rice cakes or candles or anything requiring paint. They will develop an imagination that doesn't require sticky backed plastic and glitter. You won't spend the next 10 days cleaning up that glitter either.
That's what I'm going to do from now on.....in fact I'll let you into a little secret......I've been doing that for a little while now and the children have a great time.