Monday, 20 April 2015

"Play" Dates: Mixing Up the Magic?

Britmums has linked in with Petit Filous to promote their new Magic Squares Desserts.  As part of the promotion there is a linky for bloggers to write their magic formulae for great playdates and playtime.  I read the email this morning and thought it sounded like fun (and it will be) but then I felt a burning in my stomach. The burning was quickly followed by my mind racing at 100 mph about the word "playdate".  So I'm afraid I'm going off on a tangent about playdates in general.

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. 

What do you think? Am I a lone wolf howling to myself in the wind or does anyone else agree with me?


 “This post is an entry for BritMums #MagicSquaresPlaydates Linky Challenge, sponsored by Petits Filous.” and linking to http://www.petitsfilous.co.uk/

12 comments:

  1. rose water perfume, classic :-)

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    1. I still like making it....I guess I'm a classic these days lol!

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  2. It does make me rather sad. I'm a doctor and I regularly see parents now trying to medicalise completely normal behaviour, because we have forgotten what normal childhood behaviour looks like. Parents of a 2 year old told me they thought she had ADHD because she "runs around, getting into everything and she ignores half the stuff we say"- sounds like the manual for the terrible twos to me! Another parent told me their 5 year old was "probably autistic" because he doesn't like to do "social stuff" like "sit on the sofa and watch the X factor with his sister; instead he fidgets and then gets on the floor and plays with his cars".

    I feel sorry for kids now- they can't be energetic and boisterous, they can't play silly games by themselves (instead they should be participating in beneficial "learning" games), the secondary school exam anxiety seems to start at about 7, and when they've navigated the early years they have to hit the formidable horror of social media as teenagers. Thank god I grew up when lego and landlines were king!

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    1. Thank you for replying. I can well imagine you do see these issues creeping into the surgery. I've found it hard enough having to deal with the reactions of others with Pip. His Childminder has been fabulous, as has a friend who is a Community Nursery Nurse, at helping me normalise the terrible two's. He has a wonderful time in the garden finding bugs and making his own fun though and I feel confident that he will do well in life because he is able to self amuse. We love Lego in our house and are aiming great "factories" with Mega Blocks now! He's even partial,to playing Barbies with me and his sister. I look forward to more play dates where I let them work timing for themselves and develop all sorts of important skills.

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  3. Brilliant post!
    I'm a nanny and very few children know how to be bored and how to resolve it. I spent my childhood creating games (inc. the rose petal perfume to be sold over the garden gate!) and dens and mud pies etc etc and it frustrates me that most children now are batted between school, endless sports clubs and playdates(dont get me started on bday parties!). Its exhausting for the children (and parents and carers too!!)
    Absolutely do it your way-its by far the healthier approach to life and much more enjoyable! X

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    1. Other Nanny friends of mind feel similarly Jska. I read recently about the great inventions that have come out of being bored. It's really important to have nothing to do because it allows your creative brain to kick in.

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  4. I made mint perfume too :')
    Sometimes it's nice to get the kids all together doing something special but it is always chaos!!!

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    1. Ooooh now you're taking.....mint perfume! Mmmmm! I still love to pick our mint for tea. You're right about organising some events and I do that myself on occasion, sometimes because I don't want the chaos of free play but I'm definitely finding letting them get in with it better for all concerned 😝

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  5. Thank you another great article :-) I too am a Nanny with 27 years experience and hopefully with my husband Adopting siblings in the next couple of months!!
    I too feel that everyone has gone into craziness regarding the over stimulating of children and trying to make the 'playdates' fun, fun, fun!!
    It's extremely stressful and exhausting for everyone concerned especially the children who need to enjoy their Friends without being told what to do constantly!
    Thank you for your normality :-)

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    1. Thank you Kate and thank you for commenting. I wish you lots of luck for the coming months. One of my best friends is a Nanny (as are lots of others) and we talk about parenting adopted children vs mainstream parenting skills a lot. We are starting to realise that often more specialised parenting is required due to the complexities of our children's inner dialogue and experiences. My Nanny friend has been wonderful to bounce off throughout my adoption journey and I have helped change her practice as a Community Nursery Nurse by raising awareness of the parenting needs of children in the care system. The mutual benefits have been brilliant. Good luck again and do stay in touch and let me know how it's all going for you xx

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  6. Since starting to home educate, I have learned just how vivid children's imaginations can be and that over-stimulation is n9t always the way as they too are individuals with great ideas for fun and learning. Commenting for myself and on behalf of BritMums and thanking you for taking part.

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    1. I didn't realise you home educated Kate. A lot of adopters are coming to the same conclusion these days. The education system really doesn't meet the needs of all children and young people sadly. I admire you for doing that and making that choice. X

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