The term “playdate” rubs me the wrong way for some reason. I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts a guy didn’t come up with that one. It had to be recklessly invented by some pretentious Baby Boomer mom possibly for the purpose of providing another target of scorn for more grounded Gen-X parents.
The WiseBoy has reached the age where he will participate in such events. Now, when I was young, sometime in the previous millennium, kids were just told to “Go out and play,” and let loose in the neighborhood. Some combination of the world getting too scary and families getting too busy has led to the increased formal scheduling of time spent playing with other kids.
The bristling at “playdate” is not just that it sounds too cutsie. “Playdate” sounds too close to “date” which is something that is for older youths that involves “wining-and-dining, trying to impress, and generally judging others and being judged by others.” The term carries a lot of baggage. Dating is for mating. It’s kind of creepy having it associated with young children. Now, it could be mothers are drawn to the term “playdate” perhaps subconsciously because they have fond memories of being on the receiving end of the
bribery dating system.
This post nails it:
In the old days, ‘playdate’ just meant hanging out with a friend who also happened to have a child a similarish age to yours. Giving it this label projects all kinds of adult neurosis about social success onto two-year-olds. If you are not going on enough playdates, then both you and your child are social networking failures, already woefully behind in the popularity contest that is life (just wait till they get on Twitter). It’s also symptomatic of the manic need to structure and assign meaning to every single activity, even something as simple as having a cuppa at your mate’s house while your kid smacks their kid over the head repeatedly with a piece of Lego. Playdates are just another entry on the middle class wall planner, in between viola lessons, swimming, tae kwon do, ballet and Mandarin.
Formalizing play as an appointment on the calendar has its drawbacks (it appears some parents are taking it so seriously as to serve as a series of interviews or tryouts to find their childrens’ lifelong BFFs) but with time being such a premium for families nowadays, it may be that the only way to find time for peer play is to make time by scheduling it.
I’ll grant you the necessity of scheduling playtime may be here to stay, but please agree to rebrand it. Let’s call it something else to diminish implication of social pressure and so some of us can avoid using a term we find a little icky. I have a couple of rebranding options we should try: friendtime, buddyhour. If you get multiple kids together, I think “playgroup” works well. Any other suggestions?