The End Of A Play Date

In my alternate life, about 10 years ago, I stayed at home with my oldest child. I look back on those days fondly. I don’t know if that’s with rose-colored glasses or not. I had a good friend, D, and we used to get together for play dates with our boys. We’d take the babies over to her house, or my house, or our other friend’s house. We’d make coffee (that’s when my addiction to coffee took hold) and muffins, talk, and let the kids play.

I loved those moments to reflect on parenthood with my friends. We could bounce ideas off each other, commiserate about parenting issues, laugh, love, and learn. Later, my husband and I moved away. I got a full time job, and I added two kids to the crew. And the play dates stopped.

I’ve had friends, and my kids have made friends. But somewhere along the way play dates ceased to exist. I wonder if this is because I work on the weekdays and somewhere people are still hosting coffee dates with their friends while their toddlers play. But I’ve also noticed that less and less people call up to have their child play with mine. I wonder why. Is it the way I’m raising my kid? Am I just nostalgic for a world that doesn’t exist in this technology-craved world we live in? Or is it because people are too caught up in their own lives to make room for friends?

I think that playing with companions, having a bunch of kids over at your house, and encouraging your children to socialize lets them become better leaders, communicators, you-name-it. They learn how to solve problems and how to listen to one another. If our kids don’t have that anymore, then where are they getting it from? The internet–probably not. I know kids, especially the teenage variety, socialize over the phone, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same for the moms either. We are all much too obsessed with the world of our phone to communicate effectively with each other at this point.

We have our friends at our fingertips, right? But when was the last time, you went out and really enjoyed someone’s company without looking at your phone? When did you go sit at a friend’s house and commiserate about how you’re screwing up your children? Don’t take these types of friendships for granted, because there is something to be gained from having someone who is battling the same storm at the same time as you.

I don’t have very many close friends. I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I’m generally a pretty happy person. I smile and make conversation. I have a hard time saying no. I might come on too strong sometimes. I’m a thinker, and I guess sometimes, I’ve been told, this can be intimidating to other people. I’m not a huge fan of small talk. I tend to make friends with men, because men tend to let the self-conscious go and just be real.  This is somewhat socially unacceptable, especially in the South. People still seem to think along the lines of When Harry Met Sally that a male and a female cannot just be friends. I get it. Sometimes one or both of the people in the male/female friendship develop feelings, but this isn’t always the case. Let’s be honest: adults can be adults and keep their belts buckled, right? It’s called willpower, folks. I think male friendships can offer something that female friendships never can–an understanding of the opposite sex. And so I think that having both female and male friends is important.

I grew up with two sisters though, and so I feel as if I’m sorely missing out on the days when I had a good female friend. I think about D and how are friendship wasn’t competitive. How we loved our kids, and we cared about one another, and that was enough. We had very little expectations of one another, but we were always there for each other when we needed to be. And I wonder where I went wrong from there. Maybe it’s where I live, which seems to be full of cliques. Maybe it’s that I neglected my friendships because I made specific choices not surrounding them. Perhaps I didn’t try as much, because I didn’t always realize how important friendships could be. Who knows, but I know what I’m missing and that makes me sad. I also know that there are a lot of women in my life I’d like to have a closer friendship with, and I hope to focus on making that happen in the next year.

Last night, I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. My mind has been churning lately, hence the uptick in blog posts and hopefully a finished novel before my life ends. I thought about D and how much I enjoyed our friendship. I thought about my friend T with love and how we enjoyed a part of our life together. And then I thought about how I don’t have a close friend to reach out to right now. I have church friends. I have PTA mom friends. I have co-workers who I love and enjoy. But I don’t have someone who I can call up and say, “Hey, what don’t you come over on Saturday, have a cup of coffee with me, and we can shoot the shit.” I don’t even care at this point if that person sees my house dirty (by the way, it is always dirty, so that person if she exists will see my house dirty). I don’t even care if they see me ugly cry some times. Because that’s what friends are for–to support one another.

I think it’s time we all put the phone down for a second and meet up in real life. We need to bring back the play dates. Not only will this help our kids socially, but it will help the moms and dads too. Our community, in the U.S., if not worldwide has become individualized to a fault. But children need other children and adults need friends, besides their spouse, who they can turn to in times of need. Humans, after all, are a social species. We literally need one another.

Instead of the end of the play date, maybe we can begin again.

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