Saturday, April 14, 2007

Playdates in the 'hood

When I was a kid, we just hung out with other kids who we called our friends. When we were too young to have a say in the matter, we hung out on the floor of whatever "auntie's" house our mom dragged us to for the morning. While the two of them chatted, we entertained ourselves as quietly as possible so as to avoid the wrath of the mother from above.

These days, these forced social interactions between little monkeys is known as a "play date."

Whoever coined the term "playdate" anyway? Exactly which parties are on the date? The mommies? The kiddies? The collective assemblage of people hanging out together? It's hard for me to believe the playdate is primarily for the benefit of the mommies, since it seems most of the ones I attend preclude much mommy time interaction.

At most, I spend my time running around after my kid trying to prevent havoc and destruction from occurring in someone else's home. I can deal with destruction in my own house. In others', I feel bad. Much as I try, I don't get to sit around and socialize. In some alternate universe, there exists this strange phenomenon known as a martini playdate. I have yet to be invited to one of those, but in theory it doesn't sound too bad. Maybe getting blitzed in the afternoon while watching my child run around someone else's house, might provide just the comic relief I need in my life.

Maybe the playdate is for the kiddie.

Depending on what developmental stage your child is currently in, it's still hard to see the advantage in inviting another child over. No matter how it plays out, it's a zero-sum game with visitor advantage. You have to share toys that clearly belong to you.

It's bad enough having to share them with a sibling ... but some random kid??? Where's the justice in this people? You have to tolerate your toys being mishandled, misplaced, coveted, eaten, etc. And for what?? This kid doesn't even get it. What do the playdates accomplish for the still-drooling set? A new collection of toys to sink one's gums into? That may not be a bad thing. Variety is the spice of life, they say.

I've been doing the mommy gig for two years now - "playing mommy" as some say, and I have attended my fair share of playdates. I feel pretty well qualified to deconstruct the elements of a good playdate. Without hesitation, I nominate our man David, as hosting some of the best playdates around. Together with his baby sister, Julia, his playdates are ones we consistently look forward to.

There are always good toys to eat, and helpful friends who show you how.

If real food is more to your liking, you can bet there will be plenty to choose from.

Including foods from far away lands.

The focus of a good playdate, is by definition, the play that occurs. And when two toddlers are involved, play is a vibrant, non-stop frenzy of activity. David's mom, Nataliya, to her credit, never fails to deliver.

Despite having two monkeys of her own, she still finds the energy to keep one of mine amused. Here, she activates the super charged bubble-blower to give J a run for his money.

And David's toys are pretty hard to beat. Here, little monkey gets to participate in his own real life version of "Hell's Kitchen" with life size props. Yes, chef!

All joking aside, when you see the little ones genuinely interacting with one another (quietly, peacefully, with no blood involved) it can be a rather remarkable sight. Sometimes it really seemed like they were playing together, in a spirit of ... dare I say it? Cooperation??

Thanks again Nataliya for hosting a great afternoon playdate. We had a lot of fun!

However, I suspect Julia remains unconvinced. Sorry about that.

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