Two young children sitting at the top of playground equipment

I Hate Playdates, But My Kid Needs to Learn How to Socialize

“You’ve got to get him socialized, that’s the thing.”

When my son was two years old we took him out of daycare. After 21 months, almost his entire life, my son would no longer be in a “social” environment four days a week. My infant daughter was only six months old, but I felt I’d transitioned from working mom to stay at home mom, and had a handle on the rhythm of mothering two kids by that point.

“Are you doing Mommy and Me? Does he have playdates? How will you socialize him?”

Ok, ok, yes—obviously children need to learn to play with other kids. We literally have to teach them not to be selfish asshats; that the world doesn’t actually spin because they smiled today.

But, kids need to learn how to entertain themselves. They are far more inclined to do this when they are bored and left to their own devices (no, not electronic devices).

Newsflash—BOTH of those things need to happen when they are very little. 

So back to the child socialization versus parental socializing conundrum. First off, can we STOP with this compulsion for everyone to sound like a sociology major?

Seriously, though. Why do we feel the need to use all the jargon of a childhood development specialist?

Yes, children need to interact with people outside their homes, and yes, peer groups are ideal. Of course, playgroups and music classes and early preschools are all great.

All of those things can be super expensive, too.

There are also library or bookstore story groups, taking the children out to fast food restaurants and places like malls that have public play spaces, or finding favorite playgrounds.

So, if you don’t have the funds, the resources, or the inclination to do all that, what then? Playdates.

Playdates are tricky. They involve bringing one or more children into some other kid’s turf. Both the adult and child hosting need to be prepared, the children and adult visiting need to be on their best behavior. It is like just as awkward and full of pitfalls as romantic dating, only so much worse—because kids.

Quite frankly, I have no energy to be on my best behavior, or to make sure my children are playing nice with another child who is being a brat, just for the sake of “socializing” my kid.

If I’m going to feel awkward, I would rather meet up at a playground or library. In a public space, I don’t feel obligated to chat because I’m just there to let the kids play. My children have lots of friends where this is an unspoken arrangement. Maybe I like the parent but I can tell the child might not be ready to be a guest in our home. Or maybe the kid is great, but I have zero in common with their adult, and well…

I am always behind on deadlines, so I’ve got writing to do. While making apologies for my rudeness, I can sit on a bench and work on my phone, answering emails or culling story notes.

Sure, if you are fortunate, you have friends and/or family with kids of a similar age, and you don’t mind hanging out at home with those adults while the kids play. I suppose this could technically be called a play date, but I always look at them as sanity breaks for me. When the kids get along and I already enjoy the parents, things are fantastic.

That is not always the case. I have been on and hosted truly terrible play dates. The sort where we all decided to never, ever, do that again.

Don’t fret though, your kids will learn how to socialize. You don’t need force it on them, or on you.

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