Two years ago we moved from a very busy street--from a house that we loved to a "fixer upper" on a small cul-de-sac.
Why? Because we wanted the kids to be able to play outside. We scoped out many neighborhoods, looking for swing sets, minivans, trampolines--classic indicators of "children in the hood."
Our small little cul-de-sac, embedded in a farm area is idyllic. Kids, cookouts, no traffic. However, the cul-de-sac has become a bit "too cozy." Unfortunately there were only 2 families on the road with children and we all burned each other out about a year ago and the kids, much like siblings, can no longer cope with each other.
Which brings the dreaded "playdate" into picture.
My six year-old, Cal, has always been pretty good about finding things to do and playing with the other kids in "the hood." My nine year-old has had more challenges. This is probably due to the fact for the first three or so years of life she got entertained 100% of the time by my mom (who watched her for the first year after I went back to work), myself or my husband. She was my first experience with the concept of a playdate.
Over the years we discovered that these playdates needed to be scheduled and structured: What are we going to do? What are we going to eat? Who is picking up who? Quite the challenge for a casual friend to come over for a visit.
Where are they days of just hanging out? Why all the parental involvement (lets do a craft, lets cook something, lets go to the zoo, lets all play a game)? Now I understand that for safety reasons we can't just let the kids run around the streets unsupervised, I mean, I am casual but not that casual. And I certainly do not have a problem with setting up the slip and slide or taking out some lemonade and cookies.
Here's a recent classic example. My nine year-old was moping around the house one afternoon while I was busy doing laundry so I gave her a suggestion: "Hey, Angelina lives right around the corner, why don't you ride your bike over (I am talking RIGHT around the corner), and ask her to play."
That sent a wave of panic down Cat's body. "What do you mean just go over?"
"Yes Cat, don't just invite yourself in, just ask Angelina to play or ride bikes on our street"
"Can I call her first?" (getting play-datish already...)
"Sure if that makes you more comfortable".....
5 minutes later Cat says: "Angelina's mom wants to talk to you."
I get on the phone.
"Hi, Cat wants to have a playdate with Angelina?"
Well, we were just hanging around here doing nothing and I thought maybe the girls could hang out?"