Embarking on the journey of parenthood later in life has had its challenges among the rewards. One challenge has been socializing my young son. He doesn't have siblings and most of my friends have older or no kids. Enter the world of play dating. I sat down with mom of two Mary Anne Kirk and caregiver Amanda Englert to discuss this once unknown, but now pervasively familiar, subject.
Mary Anne explains, ”Somewhat like a date, you arrange a time, you arrange a place, you show up with the kids, and they play.”
“There's often even a certain activity that will be planned, or making muffins, or playing dominoes,” says Amanda, “And I think it's also a chance for stay-at-home parents to interact with adults.”
“Yeah, the parents,” adds Mary Anne. “You know, it's obviously really important for the kids to get along and actually want to play with each other, so the kids have to click. But also, because there's the adult interaction, you're really hoping that you're going to hit it off with the parents because you'll be spending one to four hours with them while your kids play. It's pretty unbearable sometimes, if you just don't hit it off with the parents.”
“I also think there's a direct correlation to the more parents who are in the room the less attention is actually being paid to the kid. So, some of the play dates where ostensibly the ratio was one to one, is when a kid ends up in the ER, because the parents are having their own conversation and someone is climbing up a bookshelf.” Amanda reflects, “You learn a lot about humans, anthropologically, watching play dates. Because adults are still developing, too.”
While my son was in daycare, we met Chris and Olga Schrock. Our sons were friends in class so we started arranging play dates with the kids. I asked them about their play dating experiences.
“Well we don't have any family in the area, so we actually spend a lot of time seeking out friends for our son,” says Olga. “We latch on to who he likes and who he talks about, but we also look around the room and see what kind of people we might want to be friends with.”
Chris adds, “I would say that there's been a couple of occasions where I've had to tell my wife that she's too eager. She would right off the bat, say, 'Oh, here's my phone number we live over here, can you give us a call, we'll do a play date.' And I always tell her, you can't ask for the digits on the first date, you gotta play it cool."
I began wondering about using current tools of the dating game to meet other parents. I mean, it's 2017, there's an app for that, right? So, I signed up for the play date app Peanut and began looking at the profiles of mothers in my area. And then, beyond. None were over the age of 34.
I asked Olga and Chris, who are also older parents of young kids, if they had ever used Apps or social media to find play dates, or if they ever would.
Olga replies, “No. My son's friend, I think that they did tell us about meetups, but we had no idea what that was.”
”I'm more old school. I don't think it's a great idea. Maybe I'm not as eager as Olga is in the play dating realm,” adds Chris.
Olga agrees. “It actually sounds like too much technology for me, I think I'd have to go the old school way like Chris is saying.”
I asked both how they make time to find parents to play date, since they both work full time and have two small children.
“My son plays baseball and other sports, and we've made some really good friends through that interaction and getting to know the parents there,” says Chris. “As far as technology goes, and finding people on social media and things like that, we have some pretty interesting stories about finding babysitters.”
Even though my generation is no stranger to Facebook and other social media channels, it seems, at least through my parental peers, new relationships are still sought through analog interactions.
Amanda's summary on play dating is a great outlook, and one to strive towards. She says, “There's play dates that you design to play, and then there are these co-op situations where you do make a commitment to certain families and you sort of function as care givers for each others children, as sort of a larger extended family. And that is a very, very beautiful thing that's worth all the dating.”
So my journey to find parents of a certain age with young kids continues. The old school way. I just signed my son up for soccer.
Tess Cortes is graduate of WYSO's 2017 Community Voices class. To learn more about Community Voices training, visit: http://wyso.org/community-voices