Arranging Playdates For My Kid Makes Me Feel Like I’m In Middle School

Playdates For Older Kids“Did they text back yet?”

I look at my phone for what feels like the 80th time.

“No. Not yet.”

As if I’d miss the loud, annoying tone I set to alert me to any new texts.

Now that it’s summer vacation, my son and I play this game almost daily when he’s not in camp. He – an only child at almost eight- is really great at playing by himself. He can get lost for hours in his play with Legos, action figures, books or building blocks. But, without fail, there is always the siren call of “Can I have a play date?”

Oh, the dreaded playdate.

It’s not the play date itself that I dread. In fact, play dates are awesome. If they’re at somebody else’s house, they provide me much needed time for myself. As someone who works from a home office, summer can be a tricky balancing act and play dates are huge helps. Even when they occur here, I’m still able to get in some work as the kids amuse themselves, playing really well 99% percent of the time, only surfacing to request a snack or two. My son is happy, friendships blossom and strengthen, and a fun time is usually had by all.


No, it’s not the play date itself that causes my stomach to knot up.

It’s the scheduling of them. Because somehow, when my son pipes up “I’d like a play date please,” it transports me back to a middle school mindset. The type where uncertainty rules and any semblance of self-esteem crumbles.

My son isn’t usually picky when it comes to play dates. At times he’ll have a particular friend in mind, but for the most part, he’s just happy to have a buddy to hang out with who is closer to his age and not “super old” like me. So, we begin with the texting.

Much like pitching a magazine piece, I only query one parent at a time, for fear of accidentally doubling up. So I toss out a text. And wait. And wait some more. At some point, I share the patience of an almost eight year old and wonder when we’ll hear back. That’s when the insecurity floods me.

One of the great aspects of smart phones is that you can pretty much do everything with them. And, one of those is see if somebody has read your text.

They read it. They haven’t responded.

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  • chickadee

    This sounds dreadful. I have daughters, and they usually arranged their own playdates and then informed me of the fact–which had its own drawbacks.

    I think what’s happening is simply that a same-day playdate can disrupt some mothers’ carefully-arranged schedules, and they may not know that the texts have a ‘read’ function.

    I would be of a similar mindset to yours, however….assuming that the LAST thing anyone wants to do is get together with my child.

    • The_Mamafesto

      I totally did this as a kid as well, and I think my son is getting to that stage of “well, S & I talked and we’re going to have a playdate!” – ha! And totally one of the big problems is that so many kids are scheduled with activities up to the brim that it makes finding time together tricky. :/

    • guest

      Yes, I was thinking that maybe the delay is due to figuring out if they can fit it in their schedule or not. But it’s always easy to assume the worst!

  • kdwald

    It’s funny how kids (and adults?) often have skewed versions of time when it comes to anticipating/dreading events. I’m often slow to respond to texts/calls about playdates. But I appreciate being asked, and I am trying harder to do more asking. It’s hard to get over my personal anti-social behavior so that my kids don’t suffer for my “baggage.”

    • The_Mamafesto

      Exactly. I mean, how do I explain to my outgoing son how I get so anxious & sweaty over phone calls? ;)

    • kdwald

      I will say, my son just got a message from a friend on MY phone asking for a playdate. I haven’t let him listen to it yet…but at least it’s a 7 year old waiting and not his mom or dad. I guess I should get on that, huh?

    • The_Mamafesto

      That’s amazing. I would be happy to let my son call for his own. Most people around here don’t have landlines anymore!! And while I guess he could call their cell phones, that feels strange to me for some reason. Apparently I need to get with the times ;)

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      I’m the same way. Lately I’ve just been immediately saying yes to everything without thinking about it, which I know sounds overly simplistic but it really seems to work. I still get really anxious after I say yes and my brain tries to talk me out of it, but I know how rude it would be to cancel, so I don’t have a choice…and my kid gets to have fun :)

  • K2

    I’m the same with texts (or FB stuff), even though I can be super slow myself.. Like, I’ll read, and think, OK, I’ll answer this soon.. Then.. it’s been ages. Ha! I get really stressed too, wondering what I’ve done wrong, or if they hate me. lol!

  • Maria Guido

    You’re not alone! My problem is I am so bad at making plans. I know I need to fix this – because I don’t want other parents to think I’m avoiding them or something.

  • Ursi

    This really is a different world than the one I grew up in.

    Are there any kids around that your son could play with? Like neighbors or kids at the park? We were always encouraged to play with kids at the park. I mean, I’m an introvert so it didn’t work too well with me but your son sounds pretty eager for company.

    I too would be a nervous wreck waiting for a text so I totally feel you on taking it personally.

    • The_Mamafesto

      We actually live right in town and he *loves* playing outside (unsupervised…shhh!!). But, we live in a super college town, so not a huge amount of nearby kids, sadly. The closest kid neighbor is 3yrs old, but they still get along really well and play often, but their schedules aren’t always in sync. Thankfully, our adult neighbors also don’t mind my kid hanging around/chatting them up when he’s outside!

  • Jamie

    This made me feel a million times better. Our new custody arrangement has my stepkids here during the day in the summer time and all three of them bug me constantly to call friends and ask then to come over. Except they all have just ONE person they want to play with and of course, those people are busy. I also don’t drive, so the play dates are always here and I hate it. (And we live in the country, so no parks or neighbors to play with.)

  • Liz

    The concept of parents arranging a play date just seems so weird to me. When I wanted to play with a friend, I just went outside. Or, even at 5 years old, I’d call a friend myself and invite her over (with permission, obviously).

    • The_Mamafesto

      Yeah, that’s how it was for me too – especially since we lived in a super kid-packed neighborhood. We live in more of a college town with very few kids within walking distance. And, so many of his friends are scheduled up to the wazoo – makes finding that time hard :/

  • Rachel

    Maybe try to encourage kiddo to plan in advance of when he’d like a playdate? Even just a day might help… if people are reading but not responding, they’re probably trying to evaluate whether or not one is feasible for that day (kids’ moods, whatever errands they’re on, etc.). More notice is also generally more successful for adult hangouts (as far as I’ve always experienced, anyway), so it might be good practice for later.

    • The_Mamafesto

      During the school year we’re way better at pre-planning play dates, but summer is a bit more relaxed in that sense. Though I do have to say that we live in a fairly laid-back area and day-of playdates aren’t so unusual here.

  • Warren Pacholzuk

    Why do they have to be arranged, scheduled and organized? Sheesh, we used to just go over, knock on the door, and both take off to the park, or do whatever. Yes even at the age of 8.

    • The_Mamafesto

      I’d be happy to do that, and the kiddo gets plenty of unsupervised outside time. But, unfortunately, we don’t live in a kid-heavy neighborhood :/

  • evileliteliberal

    Yeah, I didn’t realize until I read the comments that you were trying to arrange same day play dates. The only time I ever do those is with a couple of my best friends who live within 5 minutes drive. We’ll text and say “hey I’m thinking of heading to the pool, want to join?” Or “I’m going nuts, want to come up for wine and pizza and let the kids run wild?” Sometimes they don’t have time to get back to me and will even text me late at night to apologize. It’s no biggie.
    Summer is just too insane with everything that most playdates are scheduled a week in advance. I know it’s different than when we grew up – I had a play friend down the street – but I do remember play dates happening then too. They were just rare.
    But I would also say that if you are getting constant no’s with no reciprocal request within the next couple weeks, or even a, yes, we should get them together but this week is bad, then I’d give up on that friend. Who knows why they suck. They just do. It’s called a play “date” partially because, well, you’re dating. And dating doesn’t always work out.

    • The_Mamafesto

      Whoa. I never really unpacked the “date” part of it, but you’re right. Enlightening & frightening all at once! ;)

  • evileliteliberal

    Random question: how do you make spaces in between your paragraphs?? My spaces are there when I comment, but when I press submit they all run together. It’s driving me nuts.

    • allisonjayne

      What browser are you using? That happened to me, but I switched to Firefox and now it works fine (that’s not why I switched – it was just a bonus).

  • jendra_berri

    I think the solution is for you son to call his friend himself and make the playdate.
    However, even thinking about this, do most people have landlines now? I do. And I’ll keep it because it serves many purposes. But one will be because that is the number my son will give to his friends to call, not text, to see if he is home and wants to play.
    Other than that, isn’t 8 old enough to scamper off to the park on his own to see who’s there? Or to ride his bike to see what the neighbour kids are up to? That’s what I did. Is that truly dead?
    I guess it just depends on the neighbourhood, and these days people will call the police if your child leaves the house without you to actually enjoy their summer, but damn. My mom never organized that stuff for me ever. And we never called it a play date. I’d have to ask to have a friend over and then get ‘em on the horn myself, or go to their house and knock on the door.
    I will say that there are 8-10 year old buddies at my neighbourhood park without their parents. See them all the time. No one says boo. I love that.

    • AP

      “isn’t 8 old enough to scamper off to the park on his own”

      There were two stories this week of parents getting arrested for that. Text Message Playdate Hell is preferable to jail…no matter how much I agree that kids need to learn to fly on their own a little.

    • Girlie

      What?!? Were the kids 8? That’s freaking crazy! What exactly was the parents’ crime?? I’m glad my nephews get to experience living the “old school childhood” with running to the park, little forest etc by themselves. In the age of 9 and even *gasp* 7 years old. We’re not in US though. No hysteria.

    • 2Well

      Depends on where you live. Rural families don’t have that luxury. There are no parks, because the woods and yards are the parks. Many don’t live near children their own age. My younger sister has a twenty minute drive to see her friends, and she probably lives five miles from anyone near her age period. I was lucky in a kind of rural suburb where the neighbors were either a year older or year younger. I got to just knock on the door. Five miles is doable when the person is your friend, not so much if they are a year older than you, a different gender, and don’t smell good.

  • Vicki Lewis

    My how times have changed. I remember being 8, asking my mom if I could have a friend over, and her saying yes. Then it was up to me to call my friends house and ask my friend if she wants to come over to play, then she would put down the phone to go ask her mom if it was okay and if she said yes we were set. I don’t remember my mother asking people on my behalf at that age. In fact my mother never talked to my friends mothers except maybe to get a contact number as the kid was being dropped off.

    • jendra_berri

      Exactly the same over here. I think the disappearance of the land line is at play to a degree. Children calling children on the family lines was the norm. Now we have phones and numbers dedicated to individuals and kids calling those would be kind of intrusive. When you dial a landline and someone picks it, it means they’re home, and being home used to mean “open for taking calls”, generally. Not now. If a kid calls some kid’s mom’s cell, she might be anywhere doing anything. People screen now and text. Makes it more awkward for those old ways for kids to communicate, which is kind of a bummer, isn’t it?

    • Lori B.

      This is such an interesting point! We have a landline, but the phone number I have given my 5 year old daughter to memorize is my cell phone, because it is the best way to get in touch with me if there is an emergency. So, she gave this phone number to one of her friends who called me directly. Incessantly. Late at night. Early in the morning. Asking if my daughter could come over to play.

    • guest

      I almost wonder about getting a landline back when we have kids for this reason. I do remember though in middle school my one friend would call me all the time (which isn’t that weird considering now you can text someone day and night) until my dad finally blocked the number so I had to call her.

    • val97

      I don’t text anyone for play dates. My youngest is 9. He and his friends exchange phone numbers in school (some have their own phones, some use their parent’s). In the summer it’s great because he just rides his bike around and gets kids to come out and play.

  • Kate

    Oh I SOOO feel you on the middle school drama of scheduling these darn things! My oldest is only 4 so I obvs have to help schedule. Such a pain! And then there is the drama of “Why hasn’t that mom reciprocated? Is it my kid? Or me? My house? WHAAAAT IS IT???” We had a lovely playdate last spring with this kid my son really liked. Mom came along with toddler in tow. Same age as my toddler. Everyone got along save for maybe 1 minor “incident” of toy sharing drama. Then…crickets. She never reciprocated. My son kept asking to have this kid over again but I was waiting for her ….nothing! Now whenever I see her it is super awkward and tense. I still wonder why? why? why? ugh….I HATE playdates. We are moving in the next year and I am going to camp out in the prospective neighborhoods ahead of time to make sure they are PACKED with kids. This scheduling crap is for the birds!

  • radicalhw

    YES. I’ve always said that arranging these playdates is horribly similar to arranging REAL dates back in my single days. The confusion! The heartbreak! The constant misinterpreting of signals!

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  • rrlo

    It’s weird. In the culture where I grew up, I didn’t socialize with friends outside of school. All my friends during off time were my cousins and other relatives. And if I did see a friend outside of school, they were children of my parent’s friends or neighbours.

    This whole play date thing, arranged by parents, confuses me.

  • allisonjayne

    It’s interesting how where you live really affects this. I grew up in the 80s in the suburbs, and there were no other kids my age on my block. Or maybe there was but I didn’t know them because they went to the close to us catholic school and I went to the much farther away public school. It was the suburbs – everyone had backyards to play in, the park was usually desolate, and most kids my age had older and/or younger siblings that they were expected to play with. Plus, I live in Canada – in the winter, you can’t just wander around the street looking for friends, it’s too damn cold.

    So I didn’t grow up with this “knock on your friend’s doors” culture that other folks (who I suspect are close to my age) are talking about. At 8, my parents definitely arranged all my playdates. My best friend lived a 45 minute walk from my house. I had a few friends that lived closer to me, but they were all newer immigrants who spent their free time with their families, taking language classes, or at cultural events.

  • Donna Talbot

    I hate the term Play Date.

  • LK

    My kiddos are little, but what I find hard is not over-committing ourselves on the weekends (husband and I both work full-time outside the house). My two-year-old loves to have a friend over or go to a friend’s house, but with a baby as well and having to do all our shopping/cooking/cleaning on the weekends, I feel like we can only handle one get-together per weekend! I always hope I don’t come off like a jerk if I decline. It’s usually sheer exhaustion from managing everything.

    I am hopeful that once they start at the neighborhood school they will meet friends close by. Before then, I have no idea how we’re realistically going to meet neighborhood kids and “date” their parents with only weekends in play.