Recently, one of the parents of Riley's schoolmates called to arrange a playdate between her son and Riley. I don't remember having so many playmates as a kid, and I certainly don't remember how my parents arranged them. Even though I appreciate the opportunity to socialize Riley among his classmates outside of school, this whole process seems kind of strange to me.
It's not so strange that our contact information is available. The home and school association produces a White Pages-like book of student names and addresses, organized by grade. You can opt in/out each year, but most parent include their addresses for purposes of convenience, like setting up playmates. I assume it also helps for homework help, since some of Abby's classmates have called asking for clarification on something they were doing in class.
What really perplexes me, though, is how the playdate itself is supposed to work. Maybe I put too much thought into this whole thing, but take this most recent instance as an example. A strange woman calls the house and asks, "Are you Riley's dad?" Uh, yes. "I'm Riley's friend from school's mom. You know, Riley's friend, Bob." Uh, ok. "Bob wanted to invite Riley over for a playdate." Oh! That sounds great; I'm sure he'd like that. Now what?
Maybe it would be easier if I wasn't so weird about it myself. But like any meeting, you arrange a place and time. Usually it's at the caller's house, after all, you don't call someone up and say, "Hey, we've never met, but I'd like to come over and hang out!" The time is a weird thing, too. We talked about summer camps, which seem to be the thing parents do around here - send their kids off to camp for the summer. Riley had a week of day camp this summer, but mostly he's been at home, so he's free during the day. Sort of.
Have I mentioned at all about how I'm becoming more like Mr. Mom? Back during the weeks I was carting the kids to and from day camp, and between activities, it felt more and more like I was a stay at home Dad with a part time job. While I find nothing wrong with that lifestyle (if one can afford it), I don't want to be perceived that way unless that's really how it is. I find myself vociferously defending my work, how I work from home, etc. As if everyone is now unfamiliar with the concept. (It seems that half of the men on my street work from home at some point or another, at least. Weird I never see them, though...)
So yes, I can cart Riley over mid-day for a playdate. Am I expected to stay? As a parent, should I be wanting to stay and observe this stranger's environment that my kid will be playing in? What if they have knives? What if Riley comes home with a tattoo? Aren't these things I should be worried about? "It's ok if you just want to drop him off."
I'm telling you, there should be a manual. I've met only a few parents who I would not want to leave my kids alone with, and combined with the number of people I know who are not parents that I absolutely would not leave my kids with, I believe I have a healthy enough fear of leaving my kids with anyone. On the other hand, I've seen parents participate in playdates as if the kid's presence was contingent only upon their ability to dote. I've seen other parents behave as though they were the ones coming over to play. So who knows. Me? I'm happy to leave Riley to play with other parents that seem sane and responsible. Maybe that makes me neglectful in the eyes of the doting won't-leave-my-house playdate parents, but I find that I am not really trying to hard to please random people in the school directory.
Oh. Another problem. What happens when you make all of these plans with this "friend of your kid's" parent, and then you go talk to your kid and his eyes get wide and he says to you, "I don't want to go!" and then runs off and hides in a corner somewhere? Yeah. I guess I should have asked him first. But how do you do that in the middle of a phone conversation? Moreover, what do you say to the parent when you get back to the phone from that discussion? Oh, sorry, Riley doesn't like your kid, so thanks anyway.
And that's not even the case. My opinion, lacking any evidence otherwise, is that Riley is simply reluctant to leave his routine of being at home. He's not really making "best friends" at school because, apart from him being a kind of shy, slow friend-maker, the school actually dissuades them from making "best friends" (yeah, I should write a whole post about this, too). As a result, visits to classmates outside of what's required for school are an expected uphill battle for us.
Well. I personally can't wait for Riley's playdate. I'm going to get all this awkward parenting nonsense ironed out. Awkward human beingness, really. And then I will be formidable. And the kids will learn from my example. Yeah, looking forward to that.