This Stay-At-Home Dad Wants To Ban Play-dates And It’s Just Not Possible

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ddChicago stay-at-home dad Chris Bernholdt is in the news today for stating that the play date should be abolished in favor of spontaneity for kids. I see where he is coming from, truly. I am definitely in favor of the way things “used to be” when we were kids with more unstructured play, more outdoor play and less parental intervention but in 2014, I just don’t think it is possible to ban play-dates.

Bernholdt told The Daily Mail his feelings about formal, organized play dates:

‘It makes me feel like I should be preparing a cheese plate and some activity that as a “host” our guest kid will be taking home a fabulous parting gift.’

‘In my day, we played Star Wars and acted out scenarios from our heads. We climbed trees!

Not only do play dates put unnecessary pressure on adults, but they also is harmful to children, says Mr Bernholdt, who describes his working wife as ‘a rising star in the corporate world’.

‘Kids are at their best when their imaginations are in play,’ he says. ‘We are dumbing down their ability to be independent thinkers with scheduled activity, and feeling like we are to blame when they have “nothing to do.”‘

Ok, I definitely do appreciate a good cheese plate and parting gift but I in no way expect anything like this when I drop my 6-year old off at a friend’s house to play and I do not provide it when she has a friend over. I mean, I will feed them if it is around meal time or give them an easy snack but I do not go out of my way to plan anything formal and there are certainly no gifts beyond a Rainbow Loom bracelet that the kid made while playing at my house. The kids go off and do their thing, much like I did with my friends when I was little, and I go about my business in the house. The only difference is that a phone call or a few texts were required to arrange it.

I really do understand where this guy is coming from but I think he is romanticizing things about “way back when” and forgetting that life for parents is different now in many ways. When I was a kid, my parents knew the neighbors and all of their kids. They actually talked and if I wanted to go next door or down the street to play all I had to do was tell my parents where I was headed and it was a done deal. Now, things are a bit different. I have had this conversation with many friends and co-workers (our own Bethany Ramos included) and have realized that so many of us avoid or have little relationship with our neighbors. It is not uncommon for me to see my neighbors heading into their house either talking on the phone or texting or whatever and we rarely speak. I have lived in my house for over seven years and there are still neighbors within a house or two of us that I have barely spoken to. I would not feel comfortable letting my kids wander down the street to knock on the door of a relative stranger so yes, we still have to set up play dates for them.

I suppose this problem could be solved by making buddies with our neighbors but frankly, I don’t want to. I like my privacy and I like coming home and knowing that I can take off my bra and no one is going to surprise me by knocking on the door. If it were within our budget to do so, we would live on a large piece of land with no one near us- we just aren’t the neighborly type, I suppose. There is also the matter that we live in a very large school district and all of my daughter’s friends are not at all within walking distance of us and if we want our kids to play together we do have to schedule it. It’s not like I can just drive to her friend’s house 20 minutes away and have her go knock on the door “spontaneously” to ask if little Sophie can come out to play. Things are a bit more of a production these days.

That said, I think Bernholdt is being quite overly dramatic and maybe play dates in his circle do seem like a big festive production but I think as long as we just let the kids be kids once they are on their play date, the spontaneity in their play is not at all lost. The parents can work to get the kids together but beyond that, leave it up to them to make their own fun.

(Image: The Daily Mail)