Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When your kids demand "a friend" ... constantly

One of the main reasons we chose to have two children was so they could play with each other. We even chose to have them close in age — a year and a half apart — to increase the odds they’d enjoy hanging out together. It made sense at the time, since my husband and I both grew up with much-older or much-younger siblings.

So why oh WHY are my son and daughter constantly harassing me to get them “a friend” to play with?!

It’s a phenomenon I’ve been noticing way too often lately. Sure, they’ve always loved having friends over to play and they’ve always gone absolutely berserk when they get the fun of playing at someone else’s house. But these days? I shoo them out to play and they come back a few minutes later, whining about whose door they can go knock on so they have “a friend to play with.”

“You have each other! Play with each other!” I call through the screen door in frustration, usually with one eye on the computer as I’m on a deadline.

“But we want a friend!”

“YOU ARE EACH OTHER’S BEST FRIEND!”


Luckily, they are close enough in age that one friend is suitable for both of them. They have no qualms about “sharing” the friend I manage to wrangle up, and I hope that continues for a long, long time.

I’m not the only parent on the block whose kids are obsessed with the novelty of “a friend” instead of a sibling. I’ve negotiated some pretty sweet trade-offs where a friend comes into our house to play for a while, and then they all trek over to the friend’s house to play there. It’s great when it works out.

But here’s the thing: modern playdate etiquette involves scheduling, even if it’s just shooting your friend a text and asking if her kids are free to come out and play. This is seriously how my kids arrange to play with their friends next-door if no one goes outside first to get things rolling.

Kids don’t use the telephone these days. They don’t call each other after school, winding the curly plastic cord around their fingers because there is no cord. Mine have memorized our home phone number but have never once answered the phone or made a call. Kids today ask their parents to text. When I told my son I didn’t have someone’s number once, he suggested I “send them a Facebook.”

I can’t blame them because we’re all phone-phobic these days, except when it comes to texting and emailing people. I have telephoned my next-door neighbour maybe twice in the four and a half years we’ve lived is this house -- and it was only because it was urgent. It felt weird to talk on the phone even though we see each other in person every single day, outside.

So if we don’t call and texting isn’t always possible, how are we supposed to arrange these last-minute playdates for our kiddos, Desperately Seeking Friends? I cringe at the thought of my kids running down the street and banging on doors to see if their friends are free, even though I know that’s exactly what kids are supposed to do.

I always have a momentary flash of panic when our doorbell rings and I’m not expecting an online shopping package. How could I inflict that on others?!

Until our kids all have phones of their own and can text each other about hanging out -- or, more likely, just stay inside and text each other all afternoon -- I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and channel my inner ’90s parent.

You’re bored of playing with each other? You want a friend? Fine. Go knock on doors. See who can come out and play. Stay where I can see you from the house, and don’t go inside without calling me. You remember our phone number, right? No, hon, you can’t text from a landline. No, a phone number isn’t Facebook. Just ... just find a friend and bring them back to our yard, OK?

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