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The Importance of Playdates

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

Though we don’t consider ourselves done having kids yet, Preston is currently an only child. And only children need companionship. It takes more of an effort, since they don’t have a built-in buddy or sibling, but that effort doesn’t always come easy when Mom works full time.

Those four months in-between jobs when I was working from home part-time gave me the flexibility to meet some new mom friends at the class I was taking Preston to once a week—we’d have our weekly lunch date after class with a girl Preston adored; her mom and I became fast friends. It was just a once-a-week playdate, but unfortunately it was the first thing to go once I started working again. Now that my time is so limited, I barely have time for anything outside my daily routine (work, home, dinner, play, bath, bedtime, repeat tomorrow). That’s why weekends are so important—it’s the only time we get to see family and friends, which often means getting together with Preston’s cousins, whom he is very close with. I think that sort of counts as a playdate but they’re much older than he is—it’s a playdate for him; for them it’s spending time with their baby cousin.

Friday night we had one of my best girlfriends over, who’s a single mom to an adorable three-year-old—Preston l-o-v-e-s them. He asks about them all the time; all week we talked about them coming over on Friday. We had such a great night, just hanging out at our place with the kids—having dinner, playing hockey in the house, and watching “Happy Feet.” Preston’s finally at an age where he doesn’t just co-play—they actually played together, chased each other around the house, took turns on the trampoline, shared toys, looked at stars in the dark in Preston’s room (a new favorite pastime of Preston’s). At one point they both decided to put on a couple of Preston’s baseball hats, “so food doesn’t get in our hair,” and cook a pretend vegetable stew in Preston’s kitchen.

As 8 o’clock rolled around, Coby—Preston’s buddy—didn’t want to leave. He refused to put his shoes on—and Preston was just as bummed they were heading home. The rest of the weekend, Preston asked about them a dozen times. “I want to see Coby and She She!” He climbed into his stroller on Sunday and said, “Daddy, let’s go!”

“Where we going, buddy?” Jay asked.

“To see She She and Coby!” Preston said, sort of nonchalantly.

It’s one of those things that kind of breaks my heart because I know he’s longing for a companion. He talks about his friends at school all the time, too. He loves all our friends’ kids, and brings their names up without us prompting it in any way. Out of nowhere the other day he asked to see the daughters of close friends of ours. Sometimes he'll ask after looking at photos of these friends, which is another favorite pastime. But other times it comes out of nowhere, and I wonder what makes him think of this on his own—is he lonely, being the only kid in the house?

With everyone’s busy schedules, playdates aren’t always the easiest thing to coordinate. A few of my good friends now live in the suburbs so scheduling time to see them is exceptionally difficult with me working. We’re lucky if we get to see our city friends more than once a month, and they live close by.

But I think playdates are crucial—especially since Preston doesn’t have a sibling. I’m so thankful he loves the preschool he attends three days a week, and has bonded with his friends at school, but I’ve yet to meet their parents. And frankly, I don’t have time for more friends!

Parents of only children: Do you have regular playdates? If you work, how do you find the time?

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