Playgroups and Playdates vs. Playborhoods, Oh My…

I’ve been on a rampage lately, overloaded by email and the necessity for communicating online for the simple task of getting my daughter together to play with other children. And as much as I enjoy the playgroups, when I get to them, maintaining all of the contact necessary to transact what should be a simple form of play for my young daughter, has become at times overwhelming.Case in point: A few weeks ago, I actually decided to play hooky from my daughter’s pre-school in order to make it to one of the playgroups we consistently miss – just because I felt it was important for my daughter to start making some little friends that live near us. I got all of her things together the night before and although it was a difficult night (she still has those, from time to time), we got up in the morning and made it to the park, only a few minutes late. I felt so elated we were finally there. But they weren’t.

It turns out that everyone else decided it was too windy for a playgroup so they relocated somewhere else. They sent out email (which I was able to find, sifting through my overflowing account, after we came home a few hours later), and they said someone was making calls, but since I hadn’t taken the time to send email out saying I was hoping to come that day, the person in charge of making the calls didn’t call me. I felt like I was back in junior high – not in the popular group, not being invited to the party, stuck on the playground alone. Except it was worse, because I was trying to do this for my daughter.

Lucky for me, she was oblivious to all of this – she was happy to be at the park and we happened upon a neighbor from up our street who we had met at our summer block party who has a daughter the same age as mine. We got to talking and we promised to get together for a playdate. Lucky for us, our neighborhood has an organized contact list so I already had her contact information. My daughter seemed a bit bored at that park, so we went down the street to a bigger one where she plays more often and stayed there for at least an hour before going home.

I receive over 500 email messages a day. Most people don’t, I know, and they can’t imagine how it happens, but it’s because I’m involved in a lot of projects and I’m on a lot of lists. I’m still a new parent, with a daughter not yet two. I had no idea how much more email I would get – mostly due to our parents’ club and playgroup email lists – after becoming a parent. My daily incoming email at that point doubled. And I take some of that email in digest form; it just piles up. I love our parents’ club and it’s a fantastic way to get information on all kinds of topics from root canals to rocking chairs. Sifting through the archives of the email lists is like digging for gold, but it’s almost always there. And the parents provide a friendly wealth of information. However, I’m still baffled by the playgroups.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the concept – I just wish there was a more fluid nature to the timing and a more solid nature to the location. But that’s where the notion of a playborhood comes in. Here we already have a great neighborhood email list and four kids my daughter’s age in the neighborhood that I want to get together. I told them I would, so it’s now or never. We have our homes, we have 2 parks, we have wonderful children and we can all make the time. Other kids on our street are playing outdoors every day; they and their parents have somehow figured-out this whole free play concept. Maybe we can find a regular spot to meet for good weather or bad and start getting our kids together. I feel the wheels turning… now if I can just find where I put that email list.

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