We’ve been on the playdate circuit these past few weeks. I’ve been spared from playdates until now because when we were in the city, everyone just met up at the playground. Even after we moved to the suburbs, we live on a dead end street with a ton of kids, so my kid just plays outside. However, I felt that my kid needed some extra time with the kids in his class, so I started arranging playdates.
Two weeks ago, we had playdate number #1. Two boys, Bored and Hyper, came over on a Sunday afternoon. They walked in the house, dumped their coats on the floor, and cased the joint for video games. Didn’t find any. Suspected that there might be some on the computers, but we said that it was off limits. So, they retired to the basement with the trampoline for Ian’s sensory problems. They trashed the room and came upstairs.
Bored looks me in the face and says “I’m bored.”
“Well, play Lego, play a game, go outside, kick a ball, draw, build something, play Yu-Gi-Oh cards.”
“No, all that’s boring. Do you have soda?”
“No, you’re an asshole.” OK, I didn’t say that.
I think that they thought I was holding out on the video games and if they kept demanding, I would pull the magic X-box from under a bed or something. Bored and Hyper whined for an hour and a half, until they finally got into a board game and then didn’t want to leave when their parents arrived.
Playdate #2. Jonah goes to the Wonder Twins’ house. They played video games for 2-1/2 hours straight. When I picked him up, the three kids were staring at the TV vacantly. Thanked the babysitter and we drove straight to playdate #3 for pizza night at Bored’s house.
Playdate #3. For two hours, Jonah watched Bored play Gameboy.
Playdate #4. The Wonder Twins and Mr. Popular came to our house Sunday after church. Started off with pancakes and bacon. The Wonder Twins didn’t want pancakes. They turned on the TV and demanded that I make them popcorn. I did.
Steve flips off the TV and says, “It’s a beautiful day. Everybody outside. Go play kickball.”
They did. And eventually, all the other kids from the block came outside and there were now 15 seven year olds in front of our house playing ball. Great. Except that the game kept falling apart. They kept fighting over where exactly second base was, how to get someone out, whether or not the ball touched them, what the definition of a foul ball was, who was on what team, and whether or not Al Gore was robbed of the 2000 election.
Mr. Popular had to be stopped from pounding the smaller kids three or four times. Jonah cried twice. The Wonder Kids boycotted the whole affair twice. They were unable to play this simple game on their own.
Steve went outside to play ump and things improved dramatically. In fact, Mr. Popular refused to leave when his dad came to pick him up. The dad had to do the kid toss in the SUV in order to leave. Kid tossing is a sport that I excel at as well.
Why were these kids so bad at playing kickball? Why did negotiating the rules so completely destroy them? The problem with video games is that the machine does all the negotiating. It determines who’s in or out, foul or fair. And in all these organized sports, there’s always an adult to oversee the games.
I really am not a video game hater. There are some very fun, interesting, creative games out there. We might give in at some point about this X-Box thing, though we would impose severe regulations.
However, I see some real problems with kids’ ability to negotiate when raised on a diet of organized sports and video games. Negotiating is such an important life skill. How will they ever learn to co-author a paper, agree who gets the dog after a divorce, decide who should get the crying baby at 2:00 am?