Playdates: Are they really for the kids or the parents?

I grew up in a small town. A place where my parents and a generation before them had established deep roots. So when it came to being social, we “stopped in” or “dropped by” to see if someone wanted to play.  It was always a bit impromptu and go-with-the-flow. No end time in mind. Dinner might happen, maybe even a sleepover if I was lucky. I can’t imagine doing that in Silicon Valley. People would think I was nuts. Or more likely, people wouldn’t be home. If they were home, they would likely be getting ready to go somewhere and would ask to be sent a reminder email to plan playdates.

Playdates for mommies or kids?

Are playdates for the kids or parents? (Photo credit: Pearl Sayer)

Planning playdates

In my experience, this is when two parents agree in advance to meet at the same place, at the same time and let their children interact. It is assumed that both parents will supervise and bring enough snacks for everyone. There is a clearly planned activity and end time.  

I was shy to approach the parents of my son’s friends to ask about getting our kids together to play. The brief moments I had an opportunity to engage with other parents were while dropping off or picking up from daycare. People are on a mission during those times and it seemed awkward to invite a practical stranger to a social function during all of the hustle and bustle of trying to get in and out.

I really wanted to make friends in my new home and having a connection through my son seemed like a good way to start. Plus, he had started to ask about having friends over to play. I decided to write a note to the parents of a boy my son was particularly fond of and put it in the boy’s cubby where I knew his parents would find it.   

It was very simple – Hi, this is [my son]’s, mom.  My son has been asking to have Sam come to our house to play trains. If this sounds fun, I would love to schedule a playdate. You can email me at….

I received an email two days later:

Hi Jessica,
Nice to meet you.
I am Tracey, Sam’s mom.
Marco, my husband, shared the kind invitation. We’d love to make it.
Please let us know the best date for you.


We continued to make arrangements over email.   I’m not sure either of us would have recognized each other in passing at daycare.  We set a time to have our sons play trains at my home, 3:30-4:30pm on a Saturday.  When the day arrived the boys happily ran off together leaving the adults to make a less smooth transition into small talk.

Playdates: boys play together

Silly boys

After some easy conversation about what our boys had in common, Tracey said she had a confession. She had never been to a playdate before and had been so nervous that she Googled what to expect. She said she now realized that had been silly because ‘you are just like us’.  

Whoa. Those words completely changed my perspective of my new environment.  Looking around Silicon Valley it’s obvious that a large population are expats. What’s not obvious is that we are all trying to find that feeling of belonging.   I thought I was making a playdate, but what I made was a connection.  

About Jessica H

I have spent my life exploring my surroundings. I grew up in Michigan and made a career in marketing. I followed my husband to NY, NJ and now CA for his career. I have a passion for traveling and experiencing other cultures. I love being out of my comfort zone. I currently work as a contracted Marketing Product Manager at Google. I love the Bay Area. The sun, relaxed environment and access to outdoor activities is very different from the East Coast.

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2 thoughts on “Playdates: Are they really for the kids or the parents?

  • Louise Bennett

    Great read Michelle, and very true. We are always a little hesitant to initiate a play date with someone new. Questions you ask; Is their parenting style similar to ours? Will the kids get along? Will WE get along?
    I made myself go out and join in baby groups when I first moved to CA and look at the friends I made…..
    And we all lived happily ever after!