We weathered allergic reactions to friends pets, but weren’t ready for a new obstacle to social situations.
At some point, maybe even at three or four, your child will say they don’t want to go to someone’s house, perhaps because the adults are boring, or they have a big dog that scares the bejesus out of them. Later on, as for adults, the dynamics are more complicated. Perhaps they like someone at school or during soccer, but the idea of a playdate with them or a sleepover, is just too much of a good thing.
For a while now, in our house, we’ve had to deal with my son’s severe allergies to dogs and cats. What started as a some sniffling after a visit to a friend with a dog, turned into hours of tearful, heavy breathing recovery until we finally had to limit playdates with certain friends to our house or to a neutral territory.
But that’s not what I’m writing about. We have a problem with the omni-present iPad. Like most middle class families, we now have several iPads in our house. They are off-limits to my son except on weekends when he usually far exceeds his allotted limits. We prefer him to be playing outdoors, practicing his piano, or for once, getting his homework done ahead of time. IPads are good for protracted alone time when the boredom of childhood is too much to bear and since we use them a lot as well for recipes and reading, it’s hard to be too preachy when it comes to absolute bans.
However, the area where we do draw the line is during playdates. At our house, we try to enforce a hearty mix of co-play adventures including Nerf gun battles, LEGO building and even some LEGO Star Wars on the Wii. What we don’t allow however, is iPad use. Apparently, we are in a small minority to the extent that my son now says there is only one person he wants to do playdates with at their house. Every other friend just wants to play on the iPad.
Additionally, since my soon to be 11 year old son doesn’t have an iPad or iPhone, he often just has to sit and watch. Yesterday, his best friend told him during a three hour playdate that all he wanted to do was play on the iPad and that it was his house and he didn’t have to share. That sealed it for my son; No more wasted Sunday afternoons watching someone else play on a device all day.
Every family has to decide how they will deal with screen time and it’s not easy. At the same time, if you want my son to agree to a playdate at your house, you might have to figure out a usage policy when guests are over. That’s not me being preachy. That’s a post-millenial 11 year old boy saying he’s had it with people who can only interact when staring at their screens. And to that, I give a big thumbs up.