Sunday, July 28, 2013

Play Dates and Hanging Out

So this summer Handsome is going to a few different summer camps. One week of YMCA camp, another at a Robotics camp (why didn’t they have these when I was growing up? Oh, yeah, because I’m old... I forgot for second there...) and then a week away at Boy Scout Camp.

He’s a pretty busy little beaver for nearly an entire month.

In years past what would happen over the course of the summer is that his mother and I observe him in the Wild, as it were, evaluating his social skills and looking for children for him to see and play with once camp was over. If you have anything to do with kids, if you have friends with kids, hell, even if you just have children of your own, then you know this planned getting together of the young ones is called a ‘play date’.

(A voiceover begins in a strangely Australian accent)

“Here we see the North American Handsome in its natural setting —  and what a beauty! You can see the way the sweat glistens in his buzz-cut —  a sure sign of a healthy specimen, that —  and the dirt patterns on his extremities are awesome, just awesome! Those dirt patterns are what the wild Handsome uses to differentiate itself from the rest of the herd for — “

A gasp can be heard.

“Waitaminute! A young Junior has left the herd and is approaching the Handsome. Oh, this is an amazing chance to observe the social interaction between the Handsome and the Junior!

Crikey, this is our lucky day!

You can see how the Junior’s approach is casual, almost nonchalant, but if you look closely you can see the wariness about the eyes. Just look at that stride! And now we —  Oh! The Handsome just became aware of his approach! You see that, right there, how the Handsome’s head comes up, his eyes fixed on the intruder? That’s his way of saying ‘I see you, buddy, I see you there!’

Oh! The Handsome is standing up, rising to his full proud height, you see that? Oh, what a day we are having here, folks, witnessing two princes of the playground, squaring off like this, it’s just phenomenal! I do hope the cameras are catching this. If you watch their eyes very closely you’ll see them inspecting each-other’s dirt patterns in a ritual comparison of —  

Look! The Junior is reaching for the shovel in the Handsome’s hand! This is a bold play on the Junior’s part, seeking either social acceptance or dominance, we’re not sure which. There is some debate in the scientific world as to what … wait, the Handsome is moving …

Yes, the Handsome is reaching out as well! They’re both reaching, reaching … and the Junior has gotten a grip on the Handsome’s shovel —  I don’t care what the debaters say, this is a clear move for dominance —  he’s got the shovel and he’s pulling, pulling —  

But the Handsome’s hand just covers the Junior’s face! You see that? One hard shove and the Junior goes over backward, sprawling in the sand! Did you see that, the power in the Handsome’s beefy little body, all focused into one small point in sp —  and there it is! The Junior has begun to wail,  high-pitched keening sound, a cry for help that is sure to draw in... yes, there they go, a pair of Mothers converging on the scene.


It’s pandemonium on the playground, here at …

(The voiceover fades)

Yeah. We wouldn’t have been collecting that kid’s number.

But anyway, I didn’t come here to tell you all that. I told you that story so I can tell you this one:

Last year we weren’t with him at the park any more. Maybe even the year before that, if I remember correctly. We’d drop him off and he took part in the local Park Program for the day, and we picked him up later. It was very cool if we had errands to run, or even wanted to take a nap, but it was pretty bad for the collecting of phone numbers for play dates. Handsome was on his own in that regard, and he, to be quite honest, sucked at it.

Not a lot of play dates happened last year.

This year, however, things are a little different. He’s been to YMCA camp and Robotics camp, and by the end of each week had collected one or two phone numbers from kids he wants to keep in touch with when that camp week was over. We didn’t ask him to —  hell, we didn’t even know he was doing it —  he just showed up at home with scribbled-on papers crumpled up in his pocket.

This was great! Evidence of social growth and maturity! Handsome was taking charge of his own little life, as much as he was able. I thought it was fantastic, and was telling everyone so … and it was while I was telling someone all about it that the problem in all this became evident for me.

What was I to call it now, when my young little man (who was growing up so fast you could hear it happening while he slept) got together with his new friends? He’d done all the work, made the number exchange, was even offering to call the kids’ homes himself to set things up. Was it really still a ‘play-date’ when we had so little to do with it? When he was practically taking the bull by the horns and handling the whole thing himself?

No. Couldn’t be. I tried to figure out what to call it now, tried to think of something Handsome would not find insulting, or baby-ish. Something the cool kids were calling it these days (yes, I’m that old, I really talk like that), the kinds of kids Handsome was using as role-models, kids he wanted to hang out with himself.

I wracked my brain, trying words and phrases and discarding the. I was  talking to myself almost constantly whenever I was alone, trying new phrases aloud, trying to tell by hearing them whether they were the ‘in’ phrase or not, hoping to stumble upon something really incredible. I talked to other parents, people who had older children, that had gone through this long enough ago that they could talk about some of their failures in the cool word arena without actually breaking down in tears from remembered pain. I looked online, searching the phrase ‘cool phrases for hanging out’.

I Googled. I Yahoo’d. I Ask’d. I even Infospaced. And eventually, after days of research, I came up with an answer:

‘Hanging out’. The exact same thing I’d called it at his age.


I was all ready a couple of days later, when Robotics Camp was over, and I knew he’d want to call someone to make some plans. I was ready to jump into the conversation. I was ready to be cool.

I was prepared...

...or so I thought, at least until Handsome walked up to his mother and said the following:

“Hey, can I call DW and see if he can come over later on for a play-date?”

Son of a BITCH...

Talk to you later!

P.S. - This week's added video:

John Pinette talks about the Water Park!

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