It's been years since I was on the preschool 'playdate' circuit, where I scheduled my kids' social interactions, but I still remember one of the best perks, which was when I discovered a mom with whom I clicked. I'd go over to retrieve my kid, and we'd end up chatting for another hour, thrilled to find someone to talk to in complete sentences. At that age, the kids were young enough that they'd play with just about anyone, so it was easy to make most of their playdates with kids whose moms I enjoyed.
One of those preschool moms has become one of my dearest friends, so yesterday we met for a quick lunch at the Nordstrom Cafe, where we used to meet when our older boys were in preschool and our 2nd kids were in strollers. We reminisced about those 'good old days', remembering where Hannah (her perfect little girl) charmed the grandmother at the next table, or looking at the dent in the chair I'm sure was left by Ben (my rambunctious one). And we fretted that as our schedules (and kids' lives) have gotten more complicated, we no longer have those long, leisurely playground outings and Burger King lunches.
And then this morning I read an article (in the New York Times, so you know it's got to be true!) about how unstructured play time is good not just for kids' developing minds, but for over-stressed adults, specifically those raising teenagers. It was as if the article were written just for me - how did the author know I was play-deprived? We all get so loaded with work deadlines, household chores, kids to drive, volunteer commitments, and the idea of doing something just because it's fun has become alien - these days, my 'fun' tends to be a few stolen moments doing a computer jigsaw puzzle (which I hide the minute the kids come in the room since I told them I needed the computer for work).
Now that I know my stress is aggravated by being recreationally deprived, I finally have an excuse to schedule some play dates for myself. I just emailed my flute-playing friend about scheduling some time to play piano-flute duets (which I used to do with my best friend in 5th grade), and I'm meeting another friend for late afternoon tea. And I even decided married couples need play time. I'd just read a vintage copy of The Sheik, the hugely popular novel from 1921 which inspired all those romantic Rudolph Valentino movies, so I made Husband 2.0 get up earlier than the kids this morning to attempt a harem-fantasy-based quickie. (Unfortunately, his 'sheik' impression made me laugh so much that we ran out of time . . . but it was still fun! Plus I have scientific proof that play does reduce stress - this was the first morning in weeks that my not-a-morning-person-teenager's grouchiness didn't make me snap back!)
Now I'm remembering that although raising toddlers was incredibly stressful, we had all that mommy play time to help us cope, and I've missed it! I know how easy it is for us all to become 'mommy-martyrs', but now we have scientific proof that denying ourselves isn't good for us, or for our kids. So after I finish up some work, I'm going to email a couple of friends about getting together, then I'll go get a pedicure - not for me, but for the good of my family!