A dearth of playdates for only-child son

Dear Carolyn:

I have one child, 7, and I had him late. He is much younger than the children of my good friends in the area. Somehow all of his friends from school have siblings.

On weekends he asks me to arrange playdates — the kids all have lots of fun — but my son is seldom asked back. As I understand it, parents are super busy with multiple kids, and siblings can play together and don’t need playdates as much. With only one kid, I have to do more to keep him occupied.

Worse, he doesn’t like soccer or other league sports. We’ve tried different classes and other things to enrich weekends, but those don’t really lead to new playdate candidates.

I can’t have another kid. How do I make myself not feel like I’m begging for playdates all the time?

— Mom

Can I interest you in a different goal: to make yourself not mind that you’re begging for playdates all the time?

Invitations aren’t reciprocated, sports aren’t an option, classes haven’t panned out. OK. Those were reasonable things to try, you were good to try them, and it’s unfortunate that none worked as a permanent fix — but it’s not calamitous, either. He has friends. He has fun. So you hustle a bit — or let him be bored sometimes (and encourage resourcefulness).

At this point I suggest you try a different and extremely useful approach to a kid problem: writing it off as temporary.

You will not be arranging playdates for a teenager, right? Or possibly even for an 8- or 9- or 10-year-old. Kids just a little bit older than yours start to communicate with their friends directly, and boom, it dawns that you haven’t been his scheduler for quite some time.

Think of it as living your moments versus trying to fix them; it applies beyond this one nuisance, too, because the maturing process means the best and the most vexing phases both will yield to something new. A tougher new phase can still feel welcome for its novelty alone.

Another point to consider toward the goal of resigned patience: Your planets aligned to give you this extra responsibility — but other families are wrangling multiple kids and embarrassed at never reciprocating playdates, or they’re attending to special needs, or they’re burning cash and ozone on soccer obsessions, or worrying their kid is overly social, or worrying he’s too solitary, or whatever else comes with the way their planets happened to align.

You raise the child you get under the conditions you’re given and you do your best. Sounds like you’ve got this — as well as any of us does.

Hi, Carolyn:

I gave a really nice baby shower for our niece several years ago. Unfortunately, she didn’t send a single thank-you note. Now, pregnant again, she is having a second shower called a “sprinkle.”

I’m not interested in attending, though I sent a check. Am I being a stinker? It feels like a gift grab. When did sprinkles start?

— Anonymous

About five minutes before the judging started.

When in doubt — and in certainty, come to think of it — avoid drawing bigger conclusions than you have to. You wanted to help, so you sent money. You don’t want to go, so don’t. Good enough right there.

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