Oh those paradigm shifts

My son got a phone call from one of his school friends, and shortly afterward, he had a puzzled look.

The lowered the phone and said, “Could {Name} and I hang out on Friday?”

I said, “Sure. Where?”

He gets back on the phone and, very hesitantly, says, “Where do you want to do that?” ¬†A moment later, “Hang out?”

You see, he’s hitting right now the wall I didn’t hit until high school. Last year, when his friend came over, they played. This year, when his friend comes over, they hang out.

Speaking from a mother’s perspective, hanging out looked a lot like playing together. They talked a bit, looked over his baseball cards, and then went outside and threw a baseball to one another, then practiced batting. They did some joking around and some running. Overall, remarkably like what he used to call “playing” but now it’s “hanging out.”

This weekend, they hung out again. This time it involved baseball in the yard and Legos in the house.

The problem is, “playing” is for kids. And they’re at the age where they’re still kids in their bodies, but they’re moving into the head-space of adults. They do kid things and want to call them by other words. And the way I changed over from being “Momma” to “Mom,” the activities are changing names too.

The irony is, to babies and toddlers and preschoolers, “play” is serious work. It’s experimentation. It’s learning. It’s an attempt to make sense of the world by trying on new roles and being people they aren’t usually, by mimicking some activities and exploring others. My youngest “plays” with a toy by putting it into his mouth and learning its texture, then looking at it and manipulating it with his hands, learning about the toy and learning about himself.

Meanwhile, my oldest is learning about friendships and language and how who we are changes over time. It’s play in its own way after all.


  1. Cricket

    I love listening to phone conversations at this age. My kids are the same way. All their brain is used up simply talking to someone through a tiny little device, and to plan something new, like hanging out, is even more difficult.