Are you a parent of a young child? Do you also work? If so, you know how hard it is to split your time between your career and your family. Personal time? Forget about it. That’s a luxury for people without kids.
Being a parent means doing the best you can to raise a healthy, well-rounded, independent human being. In order to do that you need to expose your children to the experiences that can positively contribute to that purpose. Just as importantly, we have to be engaged enough to mentor and guide our children as they take-in and process new experiences and information. It’s a full-time job.
If you’re like me, and you work, it’s just too much to do alone. We all need a little support and it’s okay to ask for help when we need it. But sometimes even asking for help is a chore. I’m fortunate enough to have a nanny and wife that share responsibilities with me. My wife also has a very demanding career and so we lean heavily on our nanny for support. The three of us are a team. A team coordinating schedules, raising concerns, planning activities, running errands, and mentoring our son. If our families lived nearby, we’d lean on them in a similar way.
For my wife and I, being heavily involved in his progress hasn’t been optional. In 2010, my wife and then 2-year-old son Tiago moved to Manhattan from Atlanta. When we arrived in the city and started looking at pre-schools, we were told by countless administrators that our son would not be a fit for a “typical” pre-school program. What? Um… okay, what does that mean? As first-time parents, we didn’t have a lot to compare our son with and he seemed typical to us.
Tiago is our only child. When he started missing developmental milestones we were really the last to see it. In early 2011 Tiago was diagnosed with PDD-NOS which is an obscure way of saying severe developmental delays and on the autism spectrum. Our beautiful child suddenly needed us desperately. Just to put it in perspective, at age 4 Tiago didn’t speak a single word, wouldn’t look you in the eye, and had a severe sensory sensitivity to sound and touch.
As soon as we received the diagnoses, and confirmed it through additional testing, my wife and I went ALL-IN. Doctors, therapists, specialists, parenting coaches, everything you can think of. But, what resonated the most with me was how “play” could be used as a developmental tool. That was right up my alley! I began spending a lot of time playing with Tiago and his action figures, Legos, blocks, trains, and cars. We started arranging lots of playdates so he could interact with more kids. Play, play, and more play.
Fast forward to now and Tiago is 9-years-old. If you met him on the street, or at a playground, you’d think you just met an exceptional young man. You would never guess he’d been diagnosed with autism. He’s extremely outgoing, great sense of humor, super well-mannered, is one of the most empathetic people I know, and has a lot of friends. He’s truly a miracle. There’s a lot of people to thank for their role in his early intervention, but, I believe the play was the driving force in his developmental progress.
So why did I quit my day job to create Winston? Having seen how impactful play has been in my son’s life, and how it changed him in profound ways, I wanted to bring that knowledge to more parents. Knowing how difficult it is to have a career & a family, I wanted to make it easier for parents and their support system to be able to arrange and coordinate playdates.
While none of us can be perfect, what we can be is engaged. Play and Playdates are an incredible tool that can help our children grow up to be exceptional human beings. It improves so many areas of their lives. So, if you haven’t made play a priority in your children’s lives, I hope you’ll be encouraged to do so. And I hope Winston makes that much easier to do.
-Matthew Perry (co-founder/CEO)