The Playdate Minefield

  1. Audrey McClelland says:

    I’m the worst.
    I hate playdates.
    I come up with so many excuses, my husband’s always like… “You are such a freaking liar!”

  2. We just started this journey. My 4 year old son Elias had his first playdate last month. It was a family we didn’t know well, but Elias seemed excited. (I was out of town and a play date was a good break for my husband).

    Well, they had a pool.

    And they didn’t tell Elias it was a pool. He thought it was a trampoline and went to step on it.

    The mom was there and Elias was okay (just wet), but I FREAKED out when I found out. {sigh}

    Why didn’t she tell him it was a pool when they went outside?

    Why were they playing near it in the first place?

    Why didn’t we ask more questions?

    WHEW! I get emotional just thinking about it.

    Can’t wait to hear what people share!

    • Why on earth was there inappropriate supervision when they had a pool in the yard?? I’m a former pool owner and I’m judging these people. 🙂 I didn’t allow my kids outside with a BABYSITTER in my OWN backyard with a LOCKED FENCE around the pool. When they had friends over, everyone knew a. that it was a pool and b. that any tampering with the fence was a serious offense. Oh….I don’t have time to get started here. 😉

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      WOW. This is exactly the kind of thing that terrifies me.

      This and unsupervised Internet. That’s going to be an issue for all of us, I think, in the years to come- particularly at sleepovers when the parents have gone to bed. I shudder even thinking about what my kids might see…

      • ModFrugal says:

         As for unsupervised internet, when my sons have friends over for sleepovers. I confiscate all devices at bedtime, ipods, phones etc… in a basket that I keep in my room until morning…and disable the wifi just in case I missed one. Sad, but it’s not my boys who try this, it’s the boys we have over..especially the ones whose house I won’t let my boys go visit.

  3. Knewman4 says:

    Huh. You are definitely more thorough and careful than I am. You’ve got me thinking, for sure. I like that you would rather protect your children from a negative family than be polite for its own sake and get sucked into a social relationship that everyone would hate.

    What I find hard are these interrelated things: Not enough kids within walking distance of our house to make for easy after school play. Not enough recess and downtime at school for my kids to make friends there. Too many separate circles—soccer, the private preschool daycare my kids went to, the public school they go to now, and then the children of my friends.  How to balance and combine?

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       That’s tough! I am SO grateful to live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, because it definitely makes things easier. We’re just now entering the stage where the kids are wanting to have friends over every single weekend, so that balancing act is getting interesting for me.

  4. Randmlusk says:

    As a parent, I completely relate to all of this.  As a child raised in a home that neither of us would want our children to be in, I have a different perspective as well.

    I am extraordinarilly grateful that my friend’s parents were willing to overlook my parents and allow their children to have playdates, sleepovers and relationships with me.  I was extremely fortunate in this way, to have amazing peers, with good families and homes as a refuge, safe haven, and example to offset what I was getting, and not getting at home.

    So, although I conntinue to be careful with my children, I do view this issue through a slightly different lens.  My kids, who have been well taught and trained, are carefully allowed to befriend children who are not (and who’s parents are not) because I shudder to think of where I would have ended up if it weren’t for my friends parents who were willing to look past mine, and were more concerned about the good influence that they could exhert upon me, than the chance of their children possibly being exposed to something they would prefer them not to.  My children, being well raised, knowing right from wrong and having boundaries, are able to navigate imperfect situations (as we should all learn to do) and the other kids benefit from their example, and the chance to take refuge from time to time, in a home that lifts them up and shows them how things ought to be.  You never know what a difference you might make in someone’s life.

    Of course, no one should ever knowingly put their child in harm’s way, but I try to be as generous as possible, remembering that I was the kid with the potty mouth, dirty clothes, who’s parents never read to or played with me, but instead, smoked and drank and lived in a trailer (among many other things I won’t go into here), and that I am so grateful that I had adults willing to see past that and lift me up, despite how they may have felt about my parents.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       I really appreciate this perspective- and I admire you for your courage when it comes to your kids. I’m sure you’ll know when your child’s presence is helpful and when you need to draw the line. I think the key is probably being as involved in your child’s life as possible so that you have a good sense of what’s going on, even when you’re not around.

      • Randmlusk says:

        I am extremely involved in their lives, and very in touch with what is going on, and there have been times where I have had to help the kids gradually pull back from friend relationships that I felt were close to crossing a line. It has always had to do with that child’s behavior though.   In your case, chances are, in all reality, those people were not going to have political conversations with your 5 year old, and turn him against Israel.  In fact, their son may have turned out to be a great friend to yours.  I would tend to agree with Sally (remark below) on the overthinking on this one. 

        • suburbanturmoil says:

          I don’t think they would have had conversations WITH my son about those things, but I didn’t want them to have conversations with each other or other adults or people on the phone about those things while he was around. It was literally all they were interested in talking about, and it was disturbing to me and I didn’t want my then four-year-old to even know that that kind of talk existed at that point in his life. His son would have been welcome to play at our home, but there was no easy way to explain this to his parents. So I didn’t. 

          And it wasn’t a pro or anti-Israel thing… It was the fact that they literally seemed to HATE all Israelis. All of them. It was that hatred that led to my decision. My 4-year-old did not need to be around that.

    • Kim says:

      I never thought about it from that point of view.  Thank you for sharing!

  5. Anna says:

    My six year old is adopted and attends a school for emotionally disabled children. He is on the better end of behavior issues and asks frequently about playing with some of the other students there. Here’s the thing – most of the other kids at his school are there because they’ve been kicked out of a public school. The school is wonderful and so helpful, but a majority of these kids have a terrible home life. I’m not passing judgement, it’s just the truth. I would never let him go to their house to play. However, we have said so many times that these children are welcome to come to our house! If you aren’t comfortable sending your child for a playdate, offer to host one! I want my kids to have a good worldview, being exposed to and taught how to love imperfect people. I can’t teach them this if I close them off from people who aren’t living up to our standard. Granted, I’m sure we’ll run across a kid who is very difficult to even host at our home, but I’m willing to try.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       I’ve definitely done the hosting thing- I think you learn a lot about a family by getting to know the kid, anyway, and often I’ve felt more comfortable about letting my child go to the house after getting to know the child that lives there.

    • Daniela says:

      Just curious why it is important for you to mention that your six year old is adopted? One tip that might help -I am adopted my parents NEVER mentioned it. Period. I was theirs.

  6. We only have family playdates…where the kids and parents are there together. Usually at the playground or the indoor bounce house place. My son is 4 1/2, so I am sure this is going to be an issue in my very near future. I am a helicopter mom to some extent and I am pround of that. Protecting my kid is my number one job and I do the best I can. I went through a few bad experiences as a kid and I don’t want my son to have baggage from anything similar so I keep him close. I have a few friends with boys close in age to mine, so the family playdate is great for all involved. He gets to have fun and I get some mommy time with a friend. Is it too much to hope for that our house will be so much fun that he will never want to go to a friend’s house and they will all just come over instead??? lol

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       Ha ha! It’s only going to get harder as they get older. By the time they’re in school, family playdates become less realistic. When my older girls were growing up, I remember a mom called me once and asked me about 50 questions before allowing her daughter to come over. At the time, I thought she was nuts, but now I’m thinking she was doing a great job being a mom, because I’m sure those conversations were uncomfortable for her as well…

  7. NancyB says:

    Oh I was so blessed (and knew it!!) while my son was growing up!  He spent after school, school holidays, vacations AND summer down the street at a friend’s house when I worked fulltime.  Even after I was home (4th grade on) he still spent all his time “in the neighborhood”.  She had 3 girls and next door and around the corner were his best friends. 

    But that doesn’t mean there weren’t birthday parties and the occasional playdate elsewhere.  He spent time with one friend and his grandparents at their pool but 99% of the time it was in the ‘hood.

    Then middle school rolled around! High school! I discovered (through MySpace snooping) that he and 2 friends snuck out of one friend’s house in the middle of the night and were hanging out at a (girl) friend’s house – walking down the main street of town at 3 in the morning!!  The grandmother questioned why the shoes were in disarray and they blamed it on the CAT!

    I let her know what I found out and needless to say – those sleep overs ended!

    I slept like a champ after he left for college…..

  8. S. says:

    In the town where I live, first of all, usually you can get to know the other parents when your child starts going to birthday parties at around age 3. At that age, parents are expected to attend the birthday parties because they’re watching over their own kid’s safety, presumably. So when the chitchat takes place among parents, one birthday party at a time, you start to know who you feel comfortable with and who sets off weird unexplainable alarm bells. You tend to see the same set of parents year after year starting from nursery school, I guess because our town is not that big, so that’s how we gauge other people around here.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      We do the same and it works for me– UNTIL I start thinking of all the things that happened at friends’ houses when I was a kid– friends with “fine, upstanding parents.” That’s why I’m trying to cover my tracks by specifically telling my kids what they can and can’t do when they’re at someone else’s house- and what to do if the other child starts doing something they shouldn’t.

  9. I know I tell you this all the time, but I feel like you are always a few steps ahead of where we are, and this is such good stuff to think about for the future. Thanks for going through it for me 🙂

  10. LAR Family says:

    I was always careful to get to know the parents before I’d allow my children to spend time in their friends’ homes, but I found out the hard way that doesn’t always matter. When my daughter was nine she was invited to spend the night with her best friend; she’d been over there many times before and the friend’s mother was a good friend of mine. I found out after she came home that the mother DROPPED THEM OFF AT A PUBLIC POOL and was gone for about two hours. This wasn’t a neighborhood pool, this was a large waterpark/pool that anyone could access for a fee. Did I mention they were nine years old?

    I was LIVID. Now we have my daughter’s friends come to our house, or we meet somewhere fun like the roller rink. It’ll be a long time before I’m comfortable letting my girls spend time elsewhere without grilling the parents first–whether they’re my friends or not.

    • Randmlusk says:

      Did you ever consider having a conversation with the mother?  Tell her that you are not comfortable with them being unsupervised in public etc.  Different parents have different boundaries, and sometimes, just don’t know better (sad but true) and if you don’t make your preference known (as obvious as it would seem to not leave 9yo at a water park), how will they know?  In fact, if you feel it unsafe for your daughter, maybe a conversation with them would make them more aware and they might reconsider their own policies, which would, in tuen, keep their child safer.  Yes, people are that clueless and sometimes need to benefit from your parenting expertise.  Their kids benefit as well.

      • LAR Family says:

        I never did talk to her about it–I didn’t address it immediately because I needed time to cool off, and I let our friendship cool off as well. It was a while before they invited my daughter over again, and by then I felt like too much time had passed to mention it and I just suggested we all get together elsewhere instead.

        My worry is that if she felt comfortable doing that, what will she feel okay with when the girls are teenagers? Will she be the parent who lets them drink as long as they’re in her house? Will she be the one that lets boys come to a sleepover? I just don’t feel like one conversation about the pool incident–which would most likely just make her defensive–would cover all the potential incidents. I’d rather just host playdates & sleepovers at my house or meet for fun outings instead; I know I can NEVER mitigate every single risk to my kids, but I can at least avoid some of them!

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       This is another HUGE problem when it comes to playdates and sleepovers. Often, you don’t know what to tell the parents you’re comfortable/not comfortable with, because you can’t guess ahead of time that they’re going to do something like take your nine-year-old to a public pool and drop her off. We had the same experience when my oldest stepdaughter was 14- The parents took her and their daughter to visit relatives in the country the next day, without telling us where they were going and when they’d return. My daughter had no cell phone service out there. We had no contact with her until 4:30pm. We were LIVID- but who would have thought these parents would have taken those girls out there without telling us in the first place?

      This is a great reminder, though, to make sure when dropping your child off that they won’t be going anywhere else during the playdate/sleepover without a phone call from the parent.

  11. Sally says:

    This seems like over-thinking and overkill to me.  I have always told my kids that “different mommies have different rules” and they know that some children are allowed more tv (for example) than they are.  I don’t insist that when my children are at others’ homes that they follow MY rules.    And I also don’t watch over my children and their friends “at all times”.  In fact, playdates for me are a time when the kids play with each other. I try to stay out of their way and let them work out squabbles etc on their own.  I am often paying bills or making dinner, doing laundry etc in another room during a playdate.  I don’t mind if my kids play at homes that are different from my own–in terms of style, parenting philosophies etc–I think it’s good for them, actually.  Now guns in the home, there I draw the line.  If I ever had a gut feeling about that, I would put the kibosh on a playdate. We live in a very liberal spot, though, with gun control signs every where so it’s not something I have to worry about too much. AND, my kids know about guns and not to touch them or play with them etc.  But I know I am more “free-range” than most.

    • Randmlusk says:

      I agree.  I do not think it hurts our kids to be exposed to different parenting styles (obviously, within reason, and if they are kept safe).  Playdates are a perfect way to introduce them to the reality that we are all different, and have different ways of going about things, and just because we may disagree with someone (again, as long as safety is not an issue or extreme inappropriateness), does not mean you can’t be friends with someone.  Important life lessons that many adults still need to learn.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

      I think all this totally depends on the ages of the children. I absolutely would have wanted someone supervising my kids pretty closely when they were in preschool. Now that my son is 5, I let him and a friend play in the house and the backyard without me watching them the whole time, but I check in on them quite a bit.

      And while I understand “different house, different rules,” the sad fact is that in some houses (more than you’d think), there are little to no rules.  I know in part because I LOVED going to those houses when I was a tween and teen, and I did things while at at those houses that my parents definitely would not have been okay with.

  12. HersHisandOurs says:

    I only have one kid left at home, but she is 15 so even more concern when you really think about them spending time at a friends house.  Also, our kids went to school 30 minutes away from our home which meant to have a play date meant spending time either in our home or the friends home. A big one for me at 5 and 15 is older siblings/siblings friends. My friends daughter was molested by the friend of an older brother and that always has really stayed with me.  Asking a few questions about the older siblings and how involved they will be in the play date especially a sleep over! And siblings friends having a play date at the same time – sleep overs included.  One of my 15 year old daughter’s friend has a twin brother.  Both kids liked to have friends sleepover on the same night and wanted to all sleep all in the basement.  A big NO with us.  We told our daughter and the Mom that they needed to sleep on different floors – Girls on the floor where the parents slept and be checked on during the night. No exceptions. Our daughter thought we were completely crazy – 13 year olds don’t have sex.  We said um – yes they do!

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       YES. Something else to think of is older siblings- and I say that not because I’m an “overprotective” parent, but because I remember all kinds of shenanigans involving older siblings and their friends when I was growing up. That’s a great thing to find out about before allowing older kids to to go on sleepovers.

      My kids have just begun having sleepovers and I’ve already established the “No sleepovers on the same night” rule- not because I can’t handle it now, but because I don’t want this to be an issue down the road. I figure if the rule has always been in place, it will be a given when they’re tweens/teens that they can’t have friends over on the same night. Not. Going. There.


  13. mary says:

    I hear what you are saying about ugly comments. But I don’t know if not returning phone calls is the healthiest way to handle it. 

    I say this because we were on the reverse end of a family not letting their child play with ours. The two kids were best friends, and since my child is an only, the relationship meant a lot to him. 

    For some unknown reason we can’t figure out, the mom stopped returning playdate invites – she would say, ‘oh I’ll call you for a playdate’, and then never did. It took me from April to August of this past year to realize it was NEVER going to happen. Luckily, my son can play with this boy at school, but that’s as far as it goes. 

    My son recently had a homework assignment about who your hero is. He wrote that this particular boy is, ‘because you play with me, and I appreciate it’. 

    The only reason I can think of, is this family is eastern european, very well-traveled, and we are not. Could it be a cultural, ‘we don’t do playdates’ thing? No idea. But like your husband, and you, we get looked thru, past, and treated as if we’d never met, even though we’ve talked, been to each others homes, etc. I am over it now, but boy it hurt to see my son so lonely.

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       I know, Mary. I didn’t handle it well, and I’ve been on the other end before, too. I just didn’t want to come up with a big lie about it and didn’t want to tell her the truth and I was busy and I didn’t know them that well anyway and I did…. nothing.

  14. Melissa says:

    Ron Luce, from Teen Mania, spoke at our church a few years ago and one piece of advice he gave was to have “covenant friends”, friends with kids in the same age group who you know share the same values and same kind of house rules, friends who you without a doubt feel comfortable sending your kids to their house. I was pregnant with our first child and it really made us think about the subject for the first time. Since then we’ve been very intentional in our friendships, seeking community among other families in our church. We have people we can call on who we trust with our children in their homes. 

    That’s not to say our kids won’t meet friends from outside that community as they get older. And we’ll have to deal with those situations as they arise. I’ll definitely seek my mom’s advice on it. She walked through it with all four of us kids and handled it in a very direct manner. 

    • suburbanturmoil says:

       That’s a great idea. We’ve definitely cultivated relationships with families like these, but now that both kids are in school, it’s out of our hands to some extent. I think I might at least make this easier on my end in the future, and ask first-time parents if they have any questions they’d like to ask me before their kid comes over. Then maybe they’ll ask the same thing when it comes time for the reciprocal playdate. Then I can give them a background check. 😉

  15. […] The Playdate Minefield {link} […]

  16. Plain Simple says:

    Don’t ever try to ever convice yourself that you, nor your husband, could ever possibly be articulate enough to ever work in a major American media market…’re both bred to be a “soccer mom” and a “Burb Dad”, plain and simple.

    The Atlanta market, as a career advancement of some sort, would have been a gargantuan culture shock for you and a grand pipe-dream.

    It’s all diapers and baby vomit and never ever an absorption and articulation of modern or world politics for you and your ilk missy!


    • suburbanturmoil says:

      This is seriously one of the best comments I’ve ever gotten. I’m not really sure what you were trying to do here, but… I love it!!

  17. […] post regarding the playgroup issue has generated lots of discussion– as I knew it would– and you all had a wide range of […]

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