One of my favorite bloggers recently asked a question on her Facebook page that was too hot for the blog. And I don’t mean Fifty Shades of Gray-hot. She’d “been made,” as she put it, by the other mothers at school, who– wonder of wonders– had discovered her blog and were actually reading it. And here was her too-hot-to-blog question:
I am struggling with how to respond to the increasing requests for our kids to go over to another child’s house after school. I don’t really feel like touring someone’s house or having a few conversations gives me the info I need to feel confident – if anything my job has taught me that there is no “profile” or outward marker for trustworthiness. But then I feel like a jerk when I keep saying no, and also feel bad because my kids feel left out. (But not bad enough to change my convictions). How do I say no gracefully?
Honestly, this about blew my mind. Wait: you say NO to play dates? You say no to free babysitting, a kid or two less until dinner time? Assuming they’re not convicted serial killers, why not go for it?
I mean, I wish play dates didn’t have to exist at all; I wish my kids could walk home from school, have a snack, cut across a few yards to Susie Krupski’s house, and then play Barbies until the church bells ring at 6:15 which means it’s time to get home for dinner. That’s how I did it, unless Susie had to go tot the dentist or something. Plan B: Megan Scanlon’s house.
And so I do think my ten-year-old should have more control over his own social calendar than he does. But that’s not life in New York City- or from what my friends tell me, many other places- these days. If my kids don’t have pre-scheduled plans after school, the chances of them happening upon a friend to play with is close to nil. If my kids didn’t go on play dates (or host them) they wouldn’t have developed the relationships with their friends that they have.
But this blogger had 107 responses to her question, most saying I know, me too, it’s so hard. And once I stopped and thought about it? Some great points being made. To wit:
It’s hard to casually interview a classmate’s parents on the things that matter to me: 1) Do you keep porn in the home and are you 100% sure your kids don’t have access to the stash. 2) Do you have guns and are they locked away. 3) Will my kids actually be playing or just watching tv at your house. 4) Will they be playing in the main area of your home or in a room behind a closed door. 5) Are their older brothers at home. 6) What internet filtering software do you use on your computers. 7) Does your child have an unsecured ipad or iphone. . Are there other adults living in your home. 9) Do you let the kids roam the neighborhood. 10) Does your child play violent video games. Etc etc etc. Not exactly the questions you get answered in a drop-off situation.
If this mom asked me those questions? No porn, no guns, no violent video games. That’s easy. But:
3) Will your children actually be playing or just watching TV? I would have absolutely told you “no TV during play dates at our house,” but that would be a lie, since Maggie told me just last week she and her friend “mostly just watched TV” during their play date at our house. (Note to self: have even those conversations with the babysitter that seem completely obvious.)
4) Will they be playing behind a closed door? Maggie and her friend usually put out the “Do Not Disturb” sign as soon as they get home, so they can get all American Girl without interruption from
5) the two older brothers who are at home. 8 and 10. Utterly innocent. But yes, there.
6) Our internet filtering software? “Ask Mom before using the computer.”
7) access to an unsecured iPhone? Well, mine, if it’s not in my pocket. I don’t let them use it during play dates but I don’t “secure” it.
In other words, although I think myself an attentive and upstanding parent, I would fail this person’s Play Date Pre-Screening. And even though I can swear her children would be safe in my home, I can’t say she doesn’t have a right to disagree.
I trust my kids’ school, I trust the parent body, I like their friends and feel comfortable with them having play dates with families we’re acquainted with, even if I haven’t visited the home. If I ever worried about anything, it would be that they were playing video games or watching TV the whole time. Or at least, that’s all I worried about until today.
How about you? Do you forbid play dates, pre-screen where they occur? Do you have rules for play dates in your own home? Would your home pass the Play Date Test?