How we handle playdates with families we don’t know

February 25, 2013 in friendships

My Bird had a new friend and the idea of a new friend made her ooze joy and silliness. After all the friend drama of the last few months we both hoped this little girl would be a gem. She had invited Bird over for a play date. Yes! Play dates with just two girls are an awesome way to bond and bolster true friendship since there is no one else to get in the way.

Bird and I did a happy dance until  I realized, mid-spin that I couldn’t let my girl go. I didn’t know this family. I could pick the mom out in a crowd and I knew her first name. But I didn’t know anything else about her. Long ago my husband and I realized that other parents didn’t share our values. Their kids could watch things on TV that we don’t allow, eat more junk than we allow, and no one, even moms you know well, will admit that a dad or an older son has a porn issue. Bird was in third grade. She still needed protection.

Playdates when you don't know the other family well

Bird started to cry when I revealed my hesitation. She loved invitations but hated them too. She understood why her dad and I carefully protected her, but she wanted this play date more than a double scoop ice cream cone. I racked my brain. I had an idea but it was really awkward. I knew no one who did such things but I was not a mom who just dropped a kid off at a play date and zoomed away. Bird approved the plan and my husband promised to hang out with my youngest.

“Hello. Is this Natalie’s mom?”

“Yes.”

“This is Bird’s mom. It was so nice of your daughter to invite Bird over Saturday. She is super excited. But her father and I, we don’t allow play dates with families we don’t know well. If you don’t mind, I will be staying with Bird for the whole play date and we can chat and get to know each other.”

Gulp. I said it. How would she respond?

” Of course you are free to stay. I will have egg rolls and tea.”

That mom was gracious. And the one after that and the one after that. And then there was the mom who was clearly uncomfortable. Our whole conversation was awkward and in the end I did not feel comfortable letting my daughter play there alone. When we started this get-to-know the family play date system, I wondered what would happen if I hit this bump in the road. Turns out, that little girl, the one whose family I wasn’t comfortable with, she prefers to play at our house anyway.

Our strategy could get us into really uncomfortable positions. But it hasn’t yet. Most people admire our diligence. And really, taking the risk so that play dates are possible, is preferable to “no.” Once I am comfortable with a family, I have also made specific requests that my kids not watch TV while on the play date. I just say that there is plenty of non-friend time for TV and that we are quite strict on what we allow our kids to watch.  Mothers are always receptive. As for the junk food, I just let it go. If there isn’t a medical issue, I can feed them well at home.

When our kids are young, we have to advocate for them, protect them, and guide them. In teaching my kids what to look for in finding “safe” places to play, I am teaching them strength and value for their future. I hope.

How about you? How do you decide where and when your child can play?

Dear moms, I adore Monday mentor moms posts. While I have a few posts that need editing before getting posted I am running out of mentors I know personally to ask. Do you know someone who would make a great mentor mom? Mentor Moms don’t need to be grandmas, it could you. As long as you have learned some great tricks  or heart lessons on this journey of mothering.  Let me know.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

April February 25, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Laura – I admire how you handle these situations. My husband and I are the same way. Since we moved, we know no one and we’ve encountered the same situation. Mackenzie was invited to a birthday party at the beginning of the year and I called to RSVP a “yes” as long as I could stay as well. There may be akward moments, or times when other moms wonder why their kids friends mom is so “over protective”. There may also be times when our kids get angry at us because they feel they don’t need mom being there to watch over them, but that’s fine, our kids come first (and as parents, I think we all realize that our kids won’t always like our decisions.) And who knows, it may open a door to a conversation about Christ?!

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pruningprincesses February 27, 2013 at 12:07 am

Great viewpoint, April. I am always so encouraged by your comments. I think the awkward moments are fewer than gawking moments when my jaw drops as a parent I don’t know drops their kids off for a playdate without even coming in. And really, the hard moments come in the later tween (and probably teen) years when it isn’t really an option to tag along so the only option sometimes is no. That’s tough. Great job with the birthday party. I was thinking maybe we should set up a phone date?

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April February 27, 2013 at 1:10 am

Yes, as our kids age, it probably will be more difficult to “tag along”. It’s funny, just yesterday, Mackenzie was telling me that one of her friend’s mother was going to write something to me so they could have a play date at her house. She asked me right away “do you know her mom?” I told her no and she said that I could come too. I think maybe even in a few years that won’t be her immidiate response, but I’m glad it is right now. It helps me realize that there are some things that I have done correctly 🙂
I would absolutely love to set up a phone date 🙂 although, I’ll probably have loud boys in the background. I’ll FB you my phone number.

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Dana February 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Laura,
Thank-you for posting. We have the same policy, many thanks to you for some of your earlier posts along the same lines. The parents we have encountered have been receptive and more importantly our children have stayed safe. Unfortunately we live in a world where we have to take extra precautions but at the end of the day our children are way more important than whether or not someone likes us or approves of our decisions.

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pruningprincesses February 27, 2013 at 12:09 am

How sweet of you, Dana, to tell me that earlier posts influenced you. Sometimes I think I should stop blogging because there are other, bigger blogs writing about the same sort of thing, but I love this so I keep going. Thanks for the encouragement.

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Tragic Sandwich February 25, 2013 at 4:02 pm

I think this is a great approach. Baguette is not yet three, so one of us really has to stay with her. She would get upset if we left, and asking someone else to watch an extra small child is too much, IMO. Plus I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the other parents we’ve met this way.

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pruningprincesses February 27, 2013 at 12:11 am

I’ve had many great discussions with parents, found friends, etc. with this approach. I find the whole thing getting more awkward as my girls get older and they are mortified that I might stay. Sometimes the only answer is then no. Glad you have neighborhood friends you trust. And thanks for taking the time to comment, it warms my heart.

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michelle @ this little light February 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

I love this approach. I haven’t personally run into this problem with The Boy, because most of his buds are right here in our own neighborhood, and I know the families well, but I’d certainly do the same if I didn’t.

It’s worth it to be overprotective … our children are precious.

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Pam March 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I think your system is great. Parents who share your values will almost always be ok with it. There were a few times I wish I had been more careful when my son was in the early grades. As time went on, my plan was similar to yours, and it worked well. Tne mom of one of my daughter’s best friends only let her go to a couple of homes to play, and simply said no to the others. It protected her daughter, but limited her friendships as well. I like your system better.

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pruningprincesses March 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Oh Pam! I must have put your other mentor mom post in the wrong folder. I had forgotten about it. So glad to see your encouraging words here to jog my memory and to assure me some of what I am doing is right. I’ll shoot you an email when I am about to put up your second post. Should be in a week or two!

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Tracie March 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I love the way you handled this. It is so much better than automatically saying no when an invitation comes.

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Nicole Robinson @TheBookWormMama March 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Right on! My daughter is still kind of young for play dates. I hope it’s not taboo for me to tagalong, because that’s exactly what I plan to do when the time comes. There are just too many ways to exploit children these days. Parents have to be vigilant.

Happy Saturday Sharefest!

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Kristia March 2, 2013 at 12:18 pm

We haven’t dealt with this yet, but I’m sure it’s coming as my oldest is in 1st grade.

Stopping by from ShareFest!

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Bonnie Andrews March 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I love this post! We have been struggling with this and I feel the same way about protecting them – not forever, but definitely while they are vulnerable. I love your approach. Thank you for sharing! (p.s. just stopping by from SITSGirls 🙂

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amber whitehead March 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I love the way you handled this situation.

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KG March 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Happy Sharefest.
I pretty much do some of the same things. I allow one visit a month but my daughter is 13 and when she was that little, I would only let her go to neighbors in the same building back in NY because everyone that lived there had been living there since I was a child – so I knew their tendencies and they knew ours.

I don’t allow sleepovers, in my house or theirs, I just don’t condone those. Not even at 13. My mom always taught me to no matter how much fun you have, you always go back to your bed at night.

xoxo,
Khloe
http://www.kgstyleblogs.com

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Erin @ The Grass Skirt March 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm

You handled the situation wonderfully. You have such a beautiful blog. Thanks for stopping by to visit mine earlier today. 🙂

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Jennice March 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hi, this is Jennice from SITS and my mother NEVER let my brother or me gi on playdates.,She was overly cautious with us and I vowed not to do,that with my kids. When iy’s time for my daughter to do,play dates, I will definitely be screening the family and I would hope the family would do,the same with my family should,theor child want to,play date at my house. I think u handled the situation well. Come visit me sometime @ mommyincolor.com. I look,forward to,hearing from u!

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pruningprincesses March 3, 2013 at 3:52 am

Jennice, you will be shocked at how many parents do little to no screening! Thanks for the encouragement that I handled the situation well. Heading over to check out your blog!

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Tamara March 3, 2013 at 2:21 am

My daughter is only three, so I still accompany her on all of her play dates, but I like that you still do it when it’s someone new. I’m curious to how it will evolve as my daughter grows. Right now things still seem somewhat safe and protected with school and friends. Oh how I know that will change.

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pruningprincesses March 3, 2013 at 3:50 am

Every stage is so different, Tamara and each step it seems we have to let go a bit more. I hope I can handle this next stage where she starts forging her own identity! You too will have changes as she meets people in school that you don’t know, but motherhood is an adventure and there is so much to treasure. Thank you for stopping by and taking time to comment.

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Amanda Powers March 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm

New follow from the SITS girls, Saturday Share Fest.

Amanda from @3lilapples

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Jen April 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm

I fully agree…especially in the world we live in today. It is WAY too loose! Parents in my 4th grade daughters class call me a prude and I receive it as a compliment. Our family has established a no spending the night rule at others’ houses unless it is family. Friends are welcome here for sleepovers but I figure if we dont ever entertain the idea it will be a rule that is already established for the challenging teen years when we really dont want them away at night!

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pruningprincesses April 26, 2013 at 2:24 am

Jen, stick to your rules. I think they will serve you well. My oldest really, really wanted to sleep at someone’s house, and we don’t have any family around. So, one time, when I knew the mom well and the dad was out of town, we let her sleep over. I wish I could make a blanket rule but for us, it’s been a case by case basis. I remember being encouraged when I read somewhere that Dr. Dobson doesn’t endorse the practice of sleepovers either! Thanks for stopping by.

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