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.
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?”
“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.