Okay, I've had it with the loosey-goosey playdates.
Dr. Wendy Walsh: It's bad enough that we moms have to chauffeur our little troops to their social engagements when our own mothers simply opened the back door and yelled, "Come home when the street lights come on!" Today the entire modern moms union has been assigned the task of stimulating their charges with peer-to-peer social lessons complete with driving. So, can at least have some rules here??
I, for one, would like to see some unified structure to the whole business. And since no one has done this yet, I will now take it upon myself to become the Emily Post of playdates and establish an early set of ground rules. Feel free to add your own rules in the comment section below:
1. Playdates should be neither too long nor too short. As much as I shudder at the mom who uses my house for long-term childcare, equally frustrating to me is the mom who shows up before her expected pick up time and tears an angry five-year-old out of a rousing tea party. Stay consistent with the plan, ladies, whatever that is.
2. Unsafe features of the home should be disclosed by hosting moms before the first playdate. I know. This sounds crazy. Why have an unsafe feature in any home with a kid? But, sigh, it happens -- and it is polite even if you have no unsafe amenities, to reassure any new mom that her kid will be safe. My speech goes like this, "I know these things are uncomfortable to talk about, so I'll just get it out of the way. We live on the third floor and no child is allowed on the balcony without an adult present. We have no guns in the house, nor access to a swimming pool. There will be no male teens or adults present. We do, however, eat fattening foods and animals. Would you like me to observe any special diet for your child?" Then I usually exhale and wait for a grateful response.
3. Go easy on the media. Playdates are for playing -- as in, interacting and learning how to deal with peers. I only resort to television when my conflict negotiation skills have been completely exhausted and the kids need some redirection to keep them from killing each other. Otherwise, lay out some toys and let them have at it.
4. Get permission before you put someone else's kid in your car. It's amazing how many moms charge around town running errands with extra kids in tow. Since I live in earthquake vulnerable Los Angeles, I need to know which direction to run to if my world gets rocked. So, if you move my child to any new location, you must call or text me first, please.
5. Never spank anyone else's kid. Did I need to say that?
6. Make yourself scarce. If your child is over the age of five and has separated successfully at my home before, please don't ask me to entertain you too. I can't have a coffee-clutch out of every playdate or I'd get no work done. Now if I invite you in, that's another matter. It means I need some adult company and a glass of wine is in order.
7. Exception to rule number 6: If your child is a girl and there is to be only a dad at home watching them, it is perfectly acceptable to ask to stay. Besides protecting your daughter from the potential for sexual abuse, this also protects good dads from any misunderstandings! Bring a book or your laptop and sit in the other room.
8. If the playdate will involve money spent by the host parent, always send a little contribution along with your child. We are in a recession, after all. A couple weeks back, I took five middle-schoolers to see Avatar. I am humbly surprised to report that every mother sent ten bucks with their kid. I only wish I was not in a position to have to accept it.
9. Be prepared to feed every playdate who enters your home. It's what moms do best -- feed kids. It is perfectly safe to assume that snacks and meals will be "comped" by the host family.
10. Reciprocate. While it is impossible, impractical and rude to count the number of playdates and the minutes of childcare that you have extended or received, it is important for your child's social growth to be part of a reciprocal friendship. Try to offer your home sometimes, even if the kids prefer the house with the Wii, or suggest a park playdate for one whose home isn't set up for playdates. Friendships need a change of venue so the balance of power stays fluid.
|Dr. Wendy Walsh holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and her area of interest is Attachment Theory, a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory that provides a descriptive and explanatory framework for understanding interpersonal relationships between human beings. As a psychological assistant registered with the California Board of Psychology, Dr. Walsh has treated individuals, couples and families for a variety of mental health concerns including personality disorders, anger management, eating and substance disorders, and depression. Connect with Dr. Walsh on Facebook.|