How well do you know your kids’ friends and their parents? How well should you? My youngest daughter (3) was recently invited to a classmate’s house for a playdate. The child’s mother put a cute note in her mailbox. “______ would like to invite Julia over to her house for a play date. Her mom’s name is _______ and her phone number is _______.” My daughter was so excited. She usually ends up tagging along with her older sister at playdates, a step behind the 5 year olds. Or when little playmates come to our house, I spend the whole visit reminding the older girls to include her. So she was thrilled at the idea of a friend (and a playdate) just her size, and I for her.
I texted the mom and set something up for the upcoming weekend. I’d never met her, nor did I even know their last name. But I assumed they were a “normal” family, because they were in the same class, and my daughter had mentioned the little girl’s name on a regular basis.
The day before the anticipated playdate I again texted the mom, asking if I could send my daughter over with anything, snacks, toys, etc. “No need,” she replied. Then she thoughtfully asked if my daughter had any allergies, informed me that there were dogs in the house, but no guns, and a fenced-in backyard, free of pools and ponds. Insert that shocked face emoji here. Not from her, from me.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a relief to read about all of these details. But it had never even occurred to me to ask about those things. Should I have? I just assumed that because this family goes to the same school that they share some of the same values as us, and do the same things to keep their children (and visitors) safe. Was that naïve of me? Likely.
I dropped her off because she said she’d be fine without me there, and the mother seemed to have all kinds of fun, safe things out for them to play with. I left, nervous, but secretly excited to have 90 minutes to run errands kid-free. In the end, there was no need to fear or second guess myself. The family was lovely and my daughter had a great time. And I offered to host the next one some time at our house. But that text exchange got me thinking.
Another time I recall inviting a friend of my oldest daughter over for a playdate, figuring she’d keep her busy and I could get some much-needed things done around the house. But her mom didn’t drop her off, she stayed for the duration of the playdate, leaving me to entertain the her unexpectedly for two hours. Not that I didn’t enjoy her company, I just wasn’t ready for it, and didn’t think it necessary. Was I on a playdate too? Maybe she was vetting me. I must have passed, the girls (and the mom and I) are still friends. Insert that winking emoji here.
In this world of helicopter moms, nanny-cams, prevalent food allergies, and dangerous predators, I struggle to settle on the appropriate level of “research” one should have to do as a parent when it comes to the people my kids spend time with. Help me out here, ladies. Where is the sweet, and safe, spot?