I have entered the stage in my life where the term “date” means something else entirely. I am beginning to do playdates. Not the kind where you take your kid to someone’s house and stay there the entire time, but actually the more productive kind where you can drop them off and run a few errands. In theory this sounds amazing. Drop my kid off (for free), run some errands, pick them up later, etc. That was until I had my first one. A child in my son’s class invited him over. I had seen his mom a couple times, chatted cordially about what the kids were doing in class, general polite conversation, but in actuality I knew nothing about them. The day comes for the playdate and without thinking twice about it I drove up, walked him inside, said y’all have fun, and left.
While running my “errands” I started having the worst images in my head. I thought about my sweet boy playing with a Pitbull while holding his friend’s gun and playing games with the strange uncle who happens to live there while on parole. Based on my experiences with the family, in no way was this thinking rational or justified. They lived in a nice home around the corner from us, seemed pleasant, and I probably had zero reason to be having these absurd thoughts.
I picked my son up 2 hours later, as planned, and he had a great time and all was well. However, I couldn’t help but come home and ponder over the fact that I left my precious boy at a practical stranger’s house without asking one question regarding things that could impact his safety. Now, I am not a “helicopter parent,” but I do think that parents need to take the time to find out certain facts before dropping their kids off at someone’s house, and it might be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t matter.
Five questions we should all be asking before leaving our children on a playdate:
- Who lives here? Who will be at the home while my child is here? Is the parent leaving and a sitter will be there? Is there an extra family member staying here temporarily (or not so temporarily)? Siblings that may be older and can ruin things like Santa Clause (I dare them). All things I want to know.
- Pets. What kind of dogs to do you have? Do you maybe live in a nice home and raise a bunch of Pits in the backyard? We have all heard these stories…
- Guns. Do you own a gun and if so where is it? Is it locked up? We have all heard these stories as well.
- Food. What kind of snacks will you be serving? I am a choking freak, so I want to know do you cut grapes in half or serve hot dogs for lunch? (I swear I am not a helicopter parent, but I am a RN which may be worse actually.)
- Pools. Do you have a pool and if so is there a gate? Does the gate have a working door and latch? Will they be outside alone? If there is not a gate, there is a very high chance I will be sitting by butt here during the playdate or we will be “rescheduling”. It’s just too risky.
Playdates are great for the kids and for moms. Kids need time to interact with other children without us hovering, and we need time to interact with other adults without them hovering! It would be irresponsible for us to not know this information when dropping off our kids at someone’s house whether it be a neighbor, friend or grandparent. I vow to all of my children’s friend’s parents not to judge or criticize if you ask me these things while dropping off your kid. I will just give you a high five and ask you to grab me a gallon of milk while you’re at the store.