Play Dates

Parent Q&A

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  • I have a friend who has a son close in age to my boy though they attend different elementary schools.  I like chatting with my friend (we are not super close, but friendly since we met in a mother's group) while the boys play and have been trying to do those playdates once a week.  This worked great in early preschool, but now that the boys are in elementary school my son no longer wants to do those playdates.  He does not like playing with this boy and says it is boring and is like playing with a younger sibling (which he has one as well) since he always has to play what the other boy wants otherwise the other boy has a meltdown and nobody has fun.  My son says it feels like work and is not fun and he would rather do playdates with another friend or just play with his younger sibling (my kids are very close and play together a lot) or by himself.  I know those playdates are getting less and less fun for him and normally I would never force him to have a playdate with someone he does not want to play with just so I can chat with my friend, but she is asking for more playdates since her son considers my son "his best friend" and loves those playdates.  Normally it would not matter, but her boy is on the spectrum (not sure of the exact diagnosis, but I know he has difficult time socially) and has a hard time making friends.  She tried playdates with other kids and they all ended in disaster and she says that the playdates with my son are the only ones that consistently go well (or relatively well) ... the problem is that they go well cause my son "puts on his big brother hat" (like he practiced doing with his younger sibling) and lets the other boy has his way and slows down his game so the other boy can keep up.  This was not as a much of an issue when the boys were 3, but at 6 the boys are in different places developmentally and play differently and I get more and more push back from my son to stop doing the playdates.  For now I started doing them less frequently, more like once every 2-3 weeks instead of weekly, which worked well with school starting again and us getting busier but my friend says her son misses my and what can she do to have more playdates (she offered to pick up my son from school after care earlier and watch them at her place while they play until I get back from work since she is a SAHM but my son said no).  I did not tell her that my son does not enjoy those playdates and that I have been forcing him to do them for a while now, and I don't know if I should tell her that or just keep making excuses to keep the playdates less frequent.  And the bigger question is should I even continue forcing my son to have those playdates for the benefit of my friend's kid or just be honest with her and let my son choose his own playdate friends now that he is getting older?  I feel really bad for her and was trying to help but now I'm feeling guilty sacrificing my son's happiness and time (as between school and activities he does not have a lot of free time now).  Anyone been in this or similar situation and what did you do?

    Very tough spot. I would say be honest but VERY GENTLE with your friend. Something along the lines of, "the boys seem to be growing apart... and we're so busy that it works well for us to have you over at our house once in a while. I will let you know the next good time." And shoot for once a month. Maybe it is in fact good for your son to interact with kids who are in different developmental places - he can work on his empathy and polish those big brother skills. And maybe the three kids (including the younger sibling) can all play a bit - perhaps centered on a game like one of the Peaceable Kingdom cooperative games which don't pit the players against each other, or some lowkey screen time (like PBS Kids games, or learn-to-code). If you value your friendship with the mom at all, you should not cut them off. She needs your help too. I would not worry that a 2 hour playdate once a month is "sacrificing your son's happiness"!

    Wow.  This is a tough one.  When I was growing up my mom was always a champion of the underdog.  I admired it then and still do now, but sometimes it put me in a very awkward position.  She would plan play dates for me to help out lonely kids.  I think the scenario in her mind was that these were just shy kids who needed a little boost.  In reality, some of the kids were struggling with some pretty big issues.  I didn't have much experience (being just a kid), but suddenly I'd have this new "best friend" stuck to me like glue and sometimes their behavior was baffling.  I'd feel proud for helping and being kind yet I didn't have anything in common with the other kid.  Sometimes it just made things worse for the other kid because I wouldn't magically change anything and they, too, could tell that the friendship had not truly "clicked," so they ended up just feeling more rejected.  Now that I have a son, I demand that he be kind.  In a group setting (school, sports, church, etc.), he has to include everyone.  I try to keep my eye on what is happening in groups and will suggest that he give a shy or new kid a real chance.  But I don't force it.  I would see if you son would be willing to go on a play date once every month or two.  If he says no, I think you may have to tell your friend that you're trying to honor your child's choice in friends and that because life is busy he already has trouble seeing buddies he has a lot in common with.  If you frame it as a matter of common interests and limited time, hopefully she will take it in that light.  If she wants to have a heart to heart talk with you about the situation, then by all means be kind and honest.  Maybe she needs to come to the reality that her kid needs more help than he is getting.

    It sounds like both you and your son are very kind compassionate people. Congrats on having raised him to be so thoughtful. It's equally important though, I think, to raise children to understand that they do not need to allow themselves to be used by others in order to be a good person. And that does seem to be what's happening at this point. I don't mean the other mom is necessarily conscious of this, but whether she is or not the result is the same for your son—he is having to sacrifice himself for someone who he really doesn't want in his life. I suggest you tell the mom the truth: that you want your son to be able to choose his own playdates now that he is older and he has told you he wants to spend his time with other kids. I can't imagine she would not understand what you mean since she has already had so many playdate disasters with others. Yes, this is sad for the mom who is just trying to help her child and if you want to stay friendly I would offer lots of empathy and patient listening. But I don't think it's your son's job to help her with this.

    That kind of happened to us. It was hard but I told the mom I was very sorry but my son wasn't getting along with her son. We had a really good talk, I told her I enjoyed her company. She understood. Perhaps you can find a time when just the 2 moms can go out for a nice coffee and talk as friends without kids. Would your son be willing to invite the boy to his birthday parties, when the dynamic is different with other kids around? That is a nice jesture to invite to a party as a show of good faith but accept that they aren't best buddies...take care!

    This one makes me want to cry.  My son is a friendless special needs kid.  He once had a friend like your son, but the other child outgrew the friendship.  It was very painful, and my son has never had another successful friendship.  

    That said, your son is a child too, and his feelings matter.  Every child needs to believe that his parents listen and care about what he thinks.  So I think it's reasonable to ask your son to play with a special needs kid occasionally, but not all the time.  

    How about agreeing with your son that you will limit playdates to, say, once every 2 months (or whatever you agree on)?   That way your son gets the message that sometimes we all do things we don't want to do, because it's the right and compassionate thing to do, but he doesn't get burned out.  

    Your son sounds like a wonderful, caring, aware child, and it's impressive that he is able to "put on his big brother hat" and set aside his own preferences for this other child.  

    I would say don't force the playdates. You can let the other mom know diplomatically with: "My kid is at an age where he really wants to pick his own friends, instead of friends that I suggest for him. Hopefully your kid can get into an activity that he likes, and connect with people there."

    A compassionate boundary is often the solution. Best of luck.

    I think now that your son is 6, you can start to turn it over to him whether he wants to accept invitations or not.  I do believe that family obligations should trump this at times, which might mean that your son sometimes has a playdate with a kid because you want to hang out with the mom, or because you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But usually your son can decide who he socializes with. The way this plays out is that when another parent calls you about arranging a playdate, you say "Let me ask Billy - can I call you back?"  Then you do ask Billy, and if he says no, you call the other parent and make a polite excuse.  This happened to me when my oldest was around that age - I was on the other end. It really surprised me that the other mom was leaving it up to her kid whether there would be a playdate. But now, many years later, I can see that this is the logical progression in helping our kids learn how to socialize, be diplomatic, be independent. I will say, though, that we do still set up get-togethers sometimes that our kid doesn't really want.  If it doesn't work after a few attempts, then we don't insist unless it's a very close friend where it is more like a family obligation - like getting together with cousins you don't especially like but they are your cousins!

  • And They Canceled AGAIN

    (6 replies)

    We are lucky to have quite a few lovely sets of mama/kid friends.  Since I have a flexible work schedule and tend to keep a somewhat neat-ish house, the play dates usually happen at our place.  I'm most often the one to reach out with ideas and invitations plus I'm often the one prep-cleaning and setting up as well as cleaning up after.  This set-up isn't balanced and I was frustrated by this at first as a new mom, but I think it is just reality in today's busy world.  I have an only child (second grader) and the world isn't such that kids can wander their neighborhoods anymore, so this is the new reality.  What IS frustrating, though, is that it seems like we get many enthusiastic yes-reponses and then people often cancel last minute or fail to show.  More than once this summer we'd have ten or so yes RSVPs that then dwindled to none actually attending in mere hours.  If we had known earlier, we could have made other plans.  Depending on the activity, my kid is bummed or crushed by all the no-shows.  I am okay with my kid being disappointed sometimes.  That's life.  But I don't think my mama friends who are joiners rather than instigators understand how it feels and I'm tired of how often it happens.  When we get an invite, I check our calendar to make sure we aren't overextended and to try to anticipate if my child will be too tired from a previous activity.  If I think it will work fine, I then give my kid a choice about participating and RSVP accordingly.  When the time comes, we only cancel if there's illness or something important/unforseen.  If my kid is tired or not-so-interested when the time comes, we honor our commitment but simply don't stay as long.  I think this is simply polite, but am I just old fashioned?  And am I not considering how other cultures function?  I'd like to speak up and let them know we'd appreciate if they would RSVP more thoughtfully, but am not sure how to do that without sounding preachy.  Thanks for any insights and advice!

    Maybe put less work into the playdates? By second grade, I think the parental role can dwindle to providing snacks and supervision, and there shouldn't be a lot of prep or cleanup.  I do think it is really difficult when you plan on someone coming over (and maybe even turn down other invitations that you get later) and then they cancel at the last minute.  If someone is a repeat offender in this area, they aren't likely to change. They just don't think about this from the point of view of the host. They just think what they want to do and what works for them.  For those people, I'd suggest meeting at the park, or going to the movies, or doing something where you can still have fun with your kid even if they don't show up.  And I also think it's OK to say "Oh, I'm so disappointed you can't make it. I've been looking forward to it." But, honestly, I'd see less of people who treated me like this. If you aren't close enough to say "I hate it when you cancel at the last minute - please don't say 'yes' unless you really mean it" - how close are you? 

    I only give flakes two chances and then they stop getting invited. We do have one family who cancels a lot but we really like them so we keep giving them more chances. But I always tell my son that we might do something with them but not to get too excited until it's actually happening. He understands. If I was hosting parties at my house (a playdate for 10 is a party in my mind) and no one came, I'd stop planning them. People here suck about these kinds of things. Kids do get sick, have meltdowns, etc. and everyone does cancel sometimes. But that's different than making a commitment and then bailing for a better offer. People who do that are not my kind of people and I stop spending time with them. It's not behavior that I want modelled for my son and I really don't want him to think that it's okay to do that. I would not waste your breath on giving feedback to them. That will just create an awkward situation and they won't change. I'd just stop inviting them. If they were to ask why they weren't invited, I'd just say that I got the impression that they weren't interested in coming but that I'd be happy to put them back on the list for future events.

    You are not old fashioned, you're awesome! We would show up for sure (or give you plenty of notice if we couldn't).


    I like hosting play dates too & the cancellations you're talking about are really a bummer. I think it's reasonable to say to your friend, "My daughter was really disappointed when you had to cancel. She cried & I didn't know how to explain it to her." Parents can forget that kids get hurt this way. 

    By now I know which parents are flaky, and my kids know which play dates are iffy & they don't feel as bad.

    Another thought, if I read your post correctly, you had invited 10+ kids to a playdate? That sounds really hectic -- maybe some kids don't do well in such a big group, or parents think their child's absence won't be a big deal in such a crowd.

    For second graders, 1:1 was better for my girl. I didn't plan anything, except to have snacks around & intervene if someone was mean. And the kids clean up together at the end of the play date (otherwise my daughter has to clean up by herself). 

    *Sigh*.  You're one of the good ones.  Not a lot of us out there.  Commend yourself for keeping up your end of the bargain.  As a single, working mother of one child, I discovered early on that I was going to be the one to make (a herculean) effort to keep the social fires burning. I came up with a group jaunt or play date activity, and devised countless play dates whereby I hosted the other family's child(ren).  After doing this regularly for 8 years, by second grade I got kind of tired and backed off some.  You know what happened?  Parents started asking me what I had planned, then they started stepping up to the plate. Here's what worked for me: (1) I never held the group play dates at my home, because I couldn't afford the prep and clean up time; I just chose a park or interesting location, where everyone brought their own food or we could purchase something.  So much easier just to jump in the car and go. (2) I invited individual children on play dates (those I could have at my home or elsewhere), and eventually parents started reciprocating.  As for the no-shows, the more they read things like this in BPN, the more they will get the message that it is discourteous to not RSVP, and unforgivable to not show up (without good reason) after you have RSVP'd 'yes'.   And a special note to dual parent families: your single parent friends are lonely, tired, and feel dejected.  Please remember to include us and occasionally be the one to come up with a plan.  We will thank you heartily!

    It sounds like what you have is more of a social group than a playdate.  It's harder to coordinate with a bigger group of people as opposed to a play date with only one other kid. But it's not impossible, and there are a lot of benefits to having regular social get-togethers. I have been hosting weekly get-togethers at my house for years (my kids are older so now it's more about parents socializing while the big kids amuse themselves).  I've also organized a bunch of ongoing playdates, multi-family travel and camping, and a long-term babysitting co-op. Here is what I have learned: 

    1. Most people are not as organized as I am. They are happy to participate but they don't want to run the show.  So I do it and I don't mind doing it.  I don't mind hosting either - we have the biggest space.  Everyone brings food and everyone helps with the clean-up afterwards so it's not a huge chore for me.
    2. You need to have at least a couple of dependable regulars for your group to work.  If you don't, re-think your group. Is the time commitment too much or the frequency too often? Do you need to change the activities? Are people just not that in to it?
    3. Have a regular meeting time. Could be once a month or once a week. Get a consensus about the best time, especially from the dependable regulars. We have a google calendar because over the summer people are gone and we meet less often, so in theory everyone knows ahead of time when we are getting together.  Also you can keep track of who is away so you can skip dates where you don't have a quorum.
    4. Always send an email reminder a few days before the event.  This is important. Individually follow up with people who don't respond within a day.
    5. RSVP's: In our group of 5 families there are 2 families who always RSVP immediately and can be relied on to come if they say they will.  The 3 other families typically wait until the last minute to respond. Sometimes they show up without having responded.  However, this improves over time - see #7.
    6.  A day or two before the event, I follow up with individual people who have not RSVP'd yet.  After you do this a few times they either start RSVP'ing sooner or they give you a clear signal that they can't make the commitment and you can stop inviting them.
    7. This social group is so important to me and my husband that we just accept the fact that some people that we love can be flakey. On the upside, I have found that as time goes by, the group becomes more important for everybody, and they are more motivated to participate and RSVP more quickly. When new families have joined the group, there is always an adjustment period where they are deciding if they want to make a regular commitment. It can take a year or two for this to happen, so don't give up, it's worth it!

    I think you're right about manners and about not commiting to attend things that won't work in practice. I'm the same-I never bail at the last minute if I said I was going and I don't allow my children to either. I am careful about what I say yes to though as honestly, life is too short to commit to things that are more effort than they are worth! 

    It sounds to me like maybe you are trying too hard and making too much effort where it is clearly not valued or maybe not even wanted/needed. Maybe pinning people down to activities and invitations makes them feel pressured? If people aren't showing up, your energy could be better spent elsewhere.

    I would try putting less effort in. Be more laid back and spontaneous and maybe do more 'we are going to x place at x time if anyone wants to join us.' That way, you are keeping it easy for everyone and not setting high expectations for yourself and your child. If people come it's a bonus, but if not, you two can still have fun together. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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Invitation for a playdate is always rebuffed

May 2008

Hello -- I'd appreciate some advice on how to talk to your daughter about a popular girl in her class not really being interested in play dates with her. She gets bummed out because she has asked this girl over a few times, and there's always some excuse and no follow-up. Nothing like ''maybe not today but let's plan another day.'' Yet, this girl is very popular and has regular play dates with a few of the other girls in the school.

So there's obviously a lack of interest on her part, even though they play together in the same general group at school. Of course it breaks my heart to see my daughter feel rejected, but I realize there may just be more of this coming in middle school. And, the other girl's mother hasn't done anything to be responsive to the play date idea either. Any ideas on how to make it seem 'not so important' if this girl doesn't want to come over? How to move beyond it? Thanks, anonymous

It's very easy to live vicariously through our kids-to think back to when WE were excluded. But resist. Popularity is not the end-all, be-all, in fact, I can recall that the so- called ''popular'' kids were often not the nicest kids-in fact, they were usually ones who excluded some others in order to build themselves up. It's pretty clear that the girl does not want to be your daughter's pal (at least not at the moment- friendships change on a dime in grade school), so just let it drop, and explain to your daughter, if necessary, that so-and-so just doesn't seem to be interested in being friends right now, ''but that's would you like to have X over?'' It will not break your daughter's heart forever. As long as she has a couple of kids who she likes who like her, and can generally get along ok with other kids and is kind and considerate, great. That's all she needs-she will meet kids along the way to be friends with, whether or not they are the ''popular'' kids. It sounds like you're making a bigger deal about this than she is, and kids don't need to pick up on those messages. Tough being a girl...

This is a tough one. It has happened to my daughter before. I asked her why it was so important to have a playdate with a particular child. Usually it boils down to the fact that lots of other kids do, which I then point out is a terrible reason to want to hang around with someone. I have also told her that it sometimes happens that you feel a connection with someone who doesn't feel it as strongly as you do. It doesn't mean they don't like you or are trying to hurt you, it is just a ''vibe'' thing. Lastly, I tell her it is a dangerous pattern to always be pursuing people who don't share your feelings. Then, I hook her up with kids I know she likes and who like her in return. I try to keep her busy with fun things at home, other playdates, and her activities (piano, soccer, etc.) so she eventually forgets about the other girl. Maybe in the future they'll click, but maybe not. The most important thing is that she not feel like a victim. It is just one of those things she'll have to deal with from time to time: sometimes we like people more than they us. Don't paint it with the popular vs. unpopular girl thing. I think that is dangerous.

You didn't say how old your daughter is, but when you say this other little girl is popular, could that be your adult perception? Wouldn't your daughter be just as happy to have some other child over to play? Is there some reason why this particular girl needs to come over? You should arrange to invite other kids over instead, and downplay the girl who doesn't want to come. I think it is a good idea to allow even young children to have a say about whether they want to go over to someone else's house. If the other little girl doesn't want to come over for a playdate, I think that should be OK. (Imagine if somebody made you go to someone else's house to socialize and you didn't want to!)

Kindergarten playdate - I don't know the parents

Feb 2008

A mother of a my Kindergartener's classmate has suggested a playdate over at their home. Is it unreasonable/unusual for me, who have met the mother and her daughter for only one afternoon at a public place, to not be comfortable leaving my child at their home? Any suggestions for going around this without compromising my child's need to build friendships or offending the other parent? Conservative/Cautious Mom

Hi - it is not overprotective/overcautious to think carefully about where your child is spending a playdate - it's normal. Suggest to the mother that you all spend a little more time doing park playdates, or suggest that you hang out together at their house or yours for the first ''at home'' playdates. Take your time with playdates - it is ok to say 'no' until you are 100% comfortable with the situation. anon

My daughter is in 1st grade and I don't allow un-chaperoned play dates when I don't know the parents very well and have never been to their home. She has had invites to go on a play date with new friends and if the parent doesn't invite me along, I suggest that the friend comes to our home and I invite the parent along. I suggest that we get to know each other better and that way we can do these things more often. They are way too young to be left in a situation where they couldn't defend themselves.

Come to think of it; my cousin's 14 yr old daughter can't go to someone's home either when her mom doesn't know anything about the family. My cousin finds out if there are older brothers who live in the household and has called the parents on occasion to get more information. Never be too cautious about this! JOJ

Are you talking about me? :-) Yes, I am that Mom who suggests playdates assuming that other Moms, who I have met briefly, would be perfectly fine sending their child to my home to play with my child who has requested their presence. I am CPR and first aid certified. I have gone through a background check for work, but my suitability to work with children is considered when the check is performed. The snacks that I offer are usually healthy (fruit or carrots, though Pirates booty rears its ugly head when it is found in the cupboard). The kids will usually play, but if the playdate lasts more than four hours and it covers the time frame from 1 to 5, I do require a half hour of ''Mr. Rogers'' just so that the kids can have some complete mind wasting down time (and quite frankly I like Mr. Rogers and will watch the DVD with them).

But, do I need to tell you all of that? I am another Mom doing her best to raise good kids. My house is safe. BUT, if you don't get good vibes off of the kid-kid relationship, then it is perfectly okay to say, um no...if you don't like the Mom, then ditto. But, if both seem okay, then arrange for a date where you can drop off your child and sit for a bit to chat. If you aren't comfortable, then stay the entire time. If things seem comfortable them go on your merry... jan

We invite kids over, but they never accept

Nov 2007

During the past few months, my 5 year old son has asked to have playdates with a few friends from school/soccer etc. When I have spoken to these Moms to invite these children to come over to play, they either a) do not call me back or b) give me a noncommital response and then never get back to me. My child has other friends so I'm trying not to take this personally, but it's starting to make me feel bad when he keeps asking why so and so isn't coming over and I really can't give him an answer. I don't want this to effect his self-esteem. Has anyone else experienced this? Or is it just my child? I keep wondering if he's doing something to turn these kids off or if he has the impression that he's friends with these kids, but they're really just not that into him? He can be quite active and is somewhat impulsive, but overall he's a sweet kid. His teacher says that he's friends with everyone in the class and is well-liked so I'm just trying to figure out what's going on. At what age do kids stop having playdates? Anything else I can do for him on the social front? - a concerned mom

How well do you know the moms of these kids-at all? Could it be that since they don't know you/your family, they feel uncomfortable sending their kid to your house? My daughter is 5 and we've recently moved to the area; we've met some families at the bus stop and in other ways...and arranged playdates from there. My daughter wanted to invite one girl over, however, and the mom kept brushing us off until we'd been chatting at the bus for a month. She's quiet and I think she just had to feel comfortable with me before it was ok for her daughter to come to our house. If your son is well-liked and sociable, the brush- offs don't really make sense otherwise. Do you live in a neighborhood where kids can just casually play at each other's houses? I hate this ''playdate'' stuff... -don't wanna be my daughter's social secretary

i have a 5 year old boy also. We haven't done many playdates at all since kindergarten started this year-- partly because he gets pretty tired between school, the afterschool program, soccer, etc. And we like to reserve weekends for family outings and the occasional birthday party (and also to see old preschool friends-- whom we both miss)

Also, i get the feeling my son at least is still kind of getting to know all the new kids around him, so he hasn't specifically asked me to arrange any playdates. however i know he does really like most of the kids he plays with, and would readily go for a playdate if suggested. in fact, there is one kid in his class who enthusiastically asked me if my son could come over, but since i've yet to meet his mom, i didn't follow up. (my son would have been happy to go, but didn't press me-- i think bcs his plate is already full).

Also, I think i just don't feel as motivated to arrange playdates at this age as i did earlier, as my son gets a lot of social time already, and i am both busy and lazy... On the other hand, if another mom called me specifically to propose a playdate with a specific date and time, I would probably be happy to agree. in any case, I think your son's teacher is in a good position to know what's going on, and i would find her view reassuring. unmotivated mom

I've been there too. I've got an 8 yr old and a 6 yr old, and have realized that there are lots of different styles of playdates and it's really the parent that dictates, not the child. Personally, I have a hard time scheduling them too far in advance, don't like them on weekdays, and don't like them for too long (2 hours max, and have been shocked when some parents go up to 4 hours with my kids). And, since we have a small house and some kids energy levels are just too high, I don't always like them in my house. Consequently, we don't have them very often. Ideally, I will call up one of three families we've become close with and arrange to meet that day at the park or school playground, with a clear understanding that I will leave at a certain time - but if the other parent is happy to ''take a second shift'', then we'll do that.

Keep trying. Be very specific about a day and time. An offer of ''Later today, from 2 to 4, at the park - I'll bring snacks'' or ''On Saturday, right after the game, how bout if Johnny comes over to our house? Junior has been dying to show him his action figures. You can pick him up later'' is more concrete than ''Hey, how bout a playdate soon?''. Hopefully people will be more responsive to that. If they keep blowing you off, then they're simply rude parents and may not necessarily be the type of people you want looking after your kid if a reciprocal playdate is offered. Mom of Two

Gulp--I'm one of those parents who has sometimes avoided invitations for playdates. But here's why: My husband and I both work, and our child is usually in an after care program or at various lessons and classes outside of school. These activities fulfill most of my daughter's social needs. When I get to her in the late afternoon I've been missing her horribly, and we all just really want some time together and at home. Same goes often for weekends. It's not at all that we don't like the other children and parents who approach us; we often just don't have a schedule that matches theirs. If this is the case with families you are asking, you might offer to pick up their child with yours after school and have the play date at your house. We've done this a couple of times, although then there's a perceived obligation to reciprocate. Maybe you could offer that you don't expect this. At any rate, I think you're safe explaining to your child that this all has probably nothing to do with him but with other children's families and schedules. Busy working mom

I am curious to hear other's responses on this. I am sorry I don't have any advice except that from my experience you as the parent need to be embarassingly aggressive to make the playdates. At least for me, it is really uncomfortable how much I need to take the lead in planning playdates, or else they just won't happen! I have a 6 yr old that is amazingly social and he wishes to have company to play with, have meals with, hang out with all the time. He is a great kid, very happy, friendly, compassionate, and creative. It is really hard because the school he attends is full of commuters that don't live in the neighborhood. Everything has to be scheduled and planned. I feel like a pest because I'm always asking other parents for playdates on behalf of our child. The playdated always go well. My son actually cries with great sadness after playdates are over. There is nothing I can do but try to plan plan plan plan plan and plan. It is exhausting and feels so fake. I wish we lived in the neighborhood that someone recently wrote in about where the neighborhodd kids actually play together, mixed ages, unsupervised, and make their own fun wandering around the 'hood with each other, the way it really should be. I would really appreciate other's input on this too. anon

I am probably one of those parents who seem non-committal to you about a playdate. Here is why: 1) I need to check in with my daughter, before we arrange a playdate. I want to know if she wants the playdate, how the kids play together (because I feel I will be responsible for reciprocation).

2) Is my kid too busy? - as it is my daughter has something going on 4 days a week after school, language school on Saturday and Soccer on Sunday (for 10 weeks a year) - she loves these activities and depending on soccer season, time is at a premium.

3) Our daughter plays in the neighborhood, with neighborhood kids in free play and when this is mentioned to other parents, that the kids play outside in the front yard, without an adult outside with them, it makes A LOT of parents uncomfortable.

4) My daughter sometimes feels overwhelmed entertaining someone for 2 hours at a time.

5) My daughter wants to play with kids who play with her independently without adult intervention. My daughter expects that other kids can adapt to the rules at her house as she adapts at their house, if the kids have a great deal of trouble adapting to situations, she's less likely to want playdates.

6) My daughter will have kids over to play or go to kids houses to play if the kid she is playing with has a ''clean up time'' at the end of the playdate that is kid initiated. She does not want to be left with a mess, nor does she leave a mess.

Needless to say, my daughter has a very limited number of playdates. She is invited to them all of the time - usually 3 - 4 per week, many more than she can handle. Parents love having her over as do children. I know that the 5 to 7 friends that she plays with regularly have the same philosophies about playdates as our family

Ask yourself and your son, if these are the types of playdates he wants to have, if not, your son should be able to understand that kids play differently and that expectations are different at different homes. If he is not having a playdate it could be because of time constraints or expectations rather than ''I don't want to spend time with you.''

By the way my daughter is 7 and has had these behaviors for at least 4 years. Daughter is responsible for Playdates

I don't really avoid playdates, but I don't seek them out either. Here is my situation:

I have 2 daughters -- almost 3 & almost 5. They play together well. The elder is great at involving the younger in the drama of her imagination. While they play, I cook, clean, and dispense BPN advice. Sometimes an entire morning will slip away with only minor intervention from me (popping open lids on the playdough, tending a scraped elbow from stair surfing, or breaking up an argument.)

Playdates are usually geared toward the older. 3 girls rarely works. There are some kids who blend well with my daughters' dynamic or are good at moving between the 2, but usually I find myself consoling the younger because the older and her friend are excluding her or being mean to her. I am good at carving out 'alone time' with each of my girls (not all of their preschool hours overlap...the older stays up later than the younger...the younger gets up much earlier than the older). I don't need playdates to ruin my nice dynamic.

Or, I am DONE trying to convince our guest that house rules are meant to be followed. I am appalled at the # of children who flat out ignore me when I say things like, ''can you please stay off my counters (as I found one trying to reach my crystal on the highest shelf), things meant for you are accessible to you standing on the floor. I found this child on my counters 3 times during the date, even though I heard my daughter explaining the house rules to her as well (My mom puts things for us in all of the lower cabinets. Nothing we need is in the upper cabinets.) Another child dumped out every toy bin and didn't help with the clean-up. My children aren't the neatest during the play time, but we always clean up together at the end of play. When it came time for clean-up, the guest told me it was my job. Huh? I would say that half of the kids that come over are, well, not going to come over again.

There is a pretty set group of kids with whom we play. I swap kids often with another stay-at-home-mom who has girls the same age. The four are wonderful (as wonderful as two 2 3/4-year-olds and two 4 3/4-year-olds can be) together. There are a couple of singles that also come over often that are enjoyed by both of my daughters and me.

That said...the best way to approach me is suggest neutral territory -- do you want to meet at the playground on Saturday? Go to the kids museum on Monday evening? Before your kid comes over, I want to see how our kids play together. If they don't get on in a neutral location, then chances are pretty good that they aren't going to get on at your house or mine. -not avoiding you, but happy with my life

Playdate at the park instead of at home?

March 2007

Hi everyone. I was wondering if anyone has some advice for me. My son is almost four and I would like to set up a playdate with another child from his school. However, I don't have enough room in my place to do that at home. I feel uncomfortable telling the other parent that I'm 'inviting' her son to play with my son at the park. How could I organize a first playdate outside my place? I never met the kid's parents so I don't know the proper etiquette in this case or if that would be weird. Please, help! My son would love to play with this child outside school. Playdate-worried

Asking another child for a playdate at a park is totally normal. In fact, I think most people opt for the park option. Its kind of hard for little ones to have other kids over to play with their toys, so its good to try it out at a park first. You could call the parents and say that your son would really love to have a playdate with their child. Ask if you could meet at the park sometime. Or if everyone feels comfortable, another option is to offer to pick up the other child and take him to the park with you and then drop him at home (most parents would want to meet you first obviously) but that becomes a really incentive to do playdates. Just go for it and don't worry. park playdater

How about, ''We're going to the park at 3:00 tomorrow. Billy would love it if you can join us''. anon

I think it's perfectly reasonable to arrange playdates at parks. We do it all the time. You don't have to apologize, or go into detail, but can just say: ''My son is dying to have a playdate with your child. Now, since our home is on the small side, I think the kids would have a lot more fun at a park, especially now that the weather is getting better! I'll bring drinks and snacks. This day and time works best for us - what about you?'' And since neither of you know each other, I'm sure they'll want to hang out and chat and get to know you rather than just dropping off their child with a ''stranger''. Another Mom

''hey, we're going to ____ park tomorrow afternoon, want to meet us there so the kids can play?'' it'll work

I think it's perfectly acceptable to ask the parents if their son and your son could play together at a local park. I did that with one parent at my daughter's daycare -- I just said, maybe we can go to the park sometime. And now our children are the best of friends and as a bonus, the parents really hit it off as well. Go for it. I think it's actually more acceptable to ask to play in the park until you really get to know the family. I personally wouldn't like my daughter to have a playdate at a house that I was unfamiliar with. Anon

Saying to the child's parents ''Hey, would you like to meet at the park sometime so our kids could have a playdate?'' or even, if you're really brave ''Would you like to drop your child off at the park with me and my child sometime?'' would not be at all weird. Several of the ''first playdates'' my child had were like this, and they often work out better than those at someone's home, because there's less fighting over ''special'' toys that way. I say, go ahead and offer. Karen

Yeah, just call 'em up & say just that! Some parents are reluctant to fill up their time off with obligations. Most are taking their kids to the park anyway and would love to meet you there or drop their kid with you at the park & do the shopping solo and return the favor with you next week. I know, it is hard to pick up the phone but just do it and it will be done. The other parent will be gratefull to you for making the effort. Richer for reaching out.

Dealing with friends who send nannies to playdates

May 2006

Is there any way to tell a friend that an invitation to the pool, playground, my home, etc is for her and her children rather than for her nanny and her children? For instance, this evening, I called a friend to invite her and her children to join me and a few other friends and children for lunch and a swim at my private club later this week. She told me that she was busy, but that she would go ahead and send her nanny with the children. I specifically called her and chose a day that I knew that she had off from work. I felt that as I extended the invitation to my friend, that she should have declined it rather than accepted it on behalf of the babysitter. This also happens frequently with another friend.

All of our children are under four. Basically, the children are friends because we are friends, not the other way around. Their nannies are nice, but I have nothing in common with them AND I see enough of them randomly at the playgrounds. Is their any polite way to tell these women that if I wanted to spend time with their nannies, I would just ring up the nannies and invite them out? -not having fun with the nanny

I would be annoyed too. You could handle it by being upfront, or you could establish ''nanny playdates'' - assuming several of you have nannies. You could mention on the invite that ''the moms are getting together on xx date'' oh, and by the way, since nannies like to get out too - let yours know that they can all meet up at the park with the kids on xxx'' Maybe they'll take the hint. good luck

I think it is rude of your friend to assume her nanny can take her place at your club per your invitation to her, not her nanny. That being said, some people just don't get it and maybe she needs a clue. If you are good friends, I would be open and honest. If you are friends by association or something like that, this might work: Are you in charge of the kids on X Day? Oh good, because, I'm inviting us moms (or friends) to come over and be together and to do X. Or oh, your nanny is? Too bad, because I'm inviting us friends to be together... maybe you can make a change of plans and come because we'd love to have you... etc. Good luck! anon

Seems like you believe there is something rude about the mom's who send their kids with nannies. I guess I don't see that. To me, it seems reasonable as a mom (who has been invited with my son for a play date with other kids) that if I have a conflict that I would choose to send my son with his nanny rather than deprive my son of the experience of the playdate with the other kids. And that I would probably assume that the invitation was open enough that this was OK. In a sense, it would be a sign that I value the relationship that my son has built with these other children a lot (which is a compliment).

So in my opinion mom sending nanny isn't rude. But it does appear that there is a miscommunication -- mom thinks that kids are welcome even if she is not there, you are extending an invitation in which kids are not welcome unless mom is there. You can surely communicate that in a positive way ''Hey, I really would love to see you, I always feel disappointed when you cannot come yourself.'' I know that if someone said that to me I would definitely take the cue. But that said, it is actually difficult for me to imagine saying directly to any of my friends ''do you want to come for a play date with Junior? Hey, but just so you know, if you cannot come in person he is not welcome with his nanny.'' You know it strikes me that ''play date'' signifies to me that the children are the center of attention/reason for getting together. Maybe you could not call the get together a ''play date'', but call it a ''mommy date''? ''We are having a mommy date, because I really want to reconnect with our mommy friends.'' Definitely sends the message that the primary invitee is the mom. If someone invited me on a mommy date, there is no way I would send my son with my nanny! Ask for what you want, and you will likely get it!

How about politely saying, ''I arrange playdates for our children so that I can hang out with you. If I wanted to spend time with your nanny, I would just ring her up and invite her out.'' anon

How about your be as honest with your friends as you are with us: Just tell them that you miss seeing them when they send their nannies in their place. You can say you really like seeing your kids develop a friendship, but that you want to keep your own friendships growing. I'd be so darn flattered if someone told me that! I bet your friends will be too. Carolyn

I think what you said in the advise wanted column is just fine to say to your friend. You could say it's great seeing the kids, but you miss her and was hoping she'd come. Just be honest. Do you feel uncomfortable having the nanny there? Tell her that, too. Maybe make it clear that it is an outing for friends, not just for the kids. It is always interesting when we are forced to speak our truth...go for it! jnana

I think you should be honest about your feelings. Honesty is usually the best and most clear way to get the message across, especially since these women are your personal friends! Something like ''I don't mean to be insensitive, but I'd really like your company at these playdates. You're my friend and I enjoy spending time with you and your kids!'' You should also explain that you chose the day specifically because you knew she wasn't working that day. She may not know that you really value her presence and that it's not just about the kids. This could be a good opportunity to bring you guys closer.

That said, as a FT working mom, I find it really hard to arrange weekday playdates for my 13-month-old because many moms in my area don't work. I would LOVE for my nanny to take my son to other moms' houses for playdates. So I don't think it's a bad thing at all to have someone's nanny attend instead of the mom -- the mom should just communicate that to you in advance and set your expectations. anon

As a nanny who has been sent to parties and gatherings with children not my own, I know that it is even more uncomfortable for the nanny than for you. Have you thought of enlisting her help in getting your message across to the mom? You may just have to include a brief message in your verbal or written invitation that states simply, ''we'd love to see you, but sitters and nannies will feel out of place at this particular event''. If the mom sends the nanny and children anyway (how dim or self-centered would she have to be do to that?) perhaps the next invitation to her will go ''missing'' in the delivery! Uncomfortable

Is it really too difficult to say ''oh, but I wanted to catch up with YOU'' in any tone you feel is appropriate? If it is, how bout starting by saying ''This is kind of awkward for me, but it's not that I don't like your nanny, but, well, YOU'RE who I really want to see'' Find out why she thinks it's okay for her to send her nanny; the nanny might feel just as awkward. I don't think you have to be mean, defensive, snide or rude. Just talk before resentment builds up, before you stop inviting her. Not Dear Abby

Perhaps you should only invite your friend over. That way, it is clear that the point of the visit is to see her. It would then be strange for her to invite her child and nanny over in her stead. Something along the lines of ''I'm having a brunch/get-together for us girlfriends and was wondering if you would like to come.'' Then, if she's available, you could let her know that her child is welcome as well. Anon

Well, that's easy. When your friend says she's busy send the nanny tell her ''Oh, no, that's OK, tell me when you are available and we'll reschedule. I was really looking forward to hanging out with you''. anon

Dads in charge of Playdates

April 2006

My son has been getting asked on many playdates in which the Dad is in charge, it seems to be a growing trend in our neighborhood and oddly, almost all of my kids' friends this year, have this situation. I've always been on the extra cautious side, I don't want to offend them, but frankly I don't leave my kids with even the men I know extremely well. So, I almost always end up hosting the playdates that their family suggests. Then, they want to reciprocate, and with many of them it's always with the man in charge because the mom is working. So my kid doesn't get to go to friends' houses nearly as often as they come here, so he longs to have playdates at friends' houses.

First Question: Any suggestions for insisting on the Mom being in charge without offending anyone?

Also-- to you Moms out there who put us other moms in this situation, why do you do this? Don't you read the same news that we do, although it's unlikely for either to be abusive, women are much less likely, so even if your man is probably good, why do you put us in such a position when we don't know him as well as you do? Can't you put us in a more comfortable position? How about on a day when you ARE home? I'd love to hear from you too-busy-to-have-a-playdate-moms too! - Cautious Mom

''First Question: Any suggestions for insisting on the Mom being in charge without offending anyone?''

No, I can think of no inoffensive way to say ''I believe that your husband may be a pedophile.''

''Also-- to you Moms out there who put us other moms in this situation, why do you do this?''

Well, first, it's not *me* who ''does this,'' it's my family. And we do it because we are both the parents. My husband enjoys spending time with his children, and doesn't do it only because I am ''too busy.'' How lucky your son's friends are to have dads who are involved in their lives.

Seriously, have you considered counseling for this issue? I wonder if there is something in your history that makes this such a hot button for you? Anne

This is an answer to your second question, about why moms let the dads of their kids organize playdates. In my case, because it simply has never occurred to me that anyone might worry that my husband would abuse their child, just as it has never occurred to me to worry that the father of a friend of my child's would abuse my own daughter. I suppose that when you let your child go to another child's house without your supervision you are always taking a risk that something bad might happen -- whoever's at home might let the kid play with matches, they might get bitten by the other family's dog, someone might break in and kidnap them -- anything's possible.

But playdates work on the assumption that you trust the other parents to be reasonably responsible, and that includes assuming that neither parent is going to abuse your child. I must say I was a bit dismayed by your post -- I think it's great to hear that dads are playing a more active role helping to organize their kids social lives, and it really undermines that if they are stigmatized as potential abusers. (BTW I do read the news, and I can't remember ever hearing of a dad abusing the friend of a child who came over on a playdate...) anon

I'm sure the many men who take care of children during the day will be offended by your implication that they can't be trusted. (And I'm sure the moms you blame for putting you in this position will be equally angry, since most of them are just trying to support their families by working.) I would suggest that you get to know these men whom you find so potentially dangerous, and use your own judgment as to whether they seem trustworthy. Chances are, they're completely decent and responsible people. I'm the mother of a toddler, and my husband cares for her while I'm at work. He routinely gets together with moms at the park and for playdates, and has developed nice friendships with them, as well as with some other dads. Ideally, you should consider these fathers to be potential friends rather than potential abusers. Trusts dads

I know MANY moms who work outside of the home all week because they have greater earning potential than their husbands. I also know that when you work all week, you are then forced to cram all of the necessary errands into the weekends - in my home at least, these are the errands which require both partners (those which can be done solo are done during the week or in the evenings). So, you're suggesting that these families leave their important things undone so that the mom can host the playdate? What about in those families where the father is by nature more of the nurturer, more patient, better able to interact with children? You would place your child in what could be more unpleasant situation with a less-well suited mom host just because she's ''the mom''? Let me tell you, far more often than you apparently want to believe, the dad is the better caregiver - statistics be damned - I'm talking about real people in real families. What about when your child goes to school - are you going to keep them out of classes with male teachers? I am always thrilled about playdates hosted by Dads - I want my child to grow up seeing that men (aside from his father) are nurturing and fun. And honestly - with dads, you see less baggage, more honesty and less passing judgment on other kids and other parents - all things that the world definitely needs more of. bewildered mom

I'm a huge fan of dad-supervised playdates. The dad across the street from me takes my son and his son on skateboard/bike playdates, and I think it is awesome. If the mom is then able to take a nap or get a pedicure, I'm thrilled - that's one for the sisterhood, in my book. More likely, she is, like me, doing laundry, making dinner, running errands, and paying bills.

Know this: when I (the mom) supervise a playdate, I try to get my own stuff done -- I do laundry, make dinner and pay bills. My husband, on the other hand, will take them them to the park to play basketball. I'm probably a little bit better at making snacks than he is, but otherwise, in our marriage, the dad is the superior playdate person.

One other thing to think about -- with any luck, your precious son will grow up to be a dad himself, and HE will be supervising some playdates (unless playdates have been entirely replaced by electronic devices at that point). I sure hope no one thinks about your son the way you think about his friends' fathers! Fran

-- Oh dear! This is, I am afraid, basically ''gender profiling,'' with all the same problems as ''racial profiling'' - it's morally suspect and usually ineffective at preventing whatever problem you are worried about. I'm not saying you are specifically intending this, but it is essentially what is happening.

Yes, statistically more abusers are men. And frequently they are family members. Would you refuse to leave your child with his or her own father or grandfather just on this principle, without any particular reason to be concerned? I would never leave my children with any adult, male or female, who I didn't already know and didn't believe I could trust. I vet each situation individually, without assuming that one half of the population can never be trusted and the other half can always be trusted. I can't imagine anyone who knows the research literature on abuse thinks that the implications are never leave your child alone with an adult male and I'm sorry that you are having such stress and anxiety about this.

I know it's hard for anyone, especially parents, to deal with a potential risk of something horrible happening to their child, you have to decide what's a reasonable way to take precautions against a very small risk of something very serious. One approach is to have your children wear a mask every time they leave the house, and avoid direct contact with any other human being, to make sure they don't catch the flu. Another is to vaccinate them, wash hands regularly and avoid the most risky situations, like visiting friends with sick kids. The former approach is perhaps ''safer'' in some sense, but not a way you can really live your life.

As for us Moms who you feel are putting you in this impossible situation, we're Moms just like you who love our kids and who are incredibly grateful to have male partners deeply involved in our childrens' lives. In my view, the more Dads host playdates, the closer we get to the kind of society where we have to worry less about gender-based violence and abuse. I worry you may be sending an implicit message to your children that all adult men can't be trusted.

If there's a personal reason you are so worried about this, either something that has already happened to you or your kids, I hope you know about resources to help. ( Mom or Dad equally good in my book

Perhaps dad playdates are a growing trend because dads are becoming more and more involved with their children, which is clearly only a good thing.

Of course we all read the news and know that a higher percentage of molestors/kiddie porn purveyors, etc. are men but it seems that the best way to protect your child against all sorts of bad conduct is to get to know people, men or women, before allowing your child to have a playdate without you or your husband being present. Personally, I wouldn't feel any more comfortable with having my 4-year old be in the care of a mom I don't know as a dad I don't know. As for why I'm not always involved when we have another child over or out for a playdate, that's because my husband is just as capable as I am of handling the kids and it's an opportunity for some solo time. Not to mention the fact that no one has ever even asked if it will be me or my husband watching the kids. Maybe that's because they know both of us well. If you simply can't leave your children with a man (your note says that you won't leave them with men you know extremely well), how about having your husband have some dual dad playdates with the kids while you do something else?

Finally, it seems like a good thing to let kids see that men can be the caretakers and that they can have fun and be safe and well taken care of without moms being around at all times. Ioana

Wow, how awful for those poor children that their fathers actually be involved! This is the kind of thinking that has my own wonderful, non-abusive husband dreading parent interaction next school year when he becomes a stay at home dad. I say, there is absolutely no way not to offend anyone by asking that the mothers be there.

Statistically, are more men child abusers? Maybe. But Statistically, more women go insane and drown their own children in the bathtub...

Yeah, I know it's pretty harsh, but your post deserves it. If you don't know the entire family, get to know them. Otherwise, if you won't make the effort, stay home with your kid and pout. Proud to love my SAHD

I'm sure you're going to hear this a lot, but the problem isn't the other kids' moms and dads. Your fears are simply not reasonable, unless you are associating with unusually violent families. I am a mom who husband often supervises playdates. Usually, this is because I'm doing something with the other kid (although there was the time when I was visiting my mother in the hospital. . .). Since my son adores his daddy, he's perfectly happy to have him be in charge and, as it happens, Daddy is as good at supervising playdates as I am. Lastly, I'm afraid that there is no way that you could tell me that you don't trust my husband with your child that wouldn't offend me.

I suspect that if your son's friends' parents get the idea that you don't trust the Dads, it will be the end of playdate invitations for your boy, which would be very sad. So relax and trust a little. Wife of a Good Dad (they mostly are)

1. I'm a SAHD with two girls. I am extremely sensitive to the concerns and fears other parents, moms and DADS, have about letting thier kids play at my house. I always discuss the fear and offer to have the playdate at a park or other public place, or I ask the other parent(s) to come to my house. You shouldn't leave the kids with men you don't know well, or those you do. If a mom said to me, ''I'm sorry, but I won't let my kids stay with a man alone,'' I would totally understand.

2. The spouses of SAHDs don't ''do this to you.'' If you're in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, you must take responsibility for it and fix it yourself. Don't blame the moms. And working moms may not have the time or inclination to host playdates during their limited time off. But surely we'll hear from some moms. Sad SAHD

Oh my. I'm sure you'll get lots of responses to this one, including from some justifiably hurt dads. Sure, there are some men out there who could do your child harm, but the great majority of men care deeply about the safety of children. My suggestion to you: get to know those dads so that you can feel more comfortable about leaving your child with them. Suggest some playdates that involve both you and a dad or two. My guess is that once you get to know them you'll feel more comfortable with them. If you don't, at that point you are justified in your worry, but it's unfair to reject all men for the faults of a few. After all, we can't ask men to share the childrearing responsibilities and then not trust them to do it. anon

OMG, as they say. Am I to understand that a child should not have a friend over because his or her dad is watching him or her at the time? You must be setting up play dates with virtual strangers if you really are worried about the dad molesting your child, yet it seems you would have no problem leaving your kid with a strange mom. I'd say get to know your kid's parents, mothers and fathers. Cannot frigging believe this one.

I have to say that I think this is really sexist and unfair to fathers. No, I'm sorry, there is no way to insist that a mom run a playdate instead of a dad without being offensive. It's true that men overall are more likely to be sexually abusive than women overall, but this is not going to be true of the kind of involved father you are describing. We can't have it both ways - we want fathers to be equal co-parents and to be actively involved in our children's lives, yet we don't give them the kind of trust and respect we automatically give to mothers, just because they're women. My view is that the fathers you've been getting invitations from deserve nothing but kudos for taking this kind of initiative, and I only hope your post does not discourage them. Anon

Has it occurred to you that the Dads are in charge of the play dates because that is who is watching the kids at that time? Maybe some Dads have more tolerance for watching groups of kids than some moms. If you have such trust issues about men why don't you go along on the play date and help the Dad watch the kids. See for yourself if your suspicions warrant your prejudice. Maybe you will make a friend. A Dad

You're joking, right?

I have a full time job because I support my family. I'm lucky to have a stay at home dad taking care of my son. To think that there are sexist moms out there who think my husband is less qualified to take care of children than I am just strikes me as completely insane.

No, there is no way to bring this up without offending anybody. Believe it or not, some of us put you in your uncomfortable situation because it never occurred to us that somebody WOULD be uncomfortable with it. Now that I know, I really don't care. If you don't want my husband hosting a play date, host it yourself. working mom

Personally I think it is hard for me to be the mother who works while the father arranges the play-dates. There is a big burden to sole-wage earning, and it is compounded by all sorts of social and emotional pressures to do everything.

I have found that we have spent enough time with the parents of our child's friends that the mothers are comfortable with the situation. Sometimes a mother comes over to ''drop-off'' for the play-date and stays a long time and talks with my husband - perhaps for social reasons, perhaps to gain trust. I think that there are a couple mothers, who may have felt uneasy, and always had our child over to their house - I did try a few times to invite those children over on the weekends. Over time those friendships didn't last, and now we have regular routines with friends where all options work.

Of course, you need to do what you think is right for your family. If that means always hosting - do it. And take responsibility for that action, you can't change other people's families.

If your child really has a bond with a friend, and you don't feel comfortable - you could try arranging something on the weekend with both families, potentially you could get to know the father and determine if he is someone you can trust. If you will never be able to trust a man with your child, then I'd say you just have to schedule around that - and make sure that you, or another mother is there.

But, as a mother who works, I am certainly not trying to put other mothers in an uncomfortable position. I am doing as you are - what I think is best for my child, and that is to have some playdates with other kids. And for our friends - it works. anon

I truly don't mean to be harsh, but you are being paranoid and sexist. It is a common misconception that woman are extremely less likely to abuse children than men. has some very important information on the way we scapegoat men in our society as the ones who do everything wrong, when this is absolutely untruthful. It is highly prejudice of you to think that someone is going to abuse your son solely on the grounds that they are MALE, and just plain ignorant to think that someone WON'T because they're female. I understand that you are just scared that your child is going to get hurt, but god, what would you do if he had a male teacher? Ask to switch to a female teacher? I'm sure that the principal and teacher would be disturbed with your prejudice. Besides, many boys thirve with man teachers.

Is it possible that you had some trauma in your childhood that led you to feel this way? I would possibly reccomend therapy to see if you have any very deep issues that would cause to have this kind of distrust in men.

As for playdates, let your child go to them. If you do decide to turn a father down simply because he is a man it is inevitable that you will deeply hurt and offend him. I would be just as upset if someone was racially prejudiced about letting someone care for their children. You asked ''why do you do this?'' to mothers. Well, why do you expect other people to trust their children with YOU? Why are you so truthworthy of their child's own father? What do you do for a single father? Never let the your son go to their house? They would pick up on that, and be very hurt. Also, you posed the question only to mothers as though you didn't want to hear from men, like they weren't part of the issue. I find this quite disturbing. It is partially because some people react like this to fathers caring for their children that men aren't as involved in nurturing their kids.

I hope the the well-being of your son's manners, happiness, self-esteem about be a man, and social life you will realize that it is always somewhat of a risk to let go of your children to ANYONE, but it is something we do because we need to let them grow up and go on into the world. A Widowed Father and Proud Playdate-Hoster

I am not trying to be rude but are you serious? Your question at the end ''Also-- to you Moms out there who put us other moms in this situation, why do you do this?'' I am sorry but this and the questions that follow it are absolutely offensive to me. I work full time and we are very lucky that my husband has a flexible schedule and can care for our child during the day.

He is in charge of playdates. The alternative would playdates for my child. I am not trying to put anyone in an uncomfortable position. If you are that uncomfortable with it then the solution is to just continue to decline the invitations. Please don't judge me and my family just because I work full time and my husband cares for our child. Happy my kid spends time with Dad

I am really shocked and appalled by your attitude about this. And offended on behalf of my husband and other Dads. No one is putting you in ''a situation.'' You are imagining one. If you trust the home, then Dad should be as good as Mom. If you don't, then don't. Many of us are trying to raise our families without the sexism of the past. Dad's love playing with their kids and hosting playdates just as much as Moms. And your son will benefit from knowing, as he grows up, a range of men.

I can't imagine any way you could bring this up without offending people. Because it is offensive. I suggest you reexamine your attitude of fear towards men, so that you can be cautious is cases where it is justified, and your son can have a social life. anne

I'm sure you'll get a ton of responses to your post. Have you read the book Protecting The Gift by Gavin DeBecker? He assures the reader that trusting our instincts is the best protection against molestation. Get to know ANY parent before letting your kid hang out with them. I've gotten to know a lot of moms and dads since elementary school began and I am so impressed by ALL the dads I've met. We make an effort to have dinner with new folks and get a feel for them. Sometimes, the dads are more fun, attentive, and calm then the moms. In order for our kids to be good judges of character, they need to experience both genders and a variety of familial situations. ''Don't cut off your nose to spite your face.'' anon

I am a single mother of an almost 4 year old son, and I'd like you to know that I would be absolutely DELIGHTED for my son to go on a dad-hosted play date (or be watched by a male babysitter, for that matter). I believe it benefits my son to see men in a nurturing role, and even for kids who have a dad, I believe it benefits them to see other men in that role too.

Of course I don't ever leave my son with anyone I don't know to be 100% trustworthy, but I see no reason to assume that someone can't be trusted simply because they're male -- nor do I assume someone IS trustworthy simply because she's female (just look at what some nanny-cams have caught female nannies doing to their charges). Yes, statistically speaking a somewhat higher percentage of males in our population exhibit violent behavior, but you're not leaving your child with a population, you're leaving them with an individual, and it is up to you to decide if that INDIVIDUAL is trustworthy.

It is not the other kids' moms who are putting you in an awkward position by ''allowing'' their husbands to host play dates. It is you who are putting yourself into that position by your unreasonable attitude towards 50% of the human race. And what kind of a message does your distrust of men send to your son? I suggest that you work on your issues with men -- for your sake as well as that of your son. Diane

My son is 7 and has had lots of playdates and I've never even thought twice about having a playdate with a father in charge. Most of the playdates that he has is with families that we know quite well. You neglected to say how old your child is. When my son was younger (under 5) most time the playdates are with the parents present. We have explained to our son numerous times that under no circumstance can anyone touch him and if the do they should tell us immediately.

I think it would be terribly offensive if someone asked for my husband not to be present during a playdate. My daughter is now two and obviously isn't having playdates yet but when she is older I will have the same conversation with her that I continue to have with my son. Your son or daughter should be able to talk to you if they ever have a playdate that is uncomfortable in any way. Fathers and mothers have totally different spirits and your child shouldn't be refrained from experiencing both. Trusting in Berkeley

Could you stay at the house for the playdate? I feel uncomfortable leaving my kids with anyone, male or female, and usually stay for playdates to get to know the other parent better.

Maybe meeting at a park or other play area would help....neutral territory and public.

Wait till your child is will get sleep-over requests to the dad's house! EEEEKKKK! Annon

I had to read this post 3 times to make sure I got it right. I have to say- WOW- there is so much going on here. This is wrong on so many levels- sexist, blaming, etc. I think I could just go on and on and this would be too long- so I'll just address the question, not the problems.

How about getting to know the entire family so you feel comfortable (or not) with any member? Moms and Dads do things differently (and I mean in a good way)- it is fun for kids to hang out with Dads, too. stunned

Have you thought of having a whole family activity with the most frequent inviters and getting to know the dads, then making a decision? Inviting them for daddy/kid activities that require adults like the zoo? I have also done parent/child activities where sometimes it's a mom/kid pair and another family its a dad/kid pair. This way I get to know both parents over time. I don't have a blanket rule and I knew many dads I trust implicitly. anonymous

I have been leaving both my son (6) and daughter (4) for playdates with solo dads that I know well. If there is a dad I have reservations about, it's usually because of more ''general'' health and safety issues (dads who don't pay attention). It saddens and shocks me that you have a blatant suspicion that all men are likely to be pedophiles or physically abusive. To read that you ''don't leave my kids with even the men I know extremely well''??!! Is there a father around? Male relatives? Well, it really sounds like something horrible happened to you. If that is the case, you have my deepest sympathy and I hope you seek counseling.

But as for insisting that a mom be present... if your reasons are due to personal circumstances, a therapist should help you with your fears, and provide the words needed to comminicate with other families. If this fear is unfounded and based on prejudice and hysteria, then a request for ''mom only'' would indeed offend and perplex. We all know how complicated life is - mom might be working, traveling, doing errands, chauffering other child, with elderly parents, or having her ''own time'', so I don't expect mom to be present for a playdate at all. And what about all the complaints regarding men not doing their share? Not always true! Dads can and do do a wonderful job of looking after their own children, and others!

So why do moms ''do this''? Why not? They live with and trust and love their husband... If you know, like and trust the mom and the kids... why not the husband? It's all part of the same equation. Another Mom

If you're concerned about a Dad being in charge then perhaps you can invite yourself over when your child goes on the play date. If you have a cup of tea and a chat with this man, you might find you can trust him. If you're still not sure, then invite this child and his father over your house with another friend and get a second opinion. If you feel so uncomfortable and distrustful, then perhaps no play dates. And, you can also ask yourself the question of why you distrust men so much, has something happened to you in the past rather than just responding to what you're reading in the paper? I find some men to be wonderful, others who need watching, the only way I can decide is by trusting myself. concerned parent

I bet you'll get a lot of responses to this, but thought I'd toss in my 2 cents. I'd be offended if anyone suggested that my husband couldn't/ shouldn't be in charge of playdates (so, no, I don't have any suggestions as to how you can ask this without offending anyone). And as to why moms put you in this ''position,'' I honestly don't think most people see it as a problem. Maybe you could try to schedule outings with parents and kids so you could get to know your kids' friends' families and feel less nervous about the dads? Anon mom

As a mom who puts other moms in this situation, I do it because I work outside my home full time and my husband is a full time dad. Weekends are packed with family activities. He's simply the parent who's available to supervise play dates. He's as caring and compassionate as any mom I know. He has never abused any child, physically or emotionally. I trust him with my child's life and admire his parenting skills. I know lots of dads like him and leave my child with other dads because I have gotten to know them first, just like I have gotten to know other moms.

Until reading your post, it never occurred to me that someone would label him as a potential child abuser simply because he was born male. Yikes. You don't mention whether your son has a dad. If he does, doesn't his dad ever take care of him alone?

Wouldn't you trust your son's dad to care for other children? If the answer to either of those questions is no, it's no wonder you feel the way you do. Can't you get to know the dads as well as you know the moms? I think it's odd to assume another mom is going to treat your child better than a dad, simply based on their gender. Give dads a chance

A message of support to dads: I am grateful that you are in our childrens' lives, and hope that the bigotry and ignorance of a few will not keep your from the wonderful job you do of raising our sons.

To ''cautious mom:'' Huh? What? If I weren't so saddened by your perspective, I'd be insulted by your admonishment. I hope that you are able to find some peace behind this issue before it affects your son's view of men. -- Dad-lovin' Mom

Wow, I was shocked and saddened to see your post. I would ask you to look at what is causing these feelings of extreme anxiety around Dads supervising playdates, and the harsh criticism you feel for the Moms who are too busy to supervise. I am a Mom and have often left my husband in charge of children on playdates at our home. I see nothing wrong with this. And, no, I don't randomly leave my child with other parents or families. We have been very careful about getting to know the families and having a good idea of the home environment before allowing our child to play at another family's home. Anon

Please don't feel angry at moms who ''allow'' their husbands to host playdates. You cannot expect a mother who trusts her husband to anticipate that you won't trust him solely because he is male. She shouldn't ''prohibit'' him from hosting as though he is not a full parent. You probably need to be clear before a playdate who will be in charge. You can explain that you, based on personal experiences, cannot trust men taking care of children, and can't be comfortable with a playdate unless mom is in charge. Then they will know only to invite your son if mom is home. Yes, this means fewer playdates, but better than none at all. Thank god men are doing more child rearing: let's not insist on regression! Mama who trusts Papas

Well, I bet you'll get a lot of responses to this post. My own response was to wonder what your son's father thinks about your take on this situation, assuming he is involved. I think boys (and girls, for that matter) need loving, responsible adult role models of both genders in their lives, and the more the better. Of course it is quite sensible to meet and get comfortable with the parents of your kids' friends, prior to leaving them in their care (obviously that goes for both mothers and fathers), but to pass on a playdate solely because the supervising parent, otherwise acceptable in every apparent way, happens to harbor a Y chromosome, seems pretty peculiar to me. And what sort of a message are you sending your son who incidentally will one day grow up into one of these ''untrustable'' males? Please reconsider your position on this. There are indeed lots of abusive adults out there, and maybe you've had some personal encounter which has colored your thinking about this, but I don't think gender-based sorting will prove to be the most effective way to screen them out. I have not read it myself (yet), but I have heard good things about the book ''Protecting the Gift'' in terms of empowering both kids and parents regarding child abuse. another mother

''Also-- to you Moms out there who put us other moms in this situation, why do you do this?'' Because they might believe that dads are parents too? I host playdates for my children, as does my wife, and we pretty much share the responsibilities and rewards of parenting. Y-Chromosomally Equipped

I feel for you, because I think what you really want is 100% confidence that nothing terrible will ever happen to your child on a playdate (don't we all?!). But I don't think your policy of never letting men watch your son will accomplish this, because you are only ''protecting'' him from something that is almost certainly not going to happen anyway. As to why would those of us whose husbands supervise playdates ''put you in this situation''...obviously, we feel sure that they are good guys who can be trusted with children. I come from a background where my Dad was a primary caregiver. My husband is, similarly, a very gentle person. I would stake anything on his trustworthiness. But I hear you--you don't know him. You can't be so sure. But then you can't be sure about women either. The only time I've left my kids with a person who turned out to be untrustworthy, it was a mom (and it wasn't abuse, just poor supervision that resulted in an accident). So, unless you want to make your son miserable by never letting him go to his friends' houses, you need a process for ''vetting'' potential playdate supervisors (women and men). If they haven't passed your process, he doesn't go. Period. What do you do now to ensure that a mom is qualified to care for your child? Go on a couple joint playdates? Talk to other families? Can't you use the same process to check out these dads? Then, at least, if a mom ''springs'' on you that her husband will be the one home that day, you can say ''Oh, I'm sorry, but I always [do such-and-such] before I leave him with a new adult.'' That is perfectly polite and will improve the chances of your son being OK more than a blanket rule about gender. And if the reality in your circle is that more dads are home with kids than moms, then you'll have to either find a way to trust men with your child or host all the playdates at your place. There's no polite way to insist a mom be home, just in case her husband is a child molester. Your son is being invited as a guest--you're not hiring a babysitter. So you can decline, but you're not in a position to insist on anything. Jen

Please confirm that this is a joke question. ''Put you in this situation...''? Your concerns sound hecka weird to me -- a dad might be more likely to let the kids eat junk food or play ball in the house -- big deal. --a single mom, and this issue has never even crossed my mind

Sorry but I think you are way out of line. Other Moms are not putting you in any position - you are being unreasonable. There is no way of insisting that a Dad not be in charge without offending someone because, quite frankly, your insinuations that men are not trustworthy are offensive. anon

I should think it would be difficult to keep from offending others by insisting that a mother is present for a play date. Because you feel strongly that a father in charge is unacceptable, it seems you should not pursue these arrangements and should politely decline a dad in charge play date. Your views on dads are clearly different from some others and that is your choice, but you cannot force others to see your views as the right view. As a mom who feels very comfortable that my husband is quite capable of arranging and supervising playdates, I do not share your view that I put mothers in an awkward position. anon

Dear Cautious Mom, I think your post is terribly offensive and and it really touched a nerve. My husband makes lots of sacrifices in order to stay at home with our child. And it breaks my heart when he tells me that no one talks to him when he takes our child to the park and that he feels like an outcast. To be honest, I thought he was exaggerating a bit because I very rarely feel ostracized at the park, but after reading your post, I'm convinced that he's telling me the truth. Staying at home is isolating enough, and then to experience this on top of it all! I'm sorry, but the fathers out there who choose to take an active role in their child's life should be commended and not treated like pariahs. I mean, come on, can't we all just get along and accept our differences? It's amazing to me that this thinly disguised bigotry is so prevalent in Berkeley of all places. anon

Woo-boy, I think you're going to get an earful on this one! I don't think we can ask fathers to be more involved, caring parents and then treat them all like sex criminals. Your son is going to grow up to be a man, after all--doesn't he need positive role models from his community? I know there are guidelines out there for parents to teach their children how to resist and report inappropriate touching. Better to arm your children with these skills than ''lock them in the nunnery.'' I'm sorry if you yourself had a traumatic childhood experience that is intensifying your fear; if this is the case (or perhaps even if it isn't), I encourage you to talk to a therapist to help you manage your anxiety about your son. Dads aren't evil

Hard to know where to start, so I'll just list my responses to your post:

1. Re-examine your own assumptions. If I read you correctly you're effectively saying all men (50% of the population) can't be trusted (even in group situations) with kids because they have sexual predator tendancies. This is insulting nonsense.

2. This Dad sounds like he's fully engaged in the childcare, but you apparently want him out of it (or supervised by the mother!?). Isn't equal participation the goal of all parents?

3. The appeal to other mother's to not put you in ''this situation'' is a little self-centered - I'm sure moms occupied with stuff she needs to do.

4. I'm a skeptic about much of the therapy/wellness industry, but maybe you have deeper issues that would benefit from some professional counseling.

5. Get a wider view of life than that offered by the sensational end of the media. Coverage of violent/serious crime is going up because the media is trending to trashier content, this doesn't mean every dad at the playground is a rapist.

Do some reading about the relative risks of everyday life - The Culture of Fear (by Barry Glasner), or False Alarm (by Marc Seigel) both deal with issues of real versus perceived risks, and how our view of the world can be thoroughly distorted by too much reliance on popular media sources. Regular Dad.

Your feelings are your feelings, but I think you're doing your child a disservice by assuming the worst of men. Why don't you get to know some of the dads, maybe co-hosting a playdate with the other parent? I wouldn't drop my daughter off with anyone I didn't know, but it wouldn't have anything to do with gender. I know many wonderful dads, some of whom work PT or are the at- home parent, and I would definitely trust any of them with my child. anon

As a dad (stay at home w daughter) I'm sympathetic but not entirely moved by your problem. Yes there are many more male pedophiles than female, but basing your behavior and choices on that single fact is really myopic and, lazy. I have many reservations about what kind of people surround my child. But they are not based on odds, they are based on the particulars of the people. Result? I have very few individuals of any gender that pass muster for exclusive time with her. Baby-talkers, condescenders, magic thinkers, distractible people, those overly deferential to males, people who talk past/over kids, people who are overly impressed by beauty, (to name a few) are not welcome! What do we do? 1) trust your gut. It may be too late to cultivate a sense of your animal intelligence (when you feel safe and when you do not) but If you can, use that sense more and news coverage less. Don't trust it blindly, but start to listen to it.

If you do not know the dads well enough, then go along on the playdates - get to know the dads. Be up front about it. You want to get to know people who come into contact with your kid! You don't have to say ''you could be apedophile!'' There are plenty of positive reasons to go and get to know a kid's dad. You might even pick up a trick or two. There will be other behaviors that you do not approve of but are not deal-breakers or vice-squad events - now you will know and can explain to your child that it is not a practice in your family. Anyone who resists your coming along is really inviting suspicion, don't you think? (your son included.) Meanwhile, if anyone, you or the other parents, are mentally logging how many play-dates you have hosted without help vs with... stop. You have to pick: equity or comfort. My vote is for comfort, I think yours will be too. You'll find that most of the dads would throw themselves in front of a bus to save their kids or your son. But you need to find that out directly and to your own satisfaction and in each case. (Don't try the bus trick though) By the way, these dads and their spouses would probably also like to get a sense of what you and your partner are like (they have concerns too, you know.) [trimmed to fit, lost some grace, sorry] Cautious (guided by reason) Dad

You will undoubtedly get a lot of responses on this. But there was no way for me to not add my 2 cents in. It's certainly not a bad idea to be cautious, but you are going WAY too far to expect moms to be present at play dates. I am often not around when my daughter has playdates and my husband is PERFECTLY fine to manage them without me. I also have absolutely no problem leaving my daughter with her friends' dads. Dads are increasingly becoming primary caregivers and are just as good (and safe) as moms at parenting duties. If you intimated to me that you needed me to be at a playdate, I'd probably be so insulted that you didn't trust my husband that it would jeopardize our friendship. I think that you just need to relax on this issue and focus your safety concerns on REAL concerns. This just isn't one of them. Anonymous

Wow! I think you may be being a little TOO cautious! There are plenty of wonderful, gentle dads out there. In fact, I think it's wonderful that more dads are getting involved. Other mom's are leaving play groups to the dads because they trust them. I understand being a little nervous about any play group in which you don't really know either parent. But you stated that you don't even leave your children with the dad's you know well! Please give these men some credit!! anon

cautious mom, your (mostly idle) fears are exactly that; please try not to burden your son's social life with your problems, likely borne of watching lots of tv and reading too much trash. yes, there are dangers in the world. however, a little perspective, please. is what you fear of playgroup dads any more likely than getting hit by a truck stepping off a curb? you might consider professional help to try to figure out why you cannot open up and trust your own instincts in this matter. that is, why are you too fearful (and most insulting) to consider your feelings about each dad and situation instead of just making a blanket rule about all? and whining to the moms that they should not ''put you in this situation''? you have some nerve.

you have serious issues here, my friend. the only consolation i can offer you (precious little) is that you are not (sad to say) the only such person. i am a dad whose daughter suffers from this. my wonderful 7 year old girl's best friend of more than 3 years (they met and bonded as the two shiest kids in preschool, unwilling to talk to any teacher or other kids until their own relationship was cemented, and they have been inseparable since) has a father with your attitude. he has commanded his wife to adopt his policy so their daughter can never come to our house, despite the fact that we all know each other fairly well. the mom and i carried on a lengthy email correspondance, entirely about our kids, for quite some time until i figured out (with some prompting; i never would have come to understand this on my own) why they would never agree to a play date here. this mom certainly knows me well enough to countermand her husband, but she has neither the spine nor the will.

life is too short for this. you can choose to let fear-mongers (mostly sensationalist media and religious pushers) dictate how you live or you can ''take a chance'' and go instead with your own perceptions. of course it's up to you.

i'm guessing you are some heavy religious type, which my daughter's friend's father certainly is. i am sure that is no small part of this insane, impractical paranoia. burned, incredulous, ultimately very sad dad

I am the mom of a daughter but do not share your opinion, although I am aware about statistics re child molestation. It must feel awful to think that anyone's dad might potentially molest your child. Based on that, it sounds impossible to me to develop good relationships with other parents. You are appealing to other mom's out there to understand you? Excuse me, but don't you think we know our husbands better than you do? Who is married to them and who entrusts them with the child we have born? If you trust other moms to supervise your child, it sounds contradictory to not trust their evaluation of their husbands as safe playdate supervisors of their and your child.

I encourage you to not be ruled by your fears, but to trust your intuition. I also advise you to enroll you and your child in a Kidpower workshop ( and you will have more confidence in your child dealing with any sort of situation involving personal space and safety. Your child is growing up and will have to make lots of decisions on her own at school or elsewhere without you being around. Give her the gift of confidence and skill, not the legacy of fear. Just check out Megan's Law on the web and look up the real convicted child molesters that are living in your neighborhood right now. That will lead you to Kidpower and maybe extend more trust and credit to all the superb dads out there. Anonymous

Yeow. There's no way for us to read this as inoffensive and there's no way for you to ask it in a way that's inoffensive. Please get yourself some help to cope with whatever your issues are so that you can come more healthfully and happily to terms with a world which is - thank god!!!! - increasingly less sexist and more embracing of dads. And to answer your question about why the moms leave you in a position to decide if the dads are trustworthy: don't miss the message that they are giving you, which is that these men are trustworthy or they wouldn't leave their own children with them. Kathy

Everyone seems to be piling on to this poster so I thought I'd add my $.02. I don't watch TV or read trash (unless you count the SF Chron.) As it happens, I had unwanted sexual attention as a child and adolescent - all from adult men - and I do not believe I am the least bit unusual. It happens, in fact it happens a lot. It happened to me, to my girlfriends, to my sister. Adult men behaving in inappropriate ways towards underage girls, I'm sorry to say, is not unusual. (I don't know about behavior towards boys - just speaking from my own experience.) I am not paranoid or man-hating. I'm just realistic. It turns out that sexual interest in children is more wide spread than was previously believed - no surprise to me. Also, it is mostly men who have this 'interest' - also no surprise.

So, I was also cautious when my daughter was invited on a playdate with her friend and the dad. I sent my husband on the playdate and both girls and dads had a good time. I don't blame the moms for 'putting me in a situation' - I figure I can either do the playdate or not. You don't need to explain anything to anyone - you have reasonable concerns but voicing them would probably just offend the other parent. Just b/c you are cautious does not mean you're living in fear. When it comes to kids I say 'trust, but verify.' anon

i just had to post. I have been a UC Berkeley grad and read Arlie Hochschild's Second Shift as a young woman and realize now, the truth of it as a mother, a career woman and a wife. The premise was although educated, professional men espouse ''liberal'' and view that the roles of care-giving SHOULD be equal, it was the middle class man who was most ''liberated'' and equal in household and child care issues. Having read and seen that from my Republican and upper middle class husband, I was appalled by your past--from a woman. It told me and the world that we have a long way to go!! And really, if my husband made and attended the medical appointments, orthodontic appointments, e-mails to the teacher, fundraiser, baking for the fundraiser, dental appoinments, shopping and meal planning, I would be so happy. I would love it if my husband planned the playdates. I never, ever thought he would be a pedophile. Or, that the other caring, kind, sympathetic, and nurturing dads who are involved that I have met over the twelve years we have had children, are ''gasp'' pedophiles. Anonymous

If I didn't know for a fact that you weren't my sister (her kids are grown now) I would have thought the voice of your unreasonable fears was hers.

Like you, my sister had ''issues'' surrounding the exposure of her kids to men under any circumstances. In fact, I cannot recall that her kids ever went on playdates.

When my own daughter became old enough (3 y.o.) to attend preschool my sister practically begged me not to send her, or at least wait until she had turned 4 y.o. ''because that's when she'll be old enough to tell the truth in court if she had to testify against someone.''I'm sure you can imagine exactly how she felt when I did enroll my daughter at 3...and not only that, but in a Co-operative Preschool where there would be (gasp!) male parents participating!

If I had listened to my sister's alarmist and panic-stricken advice, my daughter would never gotten to know some of the most incrediable kids, and I their incredable parents--particularly the dads! After reading all the previous responses to your post, I was so happy to see that there are even more dads out there participating and managing playdates than I could hope for! My husband, like many of these guys, takes a willing and active role in the upbringing of our girls, in such an extraordinary and wonderful way (that I neither have the energy or inclination for), that I wish he was a SAHD, and that all my kids' friends could benefit from his creativity and willingness to be a kid himself!

As for my sister, she has two adult (a relative term) kids (and is now divorced from their dad) one of which is a know-it-all, can't tell her anything, female (not unlike her mother), the other is a male loner who had a record by the time he was 18, which could be a result of the lack of positive male role models in his life. So my advice to you? Be careful what you wish for.... all too familiar

I have to say that this post really saddened me. To tell you the truth, I have never even considered the possibility that any of my kids' parents would be a child molester. I'm not going to start now.

To answer your question of why moms aren't available for playdate patrol: some moms work and the dad is the stay at home parent, maybe the mom needs a break, or maybe she's out running errands and wants to do it without kids in tow... There's probably lots of reasons, none of which have sinister underpinnings.

I understand you want to protect your children, but I think you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. Lighten up. Anon

I too am uncomfortable with dads in charge of playdates. It is sexist, but I think it appropriate to be sexist when feelings are backed up by experience and statistics. In my experience, dads are much more likely to take risks and encourage risky behavior. In addition, men are far more likely to be molesters.

And as far as ''having a cup of tea'' to talk and prove that someone is trustworthy, that is ridiculous. Molesters take their victims through a process called ''grooming'' in which they act normal and suck people in. If it were as easy as having a conversation, far fewer children would be molested. In addition, I have heard of far too many cases in which wives enable these men. So a woman's testimony carries little weight me.

The world is an unsafe place. You have to decide what kind of risks you want to take. What qualities do you want in the person you leave your child with? How do you interview someone? I would be upset, for instance, to make a playdate with a mom, and find out that the dad or a nanny was in charge. I would feel like the mom was withholding information. I would lose trust, and would not want to leave my child with them. I do not leave my child with someone I do not know. Having a cup of tea with someone proves nothing, but it does make me more comfortable.

I suggest that the most important thing for you is to ask questions when setting up the playdate. Who will be in charge? Where will they be? What will they do? Are there guns in the house? Where do you keep your toxic cleaning supplies and drugs? This will give you an idea if the situation meets your expectations.

I think people have been unreasonably harsh in answering this question. I think your worries are perfectly normal and understandable. I hope you are able to find playdates that suit both you and your child. sunsol

I'm sorry everyone came down on you so hard. I don't share your concern but want to encourage problem solving (recognizing the suggestions to get to know the dad and joint or public place playdates).

1. A KidPower class for you and your son. Abusers (and bullies) seek out kids who are vulnerable. You will learn strategies for talking about being safe. Your son will learn assertiveness, confidence, and understanding about what's ok and not. Maybe you'll feel more confident about putting him in situations where you aren't there to protect him. You will both have a vocabulary so if anything came up, he'd know how to talk about it.

2. Rather than making this the only point, how about presenting yourself as a cautious parent? Make your list of things you like to know. Who else will be there during the playdate? Are there guns in the house? What activities are planned? What kind of TV/Video games do the kids see? Do they have an extra helmet if kids are using a scooter or should you bring yours? Do they plan to go anywhere and do they need a car seat? Then, when it takes you a while to let your son go on a play date alone, no one will be surprised. Offer to bring a book or laptop so the other parent won't feel like they have to entertain you as you sit in the living room during the play date. I'd think it was a little wierd but not a deal breaker.

3. Check Megan's list, unless this would just make you crazier thinking about all the danger in your neighborhood that you hadn't known about.

4. No More Secrets For Me. Only book I'm familiar with, but I'm sure there are others.

I haven't used any of these suggestions myself. Since my son was 4, I've sent him alone into the men's room when there was a line at the women's room. I'm counting on there not being enough privacy or time for a stranger to do anything. (As an aside -- guys, when leaving the men's room and seeing a mom waiting for her son -- maybe not the best moment to tell me he's cute!!)

And yet, I admit that I watch men a little closer than women when they interact with kids -- looking for something not quite right. I guess it makes even laid back me a gender profiler.

Anyone else have any suggestions for this mom? Nutty about other things, I'm sure

Hey cautious mom...

You got an earful. I hope you are still listening. I've been trying to think of a way to positively influence you rather than just pile on. So here is a go:

My mother died last year. Before she died she saw her son was a good man and became a loving, caring father and was able to say so. This was a great source of pride and comfort to me. So, for me to learn that your default opinion of men is so low really concerns me for your son. He is learning, deep-down, what you think of men and he knows he is becoming one. You may know the line from a song, ''nobody loves me but my mamma, and she may be jiving too!'' it is funny, unless you really feel that way, in which case it may just be the perfect definition of ''bereft.'' If I thought my mother saw me as a pedophile ''in potentia'' I'd go crazy.

There is more at risk here than your son being abused by bad men. There is the risk that he is being underexposed to the influences of good men.

Our society has devolved down to the nuclear family and lots of us are, in response, trying to expand the number of adults our kids see and understand and trust: to take up the role of the old network of tribe, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the like. This does not just lighten the load for us parents but provides a much more nuanced range of role models from which our kids can learn.

Isn't it profoundly more useful to think and feel in terms of a variety of models and options rather than false dualism of Mom Vs. Dad / Kid Vs. Parent. Our kids are still going to be distressingly like us, so why not work hard to expose them safely to as many other permutations of kind and caring adults as we can gather? At least they will have a realistic sense that your family's way is not the only credible one and they'll have a fighting chance to choose their own ways to respond to the challenges of life. That is what many of those other moms and dads are doing right now: responding not to the training they got as kids but to the needs of their families.

This is going to take some work and bravery on your part. But it will change your life for the better and will very likely save your son some serious self-loathing down the line. A Son

i've read the fiery posts with curiosity and mom's initial post with some empathy, yet sadness. i was molested by my father all my life in a household where my mother ran a daycare. as an adult i'm horrified to think of people dropping their kids off at my house with my dad roaming in and out - none being the wiser.

my mom defended him to the end. that said, now with two daughters - one fully grown and one a toddler, i remain afraid of fathers and men in general - including potential teachers, fathers on playdates, etc. that fear always sits there in the back of my mind. HOWEVER, I have surrounded my daughter with the company of excellent beautiful men (including her father) that I have come to know well and their equally supportive and compassionate wives/mates. I have found that my fear has one very troubling symptom that is worse than the fact that I cannot trust most men (without first building an extensive friendship), but ultimately, did not trust myself and my decisions to befriend men. So I guess my advise to you is to begin to understand your fear and to disect it and to build trust for yourself such that you know that when you decide to befriend a man or introduce one into your son's life, you have done everything necessary to make sure your son is safe. that's a hard path but its better than hating every man for the evil deed of one (even it that one was your father) and preventing your son from benefiting from the company of positive men. anon

I'm sorry you're getting so many enraged responses for voicing a concern which seems natural and legitimate to me. In the recent past when I was thinking about how best to educate my young child about the dangers of ''strangers,''

I was informed repeatedly that the statistically, a child is MUCH more likely to be molested by males known to the family and familiar to the child than by any random strangers. It's specifically advised that a lost child approach a woman with a child for help rather than any male adult.

Certainly, there exist men who were well known and liked by everyone and respected by the community who turned out to be child molesters. I guess personally knowing some people who were molested as children by their fathers (yes, fathers) and grandfathers may color my take on this issue (as well as the overwhelming statistics). So although I can understand how many of those wonderful dads out there were offended by your concern, I totally understand your discomfort with leaving your child *alone* (that is, in the absence of other adults) with a dad whom you may or may not know. Even my own father- a wonderful father- agrees with me that this discomfort you're feeling is understandable. My advice is to go with your instinct. No matter what is politically correct or wrong, I would never advise that a parent place his/her child in a situation which s/he strongly feels could be, may be dangerous. However, if you have the option to stay during the playdates with the dad in charge, you may find it helpful to try it a few times to explore further how you feel about this issue. If you still feel uncomfortable, politely decline. My guess is that there will be enough playdates with moms in charge so that your child won't become totally socially isolated. anon

I have two daughters, and have had similar worries about dads and playdates. I can tell you of my experience as a child. When I was young, my family and another family were best friends, children and parents alike. We did a lot together, including family trips. I thought of these friends' parents like my own, and trusted them like my own. I was molested by this family's father, when I was 11 years old. This was during a sleep-over. It was horribly traumatic. This is not uncommon at all!!! Abuse of all kinds is most common between friends and family, not strangers! I don't blame my parents. I don't even know how it could have been prevented. My parents knew this man well, and he was a ''great'' guy. I think the best we can do as parents is to know the dads as well as we can, but that is no guarantee. We can educate our kids to some extent, but i would not want to instill a strong fear of others in my children. And also, it is very very difficult to expect a child to stand up to a molester, especially one whom they know and trust. You might have an idea of how your child might react in a situation. I know my 5 year old girl would never be able to defend herself. It is not her personality.

I think that the fact that you are concerned means at least you are aware of this ''unspoken'' reality. There are many dangers our children face, and this is one of them. We want to protect them from harm, and it is our job to do so. I would be most cautious of ''condusive situations,'' for lack of a better term. Sleep-overs especially. But we can't protect them from everything at all times. I think the best we can do is to build a solid trust with our children, so that they can come to us when they need us. Another Wary Mother

I haven't seen all the answers to this initial question. The answers I saw were thoughtful but did not say that even toddlers can be taught some appropriate self-defense skills, without frightening them. Every child can be taught to ask for help from policemen or a block parent. They need to hear that it's okay to run away screaming ''Help!'' from strangers who try to grab them. A toddler can be told, matter of factly, while the doctor is examining his privates that that's a private area, and only he and the doctor or mommy ever get to touch it. Toddlers can be taught that when an adult stands uncomfortably close to them (or leans on them at a movie theater) to say ''Excuse ME!'' and then ''Back off!''

As the child gets older, you repeat these safety lessons at higher and more complex levels, just as you repeat politeness lessons. You can discuss personal space and boundaries to draw, in case it becomes necessary with older brothers, fathers, or relatives-- their own, or their friends'. Remind your children that you will defend them and you want to hear right away if someone hurts or frightens them.

You can teach your children that if an adult-- even a friend's parent-- says that plans have changed and the adult is supposed to take them somewhere, that adult will also have the ''secret password'' (their birthday, for instance). They can role play dropping a backpack and running down the sidewalk. You can tell an older child about kicking a male in the nuts, and kicking out the car light from inside a car trunk and waving to get attention. You can play ''what if'' and ''just in case'' and still say clearly that stranger abductions are extremely rare, but you want them to have good ideas if the worst ever happens-- just like they practice fire drills.

I have role-played with my 6th grade daughter what I consider an appropriate response if a boy at middle or high school (not an adult!) intentionally and offensively touches her butt or her breasts. I want her to slap him in the face as hard as she can. I would rather she got suspended for it than the boy get away with harassing girls anonymous

If you are specifically worried about abuse then I think the best way to keep your children safe is to talk to them about it and make sure they feel comfortable telling you if something is wrong rather than excluding all men from your kids lives. My husband is a stay at home dad. There is no way I would ever spend one of my few days off of work supervising a play date. There IS no polite way to insist that I do so. If somebody asked me to be the one supervising a play date because they weren't sure my husband wasn't a pedophile, we would both be incredibly insulted and wouldn't want to deal with you at all ever. This is despite the fact that I survived a sexual assault when I was a child, so no, it's not because I'm in denial about the dangers of the world. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. All I can suggest is that you offer to supervise all the play dates. The stay at home dads might think you're a little odd, but at least they'll still let their kids go to your house. d

Paying babysitter when there's a playdate

April 2006

I couldn't find appropriate comments re how much more to pay babysitter (if more at all?) when a playdate is arranged during their usual time. This doesn't really fall under ''nanny share'' because the other family doesn't need the care. Since I have a 5 year-old, it is actually less work for the babysitter when someone else is over, since they really just want to play with the other child. This issue will come up over the summer, as I want to keep my babysitter 3 days a week, but don't want to be limited as to playdate scheduling. What do other people think? Anon

In my experience, (as a former nanny and one who had nannies growing up)nannies are paid the same amount for playdates. It seems to be a reasonable and expected aspect of the job. I'd take care of my charges and their one or two friends on playdates often. anon

Regarding whether or not to pay a babysitter more for time supervising during playdates...that's a thoughtful question. I guess that for one additional child during a playdate it's not typically any more work (as you mentioned, it's often less work) but of course I wouldn't go beyond a ''single friend'' playdate. The administrative hassle of tracking how many playdate hours during the pay period is daunting enough. That said, if the children playing are in a situation that requires a lot of supervision--a playground, swimming pool, etc.--I do think a modest bonus or tip would be appreciated for the extra effort in monitoring the safety of the little ones. It's not necessarily an issue of ''I pay you for what you do/your interaction with the kids'' so much as ''I value you for keeping my child and her friend safe and sound''. good luck... carolyn

I think you definitely have to compensate your nanny during a playdate. The other child's parents may not need care, but you do and your child does and if the other child is with your child, then they need care too. Your nanny may have an easier couple of hours when she is with the two children (or she may not) - but she is still responsible for them both - you are not paying your nanny to play, you are paying your nanny to be responsible for and to take care of your child. And if you are asking her to be responsible for and take care of another child, then I think you need to compensate her for it. Anon

You're not home. You're paying a babysitter. She/he gets the same hourly rate no matter what your child is doing. What you're suggesting is sort of like saying, I'd like to pay my sitter less when my baby is sleeping - if you had a baby. The caregiver is there ensuring that your child is safe, fed, happy, healthy and out of harm's way - the pay should be the same for every hour she/he is present. And, the family of the playdate child should assume no cost, unless the sitter feels she/he should charge for the care of a second child. (Which I feel is also with his/her rights.) -Not a caregiver, but an advocate for one.

My rule of thumb is that more children is more work for the sitter: it demands more attention, more presence of mind, more anticipation to avoid accidents. And, were anything to happen, any accident or emergency, the sitter will have to deal with an injured child and a very scared other child. All that aside, I put myself in the sitter's shoes: -Even though the kids may play with one another, their demands are doubled; -I could get paid more elsewhere. Getting, and keeping, a sitter you trust is the issue, not the money. Miguel

When I was a babysitter, I got paid the same whether I was taking care of one kid or four. I worked just as hard for one as I did for four. You give 100% of your attention, whether it is one or four! In terms of how hard it is - that balances out. You don't have to work as hard to come up with fun activities, but you might have to resolve a really sticky dispute over a toy, or make two different kinds of snacks.

Times have changed, and now some sitters expect to get more money when they take care of more kids. I think that's fair if the sitter is actually being hired by two different families who would otherwise each have to hire their own sitter. So, to me, the answer to your question depends on whether it is a true playdate. Is the friend coming over for an hour or two to play with your child, and if you weren't working, you'd be on duty? (A true playdate) Or is it a school holiday, you have a sitter and your friend doesn't, so your sitter is going to watch both kids all afternoon? (A sitter share) In the former situation, I would not pay the sitter extra; in the latter situation, I would.

When I hire a sitter, I tell her what hourly rate I'm offering, and I also tell her this includes cleaning up the kitchen, running the occasional errand, and supervising playdates. When there's a school holiday and a friend wants to share my sitter, I tell the sitter what we're planning, offer to pay her extra, and ask her if it's OK. So far, they've mostly been delighted (except for the case below). My regular rate for one child is $13 per hour; I've bumped it to $15-18 for two depending on the circumstances.

I did have a problem once with a sitter who wanted to be paid extra for taking my child to his friend's house to play. The friend's mom was at home, but the sitter felt that if she was forced to be at the friend's house rather than doing what she, the sitter, wanted to do, then she deserved extra $$. I disagreed with that position, and let her go. Especially after I discovered that part of what she wanted to do was nap on the couch while my child played alone outdoors, which was not possible to do at his friend's house. Fran

I don't really know about the babysitter having less work with a playdate over. If your children are only 5 (nc. the playdate), it seems to me they have a lot of opportunites to get into some kind of mischief/trouble, so the babysitter has to be on watch even more. True, she doesn't have to engage your child as much because he/she will have a playdate, but they both will want to do things that may not be appropriate (climbing on furniture, sticking things in their nose, ears, etc.). If you are home during the playdate, then you can watch the other kid and your nanny can watch your kid, but if you are not home, then the adult at home is in charge of the children - it sounds like this would be the nanny, in your case. so pay her extra; maybe ask the parent of that child to pay for the hour of playdate. anon

You don't have to pay a babysitter more when your kid has a playdate. That's part of the whole nanny thing. They care for the kids as you would and part of that is the little tykes' social lives. If you were having 3 kids over a day every day of the week, that might be a problem but if your child has a couple of playdates a week with one kid, that is totally within the realm of what is expected. It's actually easier for the nanny in many cases when there is a playdate because the children are entertained and it makes the nonplaydate part of the day easier too. Even if it was ''harder'', it is still within the expected duties of a nanny. I assume there is some reciprocity too (where your nanny might have some time off when your child goes on a playdate somewhere else and you would pay her for those hours generally). Still that would not be a requirement. anon

there's a difference between a babysitter and a nanny. Although you might not be paying your nanny(who is on a fixed schedule week in and out) extra when there are additional children, you would pay a babysitter (occassional sitting jobs) because in fact (s)he's caring for extra children. As a parent, I do not consider playdates ''free time'' for me. It's extra work, I have another child or two that I am watching over. mother of 4

Sharing at Playdates between 4-year-olds

Jan 2006

Help I am beside myself over a playdate that went horribly awry between my almost 4 yr old and her 4.5 yr friend. The girls have known each other since they were infants, and whenever we go over to the friend's house, the older child is very good about sharing her things, but when they come over to our house, my daughter gets very possessive and is reluctant to let her friend play with anything. Usually this can get worked out, though it often seems like the friend gets the short end of the stick because my daughter is so insistent at getting her way and she ends up prevailing. An additional problem is that the other mom and I have pretty different parenting styles (I'm more into letting them work things out, but the other mom often wants to intervene, I think partly to protect her daughter from always having to give in).

Last night it started on the wrong foot (e.g. going into the dark room an argument started about who should turn on the light) and then just got worse (''No, you can't use my special party shoes...No, you can't use my sleeping bag...No, I want that wand''). Finally the other mom and I decided that they should go since this wasn't working out, but we gave my daughter one more chance, saying that we would let the other girl pick whatever bowl she wanted for dinner and my daughter was going to have to be gracious. Well you can guess what happened: the other girl picked the princess bowl, and of course that was the one my daughter wanted, my daughter threw a fit, and so the friend and mom left, with the friend now crying that she didn't care what bowl she used she just wanted to stay, and my daughter saying (essentially) oh good now I don't have to share. This was pretty much the opposite of the outcome that we wanted!

I think both me and the other mom are running out of energy for this, and last night I don't think we handled things well. So I'm looking for advice on (1) how to do it better next time (2) what are reasonable expectations for this age for sharing (3) just general insight or experience with similar situations. anonymous

I'm sorry you've been having a hard time with sharing; I know this can be upsetting. A few suggestions:

Let your daughter know that if there is something very special to her which she is unwilling to share, she can set it aside before the playdate, and neither one of them will use it or see it during the playdate. It's fine if she needs to protect her boundaries, but impolite to use something in front of somebody else without being willing to share.

If there is an argument about who has the ''right'' to use something now, avoid solving it while things are heated. This is not a particularly teachable moment. You can say something like, ''Clearly this thing is getting in the way of you enjoying your friendship right now. Your friendship is more important than this thing. I'm going to put it away now.'' Remove the object. Repeat as often as necessary.

Try to catch issues before they become heated. (This may mean hovering close by during playdates for a while.) Whenever you see the opportunity, join them to model sharing techniques, i.e. taking turns, flipping a coin, using a timer, playing with the item together, finding the other playmate an acceptable substitute, playing something different, etc.

Keep playdates short enough for you to monitor them and be consistant with your responses.

Remind your child of her successes whenever you have the opportunity.

If you want to keep things very simple and straightforward, you might consider letting your daughter know that the new house rule is that the guest is always right. She lives there all the time, and can play with anything after her friend leaves. This isn't ''fair,'' however it is polite. Use your own judgement there - this is appropriate for some children and families, not for others.

Good luck. It can be done. I taught preschool for 7 years before having my own children, and can tell you that it is possible to make a difference with attentive consistancy. Jennifer

Does your daughter behave this way with other children? Four is a tough age -- they have such strong feelings and are not particularly reasonable.

I'd just avoid having that friend over for awhile. Meet at neutral places to continue the friendship ... don't keep forcing a painful situation on all 4 of you. I expect the other mom will agree. Sara

Wow, that's a difficult situation. I can't offer you much advice, but you asked about other people's situations and I'm happy to talk about what we've experienced. My daughter is four too and she is probably more like ''the friend''. She's fairly easy going and is fine with sharing most of the time. We've just started to ask if there is any toys she would like us to put away before a friend comes over (usually no). If she and a friend start bickering over something, it gets taken away.

We do play with one other four year old and I'm always amazed that the mom seems to actually promote selfishness in her daughter. I frequently hear things like ''you don't have to share'' or ''you have told her you don't want to share, so walk away''. That can be anything from Goldfish to toys. I would never let my child get away with such behavior, much less support it. If you don't want your situation to get more out-of- hand, maybe think about things like punishing bad behavior (time outs, no TV, no dessert, no books, whatever is important to her) and rewarding good ones (''you can have this lollipop if you share/behave on your playdate''). Good luck!

We are finally getting to the point of stoping playdates with friends who are consistently not ''playing nice'', be it pushing repeated or consistently having issues with attitude/behavior. Playdates should be fun, not stressful! Mom to a four year old

For a consistent behavioral problem the only way to address it successfully is to follow your strategy for boundary conditions.

In our case that means explaining in advance what will be expected, what the consquences will be of not behaving as expected, and then following through on the consequences without delay.

Once you begin to observe the behavioral change you are looking for, you then of course reinforce it with praise. We would say something like: ''Wow, I noticed that you shared your pink dress and your blue dress, and I think you can be proud of yourself for that,'' or later ''I noticed that you tried very hard to share with your friend for a whole hour.''

We usually give praise right after the behavior has changed for the worse because that represents the time immediately after her energy for maintaining the new behavior have flagged and she has therefor put the most effort into attempting her change. She knows without saying that the last thing she did was not to share so I don't feel a need to point it out to her, but if she is approaching a boundary condition then I will also remind her of both the boundary and the consequences of crossing that boundary.

Over a longer period of time you can explain to her why the behavior isn't acceptable to you, which we do through stories. In stories we can experiment with good and bad behavior, the consequences of the behavior, good and bad.

If she argues with you about your boundary conditions then you can work out a compromise using the techniques of negotiation to agree what behavior is ok, and what the penalties will be for not living up to that behavior. Compromise usually starts with brainstorming for ideas, followed by analysis, then rejecting intolerable options, and finally selection from among the remaining options.

In negotiating with kids it is usually a good idea to have them suggest at least the first two or three ideas or they will have a hard time participating. We usually allow each side in the negotiation to remove one suggestion on the board as unacceptable as a starting point. (Almost always kids will identify the status quo as one of their options. Later, add your own 'my kid is a little angel' as counterpoint.) Kevin Smathers ks.bpn [at]

I don't have any advice, just wanted to let you know that I can sympathize! My child is also one of those bossy kids and I find playdates extremely tiring because I am running interference constantly. My husband says some kids are leaders others are followers and that eventually, it'll work out. Is yours an only child? Sometimes I find that only children are a little needier than children with siblings. If it helps, a friend of mine told me that it only feels worse to me because I'm aroudn it all the time, other parents may not think it's that bad. worn out

I am sure you'll get lots of advice about sharing. I can't wait to read it because I haven't got a clue. But one piece of advice I do have is that if you really like the other mom (despite your acknowledged different parenting styles), have a few dates with her alone, without kids. Build a friendship that isn't based on your daughters. Go have a cup of tea one weekend morning, or get a glass of wine and some dessert when the girls have gone to bed and daddies are home. Building a relationship as women (not as mothers) will enable you to work it out together and not take the girls' power dynamics too seriously. Plus it'll set a good example about how two different people can make and keep friendships. Worked for me.... the best mom-friend I have is someone whose son constantly fights with mine. We just laugh it off, leave (with tears shedding sometimes) when things get rough, and continue to coach the boys together and separately on how to be good friends. Then on the rare occasion that we get together after bedtime or alone, we talk about other things and forget about the kids completely. What a nice treat that is. Jo

You could talk to your daughter ahead of time and let her know that she needs to share her toys. Then you could specifically discuss which toys your daughter is willing to share. If she can't share a *large* portion of her toys, let her know that her friend cannot come over. She might start getting really generous if she sees that her friend won't come otherwise. You could put away the one or two toys that are special to her. Also, set very explicit boundaries about what will happen if she doesn't share (e.g., the friend will go home) and there are no second chances. Sounds like you and your friend are really involved, concerned parents and I bet it will work out. - anon

It sounds to me like you need to work more aggressively with your daughter to get her some sharing practice, so that she understands that she has to share, or she can't have friends visit. It will take time, but after a while she'll realize that it's for such a short period of time, and it's such a nice thing to do for your friends, that she'll eventually get it--unless you want her to grow up being self-centered and lack empathy. I'd also suggest that you work with her when she's visiting her more generous friend, and let her know every time the friend shares some toys that it's really a special thing for her to do, and give the friend lots of praise for it. And I hate to say this, because it sounds like it may be anathema to you, but you may want to try intervening a little more. Little kids don't really know how to ''work it out''--what happens is that the stronger, more aggressive kids ''win''-and they don't learn the joys of sharing and social niceties. And the less aggressive kids don't learn polite ways to stand up for themselves. You want to give your daughter the message that you will require her to be fair, and you will enforce that. My guess is that your friend and the other girl will probably welcome the change too. On the other hand, if you just can't intervene, your daughter will probably learn that it's important for her to keep her things to herself, and to fight as loudly as she can to ensure that nobody takes her things. It sounds like this strategy worked for her last time. (and to the extent that the other parent grows weary of explaining to her daughter why she has to share but her friend doesn't, you may end up with other friends and parents of friends with similar philosophies and kids with similar strengths as yours.)

Here is what I do with my son (3.5 yrs old) when he has a friend coming over: I ask him if there are any toys he does NOT want to share with his friend(s). For the toys he does not want to share, they will get ''put away'' until the friend leaves -- any toy that is within reach will be shared. This gets him thinking about it as I do explain that any toy he doesn't want to share will be put away. He has never chosen to put away any toys and has stated that he wants to share. Of course, there are sometimes issues, but they are fleeting. First, I remind him that he chose to share this toy. Secondly (if the issue continues), I suggest setting a timer. Depending on the ages of the child, the timer is set appropriately. When the timer beeps, its someone else's turn (I've seen kids ask for the timer and I've never had an issue with the switch when the timer goes off!!). I am very stern in that the friends' are the guests and therefore, they get the first turn, unless of course, it was a toy my son had first and the friend attempted to grab from him. Issues are minimal. I have other friends that do the same and it seems to work very well. Ultimately, I would suggest you might want to be firmer with your daughter. She knows which buttons to push with you and it sounds like she often gets her way-- change your reaction to her outbursts and don't give her a payoff for it. She may lose this friend for it. The friend is being punished for your daughters outburst and that doesn't seem fair to the friend, or your daughter.... anon

A number of different thoughts:

If you value your friendship with the other girl's mother (you said your children have known each other since infancy so I assume you and her mother are friends) then you may have to consider changing your parenting style.

Frankly, if I was your child's friend's mother I would not continue playdates with your daughter. If you won't step in and help work things out or at the very least point out to your daughter that her behavior is rude (especially to guests) than I wouldn't want to have you as a friend! Why endure all that grief, especially for her daughter.

Your daughter knows the difference between right and wrong, it's your place as her parent to reinforce good decision making. Four year olds know the importance of sharing, giving and helping make a friend feel comfortable in their home. Mine certainly does, and I would expect no less.

Perhaps your daughter is not ready for playdates at her home (a park might work better?), and until she is ready to behave properly with/to her guests than maybe you might want to hold off on play dates. Not afraid to step in

We had a similar situation. Here is what we did and it worked. We had a ''meeting'' with parents and children at the beginning of the following playdate and we said that do not like how they handled the problems and that they needed to find a solution acceptable to both parents and children. We also told them that the ultimate solution was to not see each other anymore. They quickly realized that the only solution was to share and get along. Once in a while we had to remind them that both parents and children needed to be okay. m

Hi. My son and his very best friend who have know one another since they were weeks old went through this. We would set some ground rules about sharing and the consequences and follow through like you did. For a short while we saw less of each other, but the phase passed and at 5 they are the most amazing friends. So, my advice is to wait it out, adjust to this phase and it will pass as they get a bit older, you'd be amazed at the difference a couple months makes at this age in terms of capacity for empathy and compassion. If you miss your friend make some dates without the kids so your friendship can remain intact during this phase. been through it

there are a couple of things you can do. First meet other places besides your home until your daughter gets through this stage my kid is more possesive in his own home too. Before meeting for playdates, talk to her about sharing and ask her which things she does not want to share then help her put them away until after the playdate. while you're at it, help her pick some toys specifically for sharing. try to pick toys that encourage sharing like two-person games, balls to play catch. if something is brought out that she doesn't want to share offer to put it away or ask her to put it away until later if she doesn't want to share it.

I agree that kids need to learn to work things out themselves eventually, but it is up to us to teach them some tools so that they don't always resort to grabbing, pushing, screaming and crying. I'm trying to teach my son (much younger than your daughter) to make a trade, ask nicely, use your words, and take a turn after the other child is done.

If nothing seems to work and he seems to just be working himself up into a lather, I bring him to his room for a cool-down period either alone or with me and then I tell him that if he doesn't want to play nicely, others won't want to play with him. if he seems more content to play by himself, I let him. Also I find that often when another child has a toy, it becomes a desired object, not because the toy is interesting to him but just becasue someone else has it. I try to have duplicates or eqivalents of some toys. For example my son has a rhino flashlight the roars when his mouth is opened. he was fighting with his friend for it so we got out another regular flashlight that he usually likes. he refused it until I asked enthusiastically for it and started playing with it. Then he forgot all about the rhino flashlight and came over to take mine, which he got after asking nicely. anon

I think you've answered your own question. You like to let the kids work it out, your friend intervenes when her daughter misbehaves. Her kid shares, yours doesn't. In our family, when friends come over, we share EVERYTHING. Nothing is 'too special.' If our kids don't share something, we intervene - not by giving them one more chance or a different opportunity to do the right thing, but by giving the other kid the toy in question and reminding ours about the rule. Generosity isn't always about feeling generous. It's about actually sharing and giving - even when you don't really feel like it. jill

It sounds like my son is a lot like your daughter. There are a few things that which have improved our things considerably:

Before any situation where sharing might be an issue, we set up expectations that someone will be using his things. We start these discussions as much in advance as possible, ideally the night before. If there are special things he doesn't want to share he can choose to set them aside.

We have also stopped expecting him to hand over a toy the moment another child asks for it. Im sure that some parents will call this selfish, but I would never just automatically give my child the newspaper Im reading or food off my plate or control of the TV simply becuase he expressed an interest). If I was in the middle of enjoying something he wanted I would either figure out a way we could enjoy it together, ask him to wait until I was finsished, or simply tell him no, his request could not be granted. This is not because I am a selfish person, but rather that I believe there are limits to what another person is entitled to.

Now we expect the same from our son. If a dispute arises we either help him figure out a way the parties can play together (you'd be surprised how often this works), remind him to explain that he is in the middle of using an item and that he will give the other person a turn as soon as he is finished, or in some cases my son will explain that an item is very special to him and try to find a comparable item for the other person to use (this only happens with a particular cape or during unplanned encounters). If my son is not ready to part with an item we expect him to help the other person find something else to enjoy in the meantime.

The result has been that so much of the anxiety of someone ''taking'' something has diminished. My son now shares not because he's being forced to, but because he actually wants to.

We still have our moments and tantrums. In those cases my son is removed from the situation NOT the item in dispute. Afterall, he's the real source of the problem, and most times a change of space can bring on all sorts of good will. I also found that when I took things away everybody felt bad, and no one had a chance to learn anything about getting along. Susannah

Playdates I the only one not doing this yet??

Jan 2006

I'm a mom of two young kids (a 3 1/2 year old and a 1 1/2 year old). My daughter attends preschool 3 days a week and my husband and I both work full time...although I stay home with my kids one day a week as part of a flex schedule.

When the weekends roll around, we typically spend the majority of the time as family time (playing with the kids, taking ''mini'' day trips, doing errands).

In the past month or so, I have talked to at least 3 Moms that were quite surprised that I haven't been setting up play dates for my daughter...either during the week or on the weekends. I guess I just figured that since my daughter can play with kids at preschool 3 days a week, that she is already having plenty of time with other kids. But suddenly I'm feeling very guilty since it sounds like everyone else is making playdates a top priority.

I'm just torn and feeling stressed out about it. Perhaps my husband and I are being selfish since we do monopolize our kids weekends and late afternoons during the week. But I don't want to be a bad Mom and deprive my kids of something that seems so important to most other Moms I have talked to.

Any advice or insight would be much appreciated. Trying to be a good Mom, Kimby

No, you are not the only one who has not set up a play date for your children. I am a single mother of a 2 1/2 year old daughter and I don't set up play dates for her either. When school is in session at Cal, she is in day care five days a week from 8am-4:30pm, so she gets to play and socialize with other children her age.

I think that it is important for children to be able to interact with other children their age, but I do not think that it is exactly neccessary to set up play dates with other parents and their children when you do not want to. Please do not feel force to set up play dates or like you are doing something wrong because you have not done so. You have limited hours with your children so I think that you wanting to spend as much time as possible is totally fine. If you still feel like you should be setting up play dates then maybe you can consider doing a playdate one Saturday a month with one of your children's friends from school or with other parents and children that you know.

Sorry such a long email, I hope that it helps =) Barbara

Spending time with family has got to be one of the most important things you can do with your children -- you are creating a great foundation for a solid family unit. She's getting social interaction with other kids as you mention.I think it's wonderful that you WANT to do so much as a family (so many parents don't seem to want this) - until your daughter expresses an interest to be playing with friends more, I wouldn't change a thing. I think the whole ''playdate'' thing is greatly overrated. Family Is #1

Hi Kimby - you are definitely NOT the only one not doing playdates. My 2 1/2 year old son is also in preschool 3 days a week, his grandmother and I spend the other 2 days with him, and as with you, weekends are family time (and the time when Dad gets one-on-one time). Sometimes we see other families all together, either weeknights or weekends, but I almost never make formal playdates. I think it's more common for SAHMs (or dads) because they're with their kids so much and it's nice to get a break, and if the kids aren't in preschool there's more need to organize social interaction. I've asked myself the same question you pose, and basically decided that he's getting plenty of socializing in preschool and there will be plenty of time in the future for friends - I don't feel at all guilty taking advantage of the time with him now, it won't last! Star

The eternal playdate question :)....... Well it is simple, the problem is not the playdate, the problem is what is the real purpose and how it is done.

1.- The purpose sometimes is dubious, is the playdate actually a way to get free babysitting services or is a genuine invitation to get to know you and your child?. 2.-The way the question is posed. It it almost an impositon by ''desperate'' parents who need your child for ''entretaiment'' purposes for their child. In other words they are going to use your child to keep theirs busy while they do something else. Get it?

Red flags: If they impose the playdate, like they are ''telling'' you you have to have one. When as soon as you have a playdate, they request or impose ''it is your turn now''. Suddenly playdates turn into sleep-overs. Playdates that your ''friend'' is requesting during the week turn into playdates you have to have at your home on ''weekends''. Constant phone calls for playdates from the same person.(run for your life from this person).This is a perfect example of intention of creating a free babysitting system.

The Positive playdates: When you are asked for you and your child to join ''XYZ'' person for a nice cup of coffee/tea, and the company of your son for a couple of hours. When after the playdate the couple decides to get to know you better and invites you, not your child, not spend time together. When you visit with your child, a babysitter is present for the adults to have ''me-time''. When you are invited to an outting, like movies, theater, cinema, restaurant etc.. and they love to have you too.

If non of the above applies, hire a babysitter!. It is true kids do have a lot of time to spend in school together; unless is with the neighbor, orquestrating a playdate is quiet a dilemma in the ''red flags'' condition. Same problem here

I am the mother of a 21-month old and I've only arranged one playdate, which was more of an informal gathering because my husband and I are friends with the parents of the other child and we wanted to spend time with them.

I am in a similar situation to you: both my husband and I work full time and our son is in daycare. I have thought about joining a mother's group so my son could have interaction with other kids but I've hesitated because I believe that he spends enough time with other kids in daycare. I feel that what he really needs is to spend quality time with his parents.

I wouldn't feel guilty about it. It seems everything I've read about child development talks about how important it is for a child to spend time with his/her parents. Your child is getting interaction with other kids at preschool. OK with few playdates

I just wanted to chime in that we NEVER do playdates. My daughter just turned 4 years old and has only been going to preschool for about 5 months now (5 halfdays a week). Like you, my husband and I both work full time so when the weekends rolls around, I want all of us to be together even if it's just running errands or working around the house.

I feel like she gets plenty of socialization at school so I don't understand playdates myself... Maybe someone can enlighten me to its benefits?

In the meantime, don't stress yourself out! Enjoy this time with your kids while they still want to hang out with you. The way I look at it, by the time my daughter is 7, she's probably going to prefer her friends over me! You're Not Alone!

I never did any playdates either really and also felt some guilt about it as well. My husband and I work full time and the kids were in daycare so I basically didn't see the need. I wanted to spend time with the kids on the weekends and didn't want to have to deal with organzing playdates anyway. I think the playdate thing is probably really appropriate for either only children or for kids who don't go to preschool (moms stay at home or nannys care for them) as the main point seems to be socialization and giving the parents a break.

Don't worry. I think the primary reason people seek playdates is to occupy their children. If you don't have the need to do so, why sweat it? Your oldest is probably getting enough social interaction at school, your youngest is still probably in the parallel-play stage (not really interacting with other kids) and as long as you don't see some behavior you want to help adjust along the lines of social development, don't worry what other people say. They, like me, are probably just a bit in awe of you for not feeling like you need the relief of playdates. We all worry too much.

You definitely do not need to be setting up playdates for your children if you don't want to. If they had no contact with peers I might suggest you do so, but they obviously get enough social stimulation at school (and at this point although your 1 1/2-year-old might enjoy some parallel play with peers, it definitely is not necessary). I think my 4-year-old need some down time and quiet after being in school so I don't schedule many play dates (maybe 3 per month). When I do it is as much for me to have someone to visit with as it is for them to have someone to play with. If you are not into it, don't worry about it at all. Liz O.

Don't feel guilty. We don't do it with our 3 year old either. He'd much rather be with us at this point, and he gets kid-time during his 2 days at daycare. Soon enough he will be with kids 5 days a week and will get plenty of social time. Enjoy it while your kids WANT to hang out with you! jen

I don't think you are doing anything wrong! I have a lot of ''baby guilt'' over many decisions (i'm staying at home, not doing playdates either, not getting enough time for myself so i'm a more refreshed mom, feeling detached because i'm so tired, only having a few scheduled activities per week, the list could go on forever). My son seems to be well adjusted so far (he's only a little over a year). If your kids seem happy and well adjusted, then it seems to me things are fine the way you are doing them. And it's not selfish to want to spend time with your kids on the weekends and evenings when you work! I think it's great to spend time with them then, eventually they'll want to spend more time with their friends anyway, so enjoy it while you can! kukana

I am a SAHM and the reason that playdates exist at such a young age IMHO is so that SAMHs won't go insane. I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. We get together with 'her friends' (okay, really the children of my friends) quite frequently. My oldest 'likes' her friends, but still likes being with me better. That will change, but at these ages, I think that playdates are still really just for the parents. -anon

Please don't stress about this. It's so easy to get caught up as a parent (I have many times about this or that) in paying too much attention to what ''other parents'' do and say when listening to ourselves and our kids as to what is right for us would make us happier in the long run. I personally think it's much more important at this age to have lots of family time. Your daughter gets time to socialize with other kids at preschool. If parents are honest, often the purpose of ''playdates'' is socializing (for the parents) or free time for the parents (when kids are old enough to be dropped off). Is your daughter begging to see her friends on weekends? If not, enjoy the family time! If she is, why not arrange something on an occasional basis. Julie

Don't Worry!!! I have a nine year old son and a 4 year old daughter and we don't do play dates. First of all I don't like this term. I feel as though kids are overly scheduled and should be able to hang out more at home and play with neighborhood kids if possible. If your children are getting playtime with other kids during the week, then why complicate your life and impede on your family time? Also, if your child gets invited to a ''play date'' then you can decide whether or not to go but I really wouldn't worry about it. Play dates are not necessary for every child and every family. Kristine

I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old, and I don't arrange playdates unless my kids specifically ask, which they rarely do. They're both social at their respective schools, and both have their own best friend. And they both enjoy getting calls for playdates.

I also used to wonder if I was being negligent in not helping my kids pursue friendships, if I was cheating them out of extra social skills, if I was being perceived as anti-social. But I've slowly decided that it's a matter of family style, personality of your kids, and what you're comfortable with. Sometimes I like to just let the weekend flow without having to work around playdates scheduled a week prior; sometimes it's a lot of trouble to pick up/drop off; sometimes I just don't want another kid over to make more mess/trouble; sometimes certain parents take advantage... But I do find that the kids have a lot more fun at the park if they can play with friends there, so that's what we usually do. Always Learning

As long as your daughter isn't asking for playdates, it sounds to me like there's nothing you need to change! As you've said, your daughter is getting plenty of social time with her peers at school. If she wanted more time with friends, she'd probably tell you. Just wait until she's 12. (-: anon

NO! Don't worry about the playdate pressure. We tried two playdates before my (then) 4 year old started preschool (she only went to preschool the year before kindergarten). The first playdate went fine, the second ended in tears when the little girl didn't want to play with her. My daughter only did occasional classes with other kids (music, ballet, swimming) before age 4 1/2. But she thrived in preschool and is thriving in kindergarten. The same is happening with my 3 1/2 year old. Little kids don't really NEED playdates, unless they live in a very secluded area and never see other kids. Leave it be until she's older, has friends, and is ASKING for playdates. You're doing just fine!!! Heidi

I have a 5 year-old and we never had playdates when she was in pre-school (and still have very few now). It's so important for your kids to spend time with YOU. There will be plenty of time for friends later. You only have some much time to give to your kids and you should follow you intuition and don't listen to anyone else. - anon

Like you, we spent our weekends doing family-focused stuff, including outings, errands, and sometimes getting together with extended family or friends. We rarely or never scheduled playdates, and our daughter didn't seem to miss them. When other parents talked about them, I was amazed that they could even find the time to set them up!

In retrospect, I wish we'd gotten into the habit of playdates earlier. Once our daughter figured out that other people did them, she felt left out. We're also finding that, while she's academically ahead of her peers, she is lagging socially. I don't know if more play dates earlier would have helped, but I think it is possible. It is also true that other families have established routines for playdates, and have families with which they have them regularly, and it has been hard for us to become part of this network.

I wouldn't try to revamp your life completely, but if you can manage a playdate a month now, it might be helpful later. Good luck! Lisa

I don't think you are being selfish. I know many families who would not do anything with other families on weekends but only the nuclear family. The only problem with this is if your child wants a playdate with a child of a fulltime mom - then there are few options. Having said that, most children don't ''ask'' for playdates at 3 1/2, and preschool several days a week can be enough socialization. Most moms are doing playdates for themselves at this age, or (like me) wanted their child to get to know other children in a one-on-one situation to help them with the socializing at preschool. I HAVE found that at 4 years and older the playdates with other children provide a richness in imaginative play that parents can't or usually are not as good at providing. It can also be tiring for parents to play dolls for 2 hours - but another child is perfectly happy to do so. The long and short is playdates are most beneficial for the child at 4 and older. Anon

I have a very sociable 5-year-old in her last year of preschool. She has an older brother who is equally outgoing and he has a very active social life--his friends from our local elementary school often come over to play after school or he goes over to their houses. My poor daughter has been seeing all this social activity and is extremely envious. She is dying to have friends over.

I have approached several parents at her preschool about playdates. I always offer to have the child over to our house after school or on weekends (whatever is convenient for the parents), invite the parent to stay and chat if that's what they would like to do. They are also free to take advantage of the ''down time'' to do stuff they need to. I never invite people over with the expectation that they will reciprocate because we have a lot of single parents at our preschool who work full-time. If my daughter does get a return invite, I'm delighted but it's not essential.

Most parents are delighted to be asked and many say yes. Some graciously decline. I hope they don't feel put out by these overtures but I'm only trying to accommodate my daughter's wishes (when possible) to form friendships outside of school.

I also enjoy getting to know other parents because I work part-time out of my home and it's very isolating because it's just me and the computer.

I think playdates add a richness to a child's life that it's hard to get in other ways. Kids also get to see other homes and how other people live. It's fascinating for them. Also, we don't have any extended family in the area so we don't have grandparents or cousins who want to spend weekends with the kids. If we had more family in the area, I might feel differently.

I would encourage all parents to be flexible and evaluate playdate requests on a case-by-case basis. If you like the parent who is asking and your child has developed a bond with their child, it's a great way to get to know other families. mom of sociable daughter

Ok, I had to chime in. I agree with the very last post, only, about the purpose of a''playdate.'' My daughter is 4 1/2 y.o and didn't start having playdates with her friends until she was almost four (before that, she and I would get together with my friends and their kids, but I didn't consider these playdates as the kids may or may not have been interested in each other. In fact, I had not even heard of playdates happening for kids before that age.) At any rate, as the other poster stated, playdates for kids one on one or so beneficial to their sense of creativity and imagination, and yes they are developing relationships that can boost their ability to socialize and function well in school. As a parent of a child in a co-op, I often see that the kids who have socialization outside of the school, often fair better in school (this doesn't have to be limited to playdates, though--we have playgroups, too), but also certainly has to do with age as well. The 3 y.o. are still very much into playing independently and the 4 y.o. are all about there friendships.

I, generally speaking, let my kid and her friends request the playdates (it's not usually the parents, unless the child is asking the parent to ask me). But this happens pretty frequently (1 or 2 times a week) and I try to have playdates scheduled on days that my kid is not at school, so that she gets a chance to be social a little bit every day. I don't think it's ever too early for kids to learn how to be friends, to learn to play coopertively and well together, but I think it's not unusual for kids to not have ''playdates'' before the age of four, when it really benefits them, as the other poster stated, it's pretty rare that a parent can sit down and play with dolls for two hours. I don't recall what age your child is but I wouldn't worry about not doing it too much, unless of course your child is asking for it. But don't underestimate the value of children playing one on one. Not only is it enriching for them emotionally and intillectually, they are learning values, such as ''sharing'' and conflict resolution (with your guidence) that can only be learned with practice (not just preaching) that might not get the attention they deserve in a school environment. Fan of Playdates

we have a 4.25 y.o. and my husband and i both work full time. Like others, playdates don't fit into our schedule well, as we enjoy our weekend time to do things as a family. That being said, we have enjoyed a few playdates over the last year - i think we are up to 8 between our house and theirs. Only a few have been on regular weekends, most have been during breaks from preschool(3-day weekends or weeks when school is closed). I see value in them for a few reasons (again occasional use, not frequent): 1. i see how my son interacts with another child, how he shares, his response to kid-stimuli (vs. adult). 2. he plays with toys that i never see him touch. 3. when he comes back from someone else's house, he has observed things about others that i really like (for ex: he tells me that so and so shared his toys really nicely, and that they had yummy peanut butter and jelly for lunch. Since my son NEVER eats pb and j, that made me really happy). This provides excellent fodder for other discussions 'remember how nicely so and so shared, don't you want so and so to feel happy when he comes to your house.'' 'remember when you tried something new at at so and so's house/ you liked it alot!'' 4) i do get a small break -though I am always around to run interference, i can fold laundry etc. The babysitting, while not a primary intent, is a nice side benefit. We have had play dates with a 3 kids, mostly with one, as we have reached a stage with the other family that I feel comfortable watching her son and with her watching mine. the others, i will probably spend some more time with, but eventually will leave my son unattended there. Mostly we have playdates because my son asks to play with one or two kids, and that friendship is important to him. at 4, they begin to talk at school about what others are doing, and he knows that others are having playdates. Mostly though, he really wants to play with his best friends, and so we try to work it into our schedules occasionally. I don't think you are alone in not doing it, as it seems like most of the families in our preschool our occasional p-daters like we are.

hope another perpective helps. shahana

Arranging playdates for 5.5-year-old with Asbergers

April 2005

Hi. My 5.5 year old boy is HFA/aspergers and I myself have minimal social skills. If I work up the nerve to call the parents of other kids in his class, what if anything should I say to these parent of ''typical'' kids? What sort of things should the kids be doing on a playdate? I'm not very good at organizing activities and such (I also have 3.5 year old girl and an infant). thanks in advance, Karlyn

I'd like to suggest your child's teacher as a good source of advice on this. She/he could tell you who might be good to invite over -- who your son seems to connect with in class. You could also ask her/him what if anything in particular might be useful to tell the other child's parents in advance. As for what to do, you and your son could pick out a handful of activities in advance that might be fun to do (legos, a video, trucks, etc.) Talk about how the guest will get to help pick what to do. And plan with your son a fun snack -- always a key bonding activity! anne

Playdate mania in kindergarten

Jan 2005

My child just started Kindergarten in the Fall. It's an all day program and we're extremely happy there, except for one thing: we are constantly being bombarded with after school playdate requests. While I am most happy that my child is well-liked and sought after, we're a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of these requests. When I told one parent that it probably wouldn't work for us during the week, she cornered my sitter a few weeks later and asked her! Personally, I think it's already a long day for my child. To add more time on top of that seems a bit much. I think it's important for my child to have down time after school and on the weekends. Am I the only one who is experiencing this? What's the most polite and clear way to say ''No thanks?'' Overwhelmed

I feel the same way you do, to an extent. My daughter gets asked for playdates and begs me for them all the time. I just can't juggle it all. I do relent about once a week or so. Sometimes more often if our schedules permit. The hard part is that all the kids around her are having playdates, bonding, and creating friendships. You might want to compromise and pick one or two days a week that work best. That way you won't feel like you're on your heels all the time with these requests. You can just say that Tuesdays and Thursdays are best for you guys, or whatever. Or, you can ask a friend of hers over so you can control the tempo. anon

Boy, do I hear you! We have been struggling with this for 5 years, since my son is now in the 4th grade. We decided to limit playdates and birthday parties to one of each per week, if possible (with some flexibility). Some of it comes down to the fact that my son is very friendly and social, and I'm not as extroverted as he is. Also, I'm a firm believer in down-time at home. I think you should be able to talk to your child and come to an agreement to balance the needs of everyone in your family. This is the sort of stuff we talk about at our weekly family meetings. In terms of what to say if you don't want to do a playdate, I usually tell people we have other plans, or that this week is not convenient for us. This is true without going into gory details. Good luck!

I also have a social kindergartener. His teacher told me that playdates are an essential part of schooling, esp during those first years as kids grow more independent and confident. Our son's school is only half day, which helps. I'd suggest scheduling something once every other week, for 2 hours and see how that goes. This isn't a long time. If he does OK, try 3 hours. Give him the chance to decide who to invite. You don't want him feeling like he's the only (or one of the only) kids w/out playdates. Have fun! Lisa

hello, well, i must say it's a compliment that your son is being bombarded with playdate requests. it's a testament to other children's liking to his personality and temperament. i find that at this young age, playdates are often to satisfy the social agendas of parents. so if you don't feel like you are missing out in any way by not connecting your son with other classmates (or their parents) then i'd only do what you are comfortable doing! i completely agree with you that downtime for children is one of the most important things. life is so frenzied that quiet family time needs to be prioritized. however, if you or your son are feeling the need to connect, a nice way to connect is briefly at the park say, on a saturday morning, with 2 or 3 other friends and their families. but do as you feel comfortable. i'd say, your son is likeable and ''popular'' because you do prioritize this quiet time in your life as well as in his, which in turn makes him at peace with himself and enables him to interact with his world and peers likewise. bravo! i believe in quiet time too

I totally understand this playdate mania! It is the same at my daughter's school and I think playdates 3-5 times per week is too much for both of us. What I would suggest is setting aside one day a week for playdates and telling people that ''The only day we can really do playdates is Wednesdays. How about next Wed.?'' And if you really don't want to do a playdate with a particular person just say you already have plans that day. Also I often double (or triple) up kids on a particular playdate if I ''owe'' some playdates to several people -- I just have them all over at the same time. It is usually mayhem, but the kids have fun and my daughter can see all of her friends. Good luck!

We had the same issue last year when our daughter was in kindergarten. Our daughter was also in a full day kindergarten and in before/after care because my husband and I work. We got lots of invitations for after school playdates during the week. I always politely declined and said that we only do playdates on the weekends and tried to set something up for a weekend instead. Apparently lots of families do weekday playdates and I always felt like I was doing something ''wrong'' by declining, but it's what worked best for our family. We felt that our daughter benefited from being in aftercare and having her downtime there. Also, her school has enrichment classes in aftercare and she definitely loves and benefits from those classes. By the way, we don't have the issue anymore about being invited for weekday playdates because the kids she is in 1st grade with are the same ones she was in kindergarten with and the parents of her friends learned quickly that we don't do weekday playdates. It's a hard position to be in when the majority of families seem to do this, but we feel it has worked out best for our family. Lori

Playdates and different parenting styles

Nov 2004

I am looking for suggestions about helping my 3-year old son to understand fairness in the face of different parenting and discipline styles. The mother of one of his friends, with whom we have frequent playdates, has a totally different discipline style than my own, and I think it might be confusing him. For example, when the friend grabs toys or doesn't share, her mom waits for her to make the decision to give back the toy herself. This can often take a long time and leads to a lot of anguish and waiting on the part of the ''victim.'' I have much more of a zero tolerance policy regarding this kind of behavior, and often remove my son from the situation when he grabs or is the agressor toward another child. When the same consequence does not happen to his friend for similar behavior, I worry that he must feel like it is ok for her to do such things while it is not ok for him. (I could also be totally projecting my own issues onto him and he might not care a jot about it either way!) I don't have any judgment about this mother's style, but it is making me realize that this is probably something that happens throughout their lives; why does Johnny get to have a midnight curfew while mine is 10:00? Why can Joe eat candy but I can't? Luckily when they are older, you can just say, ''because that's how we do things at our house'' or explain your reasoning with them, but with a little one who is just figuring out how to behave socially, it's a tougher explanation. I could say, ''Susy's mom is very upset that she grabbed that toy from you and ruined your sandcastle, she just doesn't express her anger in the same way I do,'' but will he really understand that? Thanks for any thoughts on this matter. feeling inexperienced

My son at 3 understands the concept of ''different rules in different places.'' For example, it's OK to run inside the house at home, but not at preschool. Perhaps, if you can explain it in terms of different rules, it will be understandable (if not enjoyable). For example, ''At our house, the rule is if we fight over toys we have a time-out. At our friend's house the rule is, if we fight over toys, we need to decide to give the toy back and say we are sorry.'' Karen

I write to you not because I have a ''magic'' answer, but because I want you to know that I almost wrote the exact same post a week ago.

I, too, am a ''zero tolerance'' parent among MANY other parents who feel it is ok to let the kid's work it out. Just last week my 2.5 year old waited and waited for another kid to share and then finally came to me and said ''Mommy I'm sad. Can I have my pacifier?'' I found myself at a loss for words except to say, ''Mommy's sorry, but I don't think Johnny wants to share right now.'' What could I say if his Mom wouldn't step in and urge him to share? Your question really isn't about how to handle the specific situation, but more about how to explain to a child that different families have different rules, although I'd love to hear if people have anything specific to say about the subject of sharing and how much parents ought to intervene(at 2 and 3 yo).

I love your point about this theme rearing its head throughout a child's years, and I will enjoy reading the responses because I know when I was growing up the answer was ''because we said so OR we are not the Jones OR if Johnny jumped off a bridge would you do it too? End of discussion...So I could definitely use some more productive ways to generate dialogue around different parenting styles. Thanks for voicing my sentiments, Sign Me, In the same boat

I can definitely sympathize. Things that have worked for me in these situations: Addressing the kid directly and good-naturedly myself, ''Oh, it looks like you took that without asking for a turn. Why don't you give it back and try asking for a turn when he's done. Let's count to three and either you can give it back or I will (or the mom).'' And then you can say in an aside to the other mom-- ''Is that okay? (or, I hope that's okay.) I just want ___ to see a consistent approach when it's someone else on the aggressive end.'' Also if it involves physical aggression such as hitting or hair-pulling, I am in favor of immediately and gently stopping it and I think any mom can understand another mom not wanting to see her child hurt, no matter how much she wants to give her own child space to make her own right decision. I also think it's okay if it is a mild enough situation and you are uncomfortable jumping in, to just let it unfold with some commentary about it, as you have been doing-- ''It's never okay to grab a toy. They have a different way to give back the toy than we do, but her mommy's talking to her about it to make sure you get it back right away.'' Anyhow, that's my two cents. Hope it helps!

hello, i'd suggest speaking to the parent of your child's playdate to establish a few simple ''ground rules'' for sharing conflicts. for instance, if my son is playing with a toy and it is taken away, it ought to be returned to him until he is done playing) it makes things so much easier when those rules are consistent especiallly when you play frequently with a particular child. it does seem awfully unfair to your child to have to share more readily and not be shared with at the same time. if you don't feel that is an option, maybe you could find a more suitable litte friend for your child to play with -- one who has a parent who is more ''hands on''. maybe a friend from preschool, who likely understands the same consistent limits and rules as your child does. good luck

I was wondering if anybody knew at what age kids begin understanding the concept of sharing? I have a one-year-old and the one phrase I repeatedly hear at a playground is ''please share...''. Seems that sharing has become the politically correct thing to instruct your child to do if you want to keep your image intact. But, after all, in the ''real world'' nobody ''shares'' just because that's the polite thing to do. It may be unfortunate, but this is how things work. While I agree that curtesy, friendships, and other humanistic values should be emphasised, I am not sure to what extent toddlers should be constantly pushed to share things. Assuming no physical harm is done, shouldn't they learn to fend for themselves? anon

I don't have great advice for dealing with this situation in general, but one piece of advice I found useful when we had playdates at our house - let your child decide ahead of time if there are any items that are too ''special'' to share today. Put those away during the playdate time, with the understanding that toys that are out are available for your child and the guest to play with, while the ''special'' items will be out of play during that time. Nobody expects adults to share everything they own (imagine an adult guest just assuming that everyting in view is available to handle...!), yet we make the rule that a child must share every toy. Realize that what is considered ''special'' will change regularly, so ask each time. Sometimes, your child might feel that EVERYTHING is ''too special'' - then you can have the discussion about sharing with our friends, playing together with things, etc. anon

Weekend playdates - is 3-year-old missing out?

March 2004

Our 3 year old son is in a daycare center in SF from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 5 days a week. We also have a 9-month old son. On weekends, we tend to lay low - catch up on housework, cook some more interesting meals, go on outings up to Tilden or the local tot park, and sometimes visit grandparents. My husband is concerned that we should be organizing play dates for the older boy on the wknds. I just can't imagine ''scheduling'' something when getting through the routine of the day (feedings/meals, outfits, naps, toilet time, etc.) seems like such a huge accomplishment. Also - I feel like he gets lots of time with friends M-F, and it's okay to just hang out as a family on the weekends. All of this is complicated by the fact that his daycare buddies live in SF, and we live in the East Bay. (I am *not* willing to cross the Bay Bridge on weekends for a playdate.) Also, the only kids we know in the East Bay are through my Moms' Group - so the responsibility to do this would fall on me - not Dad. Is our kid ''missing out'' on something here by not having wknd play dates? Anon

Your 3 year-old needs every minute of the time he can get with you and your husband. Daycare more than covers the ''social'' aspects of his life, and even some stay home 3 year olds don't do play dates. In time it will be important for him to see you interact with his friends, but not yet.

I'm curious what your husband's logic is. By the way, I would be very careful NOT to assume the role of social secretary for your child, at your husbands request. If Dad thinks Junior needs playdates, Dad needs to set them up. Its good practice for staying involved with the child's life later. Heather

I would agree with you - he has plenty of time with friends during the week. Kids (and adults) need some ''nothing time'', both as a family and alone. When he's older he might want a special buddy over occasionally, or you might meet someone who lives closer. You didn't say what your husband's reasons were - did he have a best friend as age 3? Does he think your son needs one? You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again, but they do grow up fast, and just hanging out with your kids while they're still young is the best thing for everyone. Mom of 4yr old boy

Heavens, no! Keep your precious family time! He's getting plenty of social interaction, if he's with other kids 5 days a week. anon

It seems to me that, after daycare with his friends all week, your son might appreciate a little down time with you and your husband. I wouldn't get too stressed out about providing play dates on top of that. Kids who don't attend daycare or preschool might have more of a need for playdates but in your situation I wouldn't worry about it at all. I don't think I ever had them as a kid and I consider myself a well-adjusted adult. anonymous

I think the only thing your child would be missing out on is time with the family. You are right. He gets enough opportunity to socialize with kids at daycare. It sounds like your husband might have other issues like not enough alone time with mentioned a 9-month old...I imagine that you are incredably busy with him even in the hours that your other child is home with you. Do you have a regular ''date night'' with your husband, or even just an hour or two each night after the kids are in bed that the two of you are alone? You don't mention any of this so I am wondering if this is not the problem....ask him! anon

I have a 5 year old and a 3 year old who are also in daycare/school. I also stressed out about play dates when my 5 year old was younger. I came to realize that they get an abundance of interraction and are forming bonds at daycare. On weekends, spending some alone time with the family is enjoyed by the kids. If you want them to have social interraction continue to bring them to the park and other public places. Remember, kids do need some down time - learning how to play by themselves and relax is a skill they will also use into adulthood. Soon the siblings will begin playing together and the will have a built-in playdate at home. When I was a kid Sundays were ''family days''. This did annoy me growing up but I also have great memories of those days. sandy

No, I think you're right about your son's weekends--he doesn't need playdates. It sounds like his weekdays are filled with daycare--friends, activities, a schedule...the weekends should be down-time, with his family, in my opinion. I have a 4 and 2 year old who are NOT in preschool or daycare, and they love having time on the weekends to play with Daddy, who they only see for brief periods in the mornings and evenings during the week; they're with ME constantly--grocery shopping, going to parks, whatever. But I love the weekends, when we're all together, just doing ''nothing'', or being with our friends. The kids always seem busy, just playing, alone, with each other, or with us. I think it's very important to have that unscheduled, unstructured time to just be together as a family, and for them to hang out with their dad. Heidi

hi there, when my brother and i were growing up, weekends were spent only with family - i.e. with mom and dad. they both worked f/t so unless there was a special occasion on a weekend like a bday party, we spent sat/sun's just with mom and dad. i always thought that was special time and have fond memories of visiting museums and parks with them. i hope to do the same w/ my babies when thy are older since my husband and i work f/t. anon

Your son isn't missing out on socializing with other kids if he's in daycare all week. Perhaps your husband feels like you're missing out on something, but it's alot of work for something your son really gets all day. We're in a similar situation with our daughter, though her buddies aren't on the other side of a bridge, and I'd never give up my weekends for a playdate. The time is just too precious. The one thing we do on weekends is a Gymboree session so that I can see her socializing with other kids, but I have to admit, it's more for me than for her, so that I can see how she interacts. The rest of the weekend is spent playing with us at home, taking walks, doing chores and errands. She enjoys following us around for that kind of thing. Lori

Just the other day our 4-yr-old told me that she likes weekends because she gets to hang out with her moms (we are a 2-mom family). At 3 she had no interest in playdates. Now on some weekends she asks to have a friend over and when she's asked over to a friend's house she usually accepts. As far as I can tell, she found out about the playdate concept at preschool and expressed an interest when she was ready to explore it. So my advice would be to let your son take the lead on the playdate issue. Teresa

For another viewpoint on the playdates issue...depending on the child, the ''quality'' of the social time at preschool may be different than for playdates...playdates give a child an opportunity for uncluttered one-on-one time with another child to maintain/start a friendship...I do these specifically to give my child the opportunity for ''higher quality'' time with another child. Anon

Starting playdates - should I invite the parents to stay?

May 2003

My son has been attending preschool for about 3 months and would like to have play dates with a few of the kids (individually, that is). The kids are lovely and I'm totally game - the question is - how do I frame it with the parents? Do I ask them to ''visit'' while our children play or do I somehow give them options about staying or leaving? It feels a bit awkward - but if roles were reversed, I'd rather stay and visit while my child played in a house neither of us have been to before. I'd love to hear how other people have experienced this. Thanks!

You said that you'd rather stay and visit with the parent(s) while your child plays in a house neither of you have been to before, but don't know what you're supposed to do. This is one of those issues where your inclinations and preferences matter more than what anyone else does. You will be presented with choices that challenge your comfort level and experience until your child moves out of your home. YOU must establish your own rules. You are this child's parent. Until you know the other people well enough to have a reason to really trust them with your precious child, then you need to do whatever works for you. Don't worry about whether or not they would make the same choice or if they might not really like you if you don't just hand your kid over to them. Your family has to come first. A mother bear who is more protective than many - and less than others

I ask parents for a playdate and always invite them to stay. Some do, and suprisingly some don't. I always stay for at least the first 2 playdates (even when I'm not asked)- I like to see the home to make sure it's safe. I like to get a sense of how well the mom watches the children (I have heard some real horror stories) and how she speaks to and manages the children (esp. in conflict resolution). I like to get to know the mom so I have a sense of the family's values and priorities. I also like to observe the children and their interactions, and make sure this is a healthy friendship worth developing. If an older sibling is around I also like to observe them and how they get along with their brother/sister and my child. I guess I am over protective but my child is the thing most precious to me and I do not think it is unreasonable to make sure she is safe on all levels. anon

What is a playdate? 2&3 year-olds and a nanny

April 2003

What exactly is a playdate? Does it mean that your child goes over to another kid's house to play (without you)? Or does it mean that you and your child go together to another family's house? Or does it depend on the age of the child? And how does this work when there is a nanny involved? Is the nanny expected to babysit for the other child for free? The reason I'm asking is because when my neighbor says ''My little Johnnie would like a playdate with your little Stevie'' she means that she wants to send Johnnie (age 3) over for a couple of hours while she runs errands. But when my little Stevie (age 2) has a ''playdate'' at her house, I am expected to come too. I work full time, she is a stay-at-home mom, so maybe it's something I just don't get about stay-at-home. neighbor

It depends on the children involved and their tempraments, but for children as young as you describe I think a playdate should always involve a parent or caregiver for each kid. My older son, now seven, didn't start having playdates without me until he was at least four and a half. After that, whether I came too really depended on my level of friendship with the other parents involved. Even now, he has a few friends with whom, for one reason or another we have ''family'' play dates. I have never sent my 2 year old on a play date without me. If I'm not there it's because the other mom and I have explicitly agreed to exchange babysitting (usually for a brief time) and have worked out some kind of swap.

When there is a nanny involved, the nanny and his/her employer need to reach an agreement about whether and how often the nanny will look after another child. No one I know pays their nanny extra for occasional playdates, but I'm thinking of my older son's friends (I think the age of the kids makes a huge difference -- two seven year olds playing with legos or whatever need a very different level of supervision than a three year old and a two year old). When the now seven year old was in pre-school, he only had playdates if his nanny and the other child's nanny or parent was present. Even with older kids, the key word is ''occasional'' though. I can imagine a situation, especially with preschool age children, where if another child was over for frequent and lengthy periods of time, it might look more like a babysitting share than a playdate and additional pay for the nanny (by the other child's parent) might be appropriate. If you are the employer, the most important thing is to be sure that it's okay with your nanny and that s/he doesn't feel imposed upon. On top of that, I have a very active two year old boy and I would not want my nanny looking after another child along with him.

It sounds like your neighbor is taking advantage of you for some free babysitting and you need to be up front and tell her you would prefer it if she stays to visit when her child comes over. For the record, I spent five years as a working mom and am now about to hit my third year as a stay-at-home, and no, her being a stay at home mom should not give her license to use you or your nanny as a babysitting service. Karen

A playdate for me is when I take my little guy to someone's house to play, and I stay, or when someone else comes here. In any case, there's a parent with each child. I've never dealt with a playdate when there's a nanny; I would assume that if you leave a child with a nanny you pay her, and there should be an arrangement for that. anon

I'm a stay-at-home that does some limited p/t work. My child is just about two and a playdate means I come along, unless it is explicitly stated that I'm not, and then we call it babysitting. I do a playdate/babysitting exchange with a friend, whereas one morning a week she watches my child with hers, and then I watch the kids a different morning. BTW, when a friend with a nanny has offered to take my child, it's understood that I would help with the cost. Taking care of two children costs more than taking care of one, and it would be unfair to expect the friend to take on the cost. If I decide to take the kids to the zoo, or a drop-in class, etc., I cover the cost, with the understanding that it all evens out when my friend watches 'em. Hope this is helpful. anon

Playdates can be any of those things... but it sounds like your neighbor is taking advantage of you. I would say for young children (4 and under) it is expected for the parent to come over and stay with the child unless the child is specifically invited alone.

If she wants to send her child over without coming herself, she is asking you to babysit for her. Not a problem if you're willing and she's willing to reciprocate! If she sends her child over and your paid nanny is there, you need to get permission from your nanny first, and then your neighbor should pay your nanny extra for the double babysitting time.

I don't think it has to do with her being a stay-at-home mom; I think she is just selfish (and you are letting her get away with it!). mom who tries to be fair

Is my 4-year-old deprived? She's had no play dates

June 2003

My daughter is about to turn 4. She has been in preschool for a year now, while I work part-time. Usually, after I pick her up from school, I take her to one of her sports or dance classes. This has been very fun for her, but the one thing she has been missing out on all of this time are play dates at her home and other kids' homes. She sees kids in school, but not much after school or out of class. I've started to realize that this seems to be unusual, and that most of the kids in her preschool class are going to each other's houses for play dates a lot, and I think I have been unintentionally leaving her out of that.

I have two questions:
1) How many play dates are your 4-year olds doing, approx? One or more per week? More or less? Has my daughter been unfairly deprived all of this time, having only occasional play dates (one or two per month or less)?
2) What do you do on play dates at this age? My girl is a bit of a tomboy. Going to the park is fun, but the point is to see and be in each other's houses.

How do you keep two kids at this active, smart age engaged for two hours in your home? I appreciate your recommendations!
A well-intending mom

Please don't worry about this issue. I can assure you that as she gets older, she'll start asking if she can go over to other kid's houses or if she can have so-and-so over to her house. You've got plenty of time.

In my experience, playdates at this age serve 2 purposes:
(1) socialization skills for the kids--If a child is having difficulty getting along with the other kids in preschool, sometimes having a closer relationship with another child helps to ''break the ice''.
(2) socialization for lonely moms--I am the full-time mom of 2 and am sometimes starved for adult conversation so occasionally plan outings with other moms and their kids so I will have another grownup to talk with while my son or daughter play with the other kids.

You are already juggling working part-time, getting to and from preschool plus sports and dance classes so give yourself a pat on the back for the terrific job you are doing and don't worry about the rest. Sharon

i have a four year old boy and is in pre school five morning a week, he will have a playdate if lucky probably every 2nd week, he goes to gymnastics, and karete and a french class there is not much time and we do the park on weekends aisha

If your child is deprived, mine is too. He hasn't had very many playdates bcs I am at work in the afternoons. Although I would be happy to have kids from his preschool over to play, I don't think other moms really want to ''play'' with my sitter, so I haven't asked any. No one has invited him over to their house either. He asks to go over to other kids' houses but I don't feel like I can call up other moms and ask if he can come to play at their house! I am assuming that the problem will solve itself when he gets older and he and his friends are more independent, so the fact that I don't have mom friends won't preclude him from having a social life. I hope so, anyway! Fran

Our daughter (who recently turned 5) does 1 or 2 playdates a week. I feel like it;s the playdates that really got her stated on learning how to make friends and be a friend. I found the kids mostly entertain themselves, but when it looked like they needed some adult guidance, I'd suggest we all (me included) make cookies, do an art project, or play a board game like shoots and ladders. She's also a 'tomboy', and pretty wild. With some kids a trip to the park worked well, but only if they had similar energy levels. Another super fun activity was to throw them in the bath tub (great after a messy outdoor activity) and give them plenty of bath toys. Karen

I suspect there is quite a range in the number of playdates at this age. I think to a large extent it depends on the child. Some children seem to thrive on a lot of social activity, while for others school is plenty and what they need is down time alone at home. Don't think that just because other kids may have been on playdates that you have been depriving your child. I'm sure that the time and attention she has received from you have been wonderful for her. You might find you get different answers from moms who work outside of the home and from those who don't. Because I work full time, my nanny is always looking for ways to amuse the kids. And it is more fun for her to get together with another nanny. That is not to say that SAHMs don't have similar arrangements. I just suspect that many have very full days and may not have as much time to run around to other people's houses. With all that said (which doesn't really answer your question :-) ), I can tell you that my four-year-old daughter attends preschool four days a week and probably has 3-4 playdates during the week, plus 1-2 on the weekends (with me). I have no idea if this is typical; I do know that if I haven't planned anything for the weekend, she will whine and complain. She seems to crave a lot of time with her friends. Some of those playdates are at our house (we have a backyard for running around), some are at the park, some are places like the Zoo (we are members, so we go a lot). At home, the kids play dress- up/pretend a lot, play with our dollhouse, or just run around. It doesn't seem hard at all to keep them occupied, in fact at this age it is easier to entertain two than one. And with kids they know, in houses they know, four is old enough to have ''drop off'' dates. You can then take turns with another mom and get a break for yourself. Of course, many of my friends have kids the same age as my daughter and I look forward to her playdates as social time for me! Stephanie

4-year-old refuses to go - what to say to the other mom?

September 2003

My four year old daughter normally loves to go to other kids' houses to play. But one day after going to a certain school mate's house, my daughter told me that she felt ''nervous'' there and didn't want to go again. When I asked for specifics, she said that her friend wanted her to unroll the toilet paper and she thought she was going to get in trouble. Since normally, unrolling the toilet paper all over the bathroom would not be something my daughter would be adverse to, I think it must be more than this. Since that first time, the mother has called repeatedly and asked if my daughter would come over and play again. My daughter still refuses to go and frankly, I don't want her to considering her feelings. But I don't know what to say to the other mother. I don't want to keep lying and telling her my daugher is busy which I have said so far. I can't tell the mother that my daughter doesn't like play dates because the mother see's my daughter going to other kid's houses to play. But I feel like telling her the truth will really hurt her feelings and since I don't really have specifics, I don't know how helpful it will be to her to hear about my daughter's reluctance to play at her house. My daughter likes the other girl to play at our house, but doesn't want to to to her house. Does anyone have any advice for me? I think I am looking for a solution that can be helpful to both of us and I'm not sure what that is.
concerned parent

If I were the other mom, I wouldn't mind at all if you approached me in a very gentle, concerned fashion to explain that your daughter has said she is nerbous about going over to my house. You could explain that you haven't figured out any concrete reason, although I wouldn't hesitate to ask her if any thing may have happened to make your daughter nervous. THen perhaps you could do playdates with the mom and the other girl away from their house - at a playground for example, where you can really see how they both interact with your daughter. If that goes well, then maybe leaving the playground to have a snack at their house with you there will help your daughter feel more comfortable or help you figure out why she might feel uncomfortable. At least you would develop a closer relationship with this school friend and her family by being a part of the playdate. As the other mom, I wouldn't feel offended at all if you asked to come along, especially if you explained that your daughter had asked you to join her. Jen

I would definitely just be honest with the mother. Let her know that your daughter is reluctant for some reason to go back to her house and ask if she can remember anything that may be the cause of this - not in accusatory way, just in a ''I don't understand this, do you?'' way. If she can think of a possible reason, then you can address this directly with your child and perhaps help her get past it. If not, then at least you will not regularly be forced to make up some excuse when she invites your daughter over. I am quite sure that I would rather you were honest with me if the roles were reversed. Burr

If your daughter likes the other child, you can honor her request not to go to the house alone by either going with her or suggesting that you meet the other child and/or parent on some neutral ground, like at a park, for a hike or other activity outside of the house. I have never run into a situation where my child specifically asked not to go to someone's house, but I do have houses I am less comfortable with because of pets, problems with sharing and territoriality etc and I find this ''neutral ground'' solution helpful in preserving the friendship but eliminating some of the problems. cabernard

My son is 3 (I don't know how much of a difference age will play in this situation), but he will come home and say, ''X isn't my friend anymore,'' or ''Y isn't my friend anymore.'' It changes constantly, but most of the time it isn't a serious rift, although he does seem to say he doesn't like to play with one preschool classmate more often than not. I don't think you would be compromising yourself and I wouldn't think the mother would be devastated if you simply say that your child has said she is not interested in playing with her daughter. You can be light about this if you say that you've heard that a lot of kids go through this phase and you're sure she'll grow out of it, but until then you're just honoring her request. I know that if a mother told me that about my son, I'd totally understand because when I pick my son up at preschool in the afternoons I hang around for a while and watch the dynamics between the kids. My son and another girl are quite close, but as her mother observed, they have a ''love/hate'' relationship. I think the mother's reaction will be helped by a cheerful delivery. I hope that helps! Patty

Why not just be honest with the friend's mother? You don't really know what made your daughter feel uncomfortable but I would trust your daughter's instincts. It is not offensive to tell a grown-up that a 4 year old is feeling uneasy about being in someone else's house. If the mother is OK with her daughter visiting your home and your daughter actually wants to play with this girl, then you have nothing to lose. If the mother does take offense, you still have nothing to lose - what kind of friendship is that if she can't be sensitive to a four year old's feelings or concerns? anon

I'm wondering if it would be a solution for you to go with your four year old to the play date and stay while she plays (either for the whole time, or at least to get her started). My, now 5 year old, is often reluctant to go to people's houses by herself, and to know that I am there makes it fun for her. She has the security of having Mom in the house, should she need her, and she can play with her friend. I always explain that this is something my daughter needs, and I tell the hostess mother that she doesn't need to entertain me (I can bring a book). This is perhaps for different reasons than your daughter, but I think it is not at all unusual for a four year old to become reluctant for some (unknown) reason. Hopefully with some of your joint visits (If you think this would help) she would feel comfortable again going there alone. I would explain to the other mother what is going on. I'm not sure why you think it would hurt her feelings. Most likely it has nothing to do with the mother, would be able to understand that something is going on with your daughter (a phase?) and that you are trying to find ways to overcome it. Good luck. Anon.

2nd grade bully keeps inviting my son for a playdate

Nov 2002

Our son is in the second grade and has been feeling very down because his best friend in school and another friend have been excluding him, being mean to him (verbally), and have been doing some very passive-aggressive stuff. One boy in particular seems to be the ring-leader, and the other boy simply goes along with it. Our son does not even want to go to school now, because of his fear of what is going to happen each day. The problem is that the ring-leader's mom wants her son to play with my son outside of school, wants them to be friends, and has even arranged play-dates for them. I have told her, gently, what has been going on, and she always has an excuse as to why her son acts this way, and thinks my son should ''understand.'' Do I tell her flat-out that my son does not want to have a playdate with her son and to quit asking? Our kids go to a small school in Berkeley, and I don't want things to be uncomfortable with the parents, but my son really does not want to go to this boy's house or to have playdates with him. The mother has started asking when they can get together. Is honesty really the best policy? Overprotective Mom

I would tell the mother of the bully that your son will have a play date with her son when he starts treating him like a friend. This is your son's social life, not yours. He shouldn't have to have play dates with people he doesn't like because you want to get along with the other parents. I'm sure you can tell her in a friendly and straight forward way that her son isn't very nice to your son and he doesn't want a play date. I would also tell the teacher. If he has a good teacher, she can address issues of friendship and respect in the class without pinpointing anyone. I was a teacher for 15 years and I know that a teacher can influence what children consider to be valuable characteristics in themselves and others. Danielle

Too many playdates?

Sept 2002

I haven't seen anything in the web log concerning this issue. My elementary-aged child is reasonably popular, and is invited to lots of playdates and birthday parties. I find that our social schedule pretty much revolves around him and his various lessons, playdates, and parties. I want him to have a good time with his friends, but I feel like his schedule is too much for our family! My partner and I both work, and our lives feel so hectic. I feel bad because my younger child is getting short shrift in terms of lessons and playdates, but I hate to add yet another child's events to our incredibly busy family schedule. Both kids go to school, so they see other kids then, and they play well together, and have a standing playdate once a week with a good family friend.

Many of the folks who invite my kids have only children, and only one of my children is invited to their house. I feel it is important to reciprocate playdates. What this means is that when their child comes to our house, they have free babysitting, whereas when my child goes to the other house, I have to entertain my other child.

Please don't get me wrong: I want my children to have healthy social lives with other children! But nowadays playdates involve driving kids across town, coordinating schedules, etc. I really want to simplify our lives. I've already limited each child to one birthday party per weekend. What do others feel is a reasonable number of playdates per week? And do folks have nice ways of expressing this when turning down invitations? I would really appreciate hearing from others about how you balance your families' lives. anonymous

We too had this problem and felt that our kids' social life was starting to impact our family life! Birthday parties every weekend was just too much for all of us. We came to the decision that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We realized that it is okay to say no and have since begun limiting birthday party attendance unless it is a good friend. We had our first birthday partyless/playdate w/e and it was fun. anon

That's just wonderful that your children are so socially accepted and you have more than enough playdates and parties to go to. The difficult part is just where to draw the line on whose party or playdate to go to without hurting the feelings of those whose invitations you have to decline. I don't have this situation most of the time about too many playdates or parties. Because of that, we always accept party invitations unless we have a previous commitment.

One part of your letter I need to address is your slightly resentful feeling that it is inequitable to have one of your two children away at a playdate while you have to entertain your other child. You say that many of your son's friends are only children so that means the other parents are child free and get ''free babysitting'' when you take their child. It feels that way, but it is in fact equitable since it's a one on one trade of playdates; you just happen to have one more kid than they. It would be nice if both of your kids could go, but that playdate is primarily time for those two friends to spend. Perhaps you can arrange a simultaneous playdate for your other child, get a sitter for him or just look at it as a way for one on one time. I used to feel similar to you. I have three kids, so just having less kids around is a break enough. Also, it's often easier when a playdate friend over. While the kids are playing together, I could do a little something (clean house, cook meal, read, watch TV, etc.)here.

The number of playdates depends on the child. Some can have playdates every day. Others need some down time between parties and friends. Sounds like you need less while you kids are fine with lots of social activity. Could that also be differences in parent and child personalities? For example, my friend, who is shy, has a very outgoing daughter. I hope that you can find that balance of time for your family. Anon

9-year-old's friends cancel at the last minute

December 1996

Hi All: I have a nine-year-old boy who likes to have friends over. Unfortunately, many of the families of his friends are very busy and we end up getting shafted at the last minute (thinking we have a play date arranged, then the kids can't make it). My boy is an only child and is crushed when this happens. And this happens a lot. I am wondering what else is going on. When his friends are over, they seem to get along just fine.

For me, I am aghast. I would think that parents would love to have a standing Sunday afternoon babysitter (which is what I am offering -- up to three hours on a Sunday afternoon). My boy has video games and toys, and there are parks nearby where I can take them. What I get out of this is a happier kid. What the other parents get is some free time. I don't even ask for reciprocation. So why don't they bite? Am I nuts?

Anyone have any ideas? I usually use the time on Sunday when my boy does have a friend over to just do my chores around the house, so I am there if they need me, but not in their hair. Looking forward to your advice.

This is a response to Carol, who expressed dismay at the many play dates which are broken at the last minute. I think this is simply a reflection of the times. A play date which is arranged on Thursday is very likely to be cancelled on Sunday when the family spontaneously decides to go somewhere. I don't think it's anything personal--Sunday may be the only day when the family can do things together. If play dates were arranged for an afternoon during the week, this probably would not happen as often.

I know this must be tough for an only child. I have a friend (in her 40's) who is an only child. She still cries whenever visitors have to leave (though she waits until after they've gone).

Try offering yourself as a free babysitting service in the evening--I'll bet lots of parents would take you up on that one--trouble is, you might end up with 3 or 4 kids to watch instead of just 2.

Hope this helps. Liz

First, I am also a single parent with a single child and we went through something very like this the first year or so my son was in school. Specifically, his best friend had to start wearing glasses, but kept losing them. At least three times, in a row, we were all set to have this kid over to spend Friday night with us, had all sorts of things planned, when the kid lost his glasses on Friday and for punishment his family cancelled the overnight (which also punished my son). My son was crushed and I was pretty disappointed too. Other times we have tried to set up dates with other kids from school, only to have them not show up, or not return calls or something.

My only advice is you have to keep trying and you will eventually find at least one or two families that are reliable in this regard, hopefully with kids your kid wants to play with. For these other unreliable folks, you will be lucky if you can get most of those kids to show up for your son's birthday party. I guess some people are just far more casual about this than others. In general, other families with just one kid are usually looking for a break and will be more dependable about showing up. When there are many kids in a family, the parents have many more demands on their time, including just chauffering the kids around, and they don't get that much of a break, anyway, with just one kid being gone.

Good luck. Dianna

I suspect at least part of the problem you're having may be related to your offer being for up to three hours. While I make every effort to get my kids to all parties, visits, & whatevers, with three kids going in a multitude of directions every weekend it can be very difficult to make all the connections work. One of the things that makes this particularly difficult is short windows for any one activity--including 2-3 hour birthday parties & play sessions. You may find other parents more appreciative of the free babysitting if you were to stretch out the play sessions to a whole afternoon, say 12:00 to 5:00. This would give the other parents more time to actually put the free time to good use.

Another thing I've noticed is that kids sometimes just loose enthusiasm for visiting a particular friend or going on visits in general. Regretfully, many kids don't seem to understand that they can say no when the invitation is issued, so they say yes but balk when it comes time to go. My daughter went through a phase like this that was a real problem until we changed the way we deal with invitations: we no longer discuss the invitation with the other party on the phone, which created pressure on my daughter to say yes even if she wasn't interested. We now get off the phone, discuss it for a few minutes, and call right back with an answer. Maybe you could work in a suggestion to this effect when making the invitation, particularly to those families that have disappointed before?


One big benefit to having older kids is they can get to their friends' houses on their own and you don't have to negotiate with the adults. Here are my thoughts:
1. Sunday
For working parents, Sunday may be the only day they have together with their kids. Saturdays are errands and chores. So Sundays if the weather is nice parents might plan an outing at the last minute despite previous plans. I don't want to say I'd cancel out a planned play date at the last minute; I'd probably invite the playmate to come along too, but doing something with the family takes precedence over doing something with friends.
2. Flakey parents and chaotic schedules
My kid's best friend K-3 was a really sweet kid with a really sweet incredibly flakey mom. She would space out play dates about half the time. Or she and her husband would get mixed up about who was coming to pick up the kid. It would be 3 or 4 hours after the agreed upon time and they'd both be unreachable, off running errands thinking the other one was coming to get little X. They had 3 kids though, all of whom had 8 or 10 outside activities so the parents were forever driving kids around all over town. It's a wonder they never lost any of them.

Maybe you just have to bite the bullet and wait till your son hooks up with a buddy who has more reliable parents. Or maybe you can find a parent you like and then create a friendship between the 2 kids.

To Carol who was having trouble with play dates getting broken: For me, I work alot during the week and attend various meetings and activities on weeknights. We (mother, father and 2 yr old brother) want to spend time with my 7 yr old on the weekends as much as his friends do. Saturdays he tends to go to a friend's or have one over but Sundays are our 'family day' where we usually expect him to hang out with us unless something special (i.e., birthday party) is happening.

If people are saying yes to a playdate and then breaking it later, maybe you are coming on too strong when asking and they feel they can't say no. Also, whenever my son goes to a friend's house, they usually are very appreciate and thank my son for coming to play, they don't make it seem that they are doing me a favor. Maybe your son just happens to have friends with very busy parents or tends to pick out the popular kids to ask over. Try finding a kid that's new to the area/school or one that doesn't have as many friends. Good Luck.

I am really sorry to hear about your son's friends not keeping their play dates at the last minute.

My suggestions:

1. Try to invite friends who are also the only child in their family -- their parents are usually more eager to have a playmate for their kid and therefore will be more willing to shuffle their schedules.

2. Try to avoid weekends. When both parents work, weekends is about the only time the families can do things together. Sometimes it is hard to work the schedules around a date. However, I must say if a parent makes a date for a child, he/should keep it, or at least not wait until the last minute to cancel it. A better time to invite friends over would be on weekdays right after school.

I have two children myself, and both my husband and I work. I only invite friends over for my kids during holdiay breaks. And, when I do it, I have to invite one for each kid, otherwise the one without a friend will feel left out. There is quite a bit of logistics involved. Usually, those kids who have no siblings are more accommodating.

I hope this helps. Annie