Can we make a standard “is your house safe for my small human” form? When I meet my children’s new friend’s parents I am frequently probing them to see if I would feel comfortable leaving my children under their care. This may sound crazy, but I do not leave my kids with just anyone. Aside from the fact that this person is the guardian of another small human around my child’s age, I know next to nothing about them. They could be training lions in their garage or eating the souls of baby seals for all I know.
Now, I realize that not everyone harbors exotic and dangerous animals or eats souls, but how can you tell? I propose a parent questionnaire, similar to those used at speed dating. We all fill one out and then match up according to needs, wants, and preferences. Right?
I want to know if you are a suitable substitute for me in my absence, and watching you push your little one on the swing just isn’t enough. Yes, I could set up supervised play date but that feels like jumping into the deep end without a float. Once I arrive at your home I would feel pretty awkward doing a “nope” and heading home. Just proposing them makes me feel uncomfortable, like I am attending a birthday party for a cousin twice removed. Do I bring snacks? Should I have any games or toys planned out for us? It’s a real hornet’s nest of anxiety.
This leads into the big problem, I usually host the play dates at my house. I know this sounds like the ideal situation for a parent that is as overbearing as I am, but it creates a whole new set of stress. First, having a clean house and enough snacks for some extra kids. Second, storing enough energy to keep up with said extra children. Third, will the other parent be happy with the way I interact/feed/problem solve with their kiddo? Last, but not least, will my other children be healthy and cooperative on the day of said play date. Note, I have said nothing about the darn dogs that roam my house like crazed hyenas when kids are around.
I really need for some play to happen away from my house, and for my children to get the opportunity to see a small part of that scary outside world. To this date they have only had play opportunities at the homes of family. I am very lucky that I have wonderful and supportive family members that open up their homes to my children when I need a break. Recently they have been asking to go play at their classmates’ homes after school. They want to see the toys, games, backyard, etc. that their friends have at home. The conversation is similar to a description of Narnia or the Hundred Acre Wood whenever these friends are mentioned. I am fairly certain that one of my kids does not believe that other people have their own houses and possessions. That is another topic all to itself.
I feel it would be advantageous for them to experience the rules and interactions with other adults in order for them to learn respect and conflict resolution skills. I am fairly confident that they will not just take to calling another woman “mom” or make the demands of their friend’s dad that I receive at home. Building non-familial relationships with others seems like a life skill I do not want them to lack. But these skills require interaction with other humans whose lives we have just entered and whose thoughts I cannot read nor download. They also require my absence, which is a hard pill to swallow. I would need to trust that other person with the things I hold most dear. For that to be possible, communication must be established along with an exchange of pertinent information.
What type of information would make you feel better about these relationships and extra-ordinary interactions? Usually watching how the child interacts with their parent communicates a good deal about their discipline style and overall attitude about parenting. Watching to see what types of snacks they bring for their kid or making conversation about their favorite foods helps too. I do like to ask about allergies, both animal and food, before initiating the lets get together conversation.
But the big ones for me, that are more difficult to work into conversation:
Do you keep firearms in your home?
Are their other dangerous materials stored in areas to which the children have access?
Do you monitor the children while watching videos/using the internet?
What type of language do you use with and around your child?
Do you practice a religion that could become part of the conversations you have with or around my child?
Would you take my child out of your home and to another location without notifying me of the plan?
Would you feed my child if they stated they were hungry?
Will there be other persons present at your home whom I have not met?
How would you handle it if my child broke one of your rules?
What happens if my child is injured at your home or injures your child?
Is it cool to just throw these out there like a job interview? Maybe ask them what type of tree they would be for good measure? Seriously, this is a scary endeavor, and there are some messed up people in our world. I would like to believe that they exist in some odd other dimension, but that is not the case. Maybe we need liability waivers too, just to keep conversation light. For now I will remain steady in my path as host parent of the crazy kid fun palace, though someday I hope to feel comfortable having an afternoon to myself.
I would love your comments on this topic as this is really a work in progress and may warrant something of a series as I attempt to navigate these new waters.
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I am a highly opinionated and sassy mother of three and wife to one. I hope you enjoy reading about my efforts to tackle the infuriating obstacles of life using straight talk and humor. If I say it, I mean it, or maybe I am being sarcastic. I like to focus on topics from my everyday life: parenting, cooking, crocheting, and a whole list of other things that inspire my rage.