Play Date Etiquette
What to do when your house rules for your kids are different from the hosting parents' and other sticky playdate problems, solved
The Sitch: You have strict TV limits at home. Is it OK to ask other parents not to allow the kids to veg out in front of the tube or video-game screen?
The Solution: Either turn down playdates at houses where the TV always seems to be on or—more sensibly— keep your lip zipped and let your child go. “If you make a request about the television, it will sound judgmental,” says Paone. “Besides, it’s not like you’re sending your kid over there every day, and part of letting him grow up a little is releasing some control.” If you really object, rather than saying so outright, you can hint around, like Sandra Pierce* of New York City does. “I’ll say something beforehand to the mom about how nice it is outside and how my sons really love to play football in the yard,” she confesses. Or offer to host at your place, as Phil Corwin of Bellmore, NY, does. “I can’t dictate to other parents, but I can make them happy. Most parents are more than happy to dump their kid at your place.” Well said, Dad!
The Sitch: Your 12-yearold loves to play Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on his Xbox. You’re OK with it (you blasted plenty of Space Invaders as a tween) but you’re nervous about letting his pals play, since it’s rated Mature and contains violence. (Fun violence, but violence.)
The Solution: Find out if the guest has the game himself. If he does, problem solved. If not, ask what his family rules are and make your decision based on that. You can always edit your kid’s video titles the night before the playdate. That way, your child won’t lose face when Mom heeds her own Call of Duty and confiscates the game in front of his friend. Explain why you’re doing it, so he (hopefully) understands.
The Sitch: You’re a gay parent, but not everyone knows it. When someone asks about your wife or husband, will your answer cost your kid pals?
The Solution: Mitch*, a Manhattan dad who has an 8-year-old son with his partner and runs the blog gaynycdad.com, offers a humorous response: “I reply ‘I am the wife!’ The other parent can ask me more if she wants,” he laughs. Of course, some gay parents prefer to be more circumspect. If your partner isn’t around, you can just say “I don’t have a wife” or “My partner is at work, yes,” says Susan Callender, an etiquette expert at the Bean City Kids program at the Boston Center for Adult Education. If your significant other will be home, though, advise the other parent in advance, she adds. Some families still may not feel comfortable letting their child come over. No one’s saying that’s right— with 8 million to 10 million kids in the U.S. being raised by gay adults, that’s a lot of small-minded snubbing to do—but as parents, they have that right. You may lose their friendship, but you and your child will be fine.
The Sitch: A family has invited your child to go to a Justin Bieber concert with their kid. Should you pay for your kid’s ticket?
The Solution: If you can, offer the money, says Gaché. “Do it with a big smile and say ‘Thank you so much!’ so they’re not offended and think you’re doing it because you’re worried they can’t afford it,” she adds. They may insist they’re treating, and that’s fine. If things are tight at your house, send what you can and be sure to help your kid write a thank-you note later on. Try to host as soon as you can, too. Sharon Webb of Palm Springs, FL, told us on Facebook that when another mom treated her son to two Disney events in two days, she watched all her kids in return. We’re sure her son’s mom appreciated the reciprocity (and rest!).