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Girl Talk: Germ Protection

Q. My friend and I have a weekly playdate. More than once, she's brought her toddler over and "forgotten" to tell me the child was sick. She loves getting out of the house, but it's not fair to my baby. How do I handle this?

A. You have a few options. First, you could stand at your door with your arms crossed, demanding that your buddy produce a doctor's note stating her child is not infectious before you allow her to enter. Second, you could stand at the door and see if the playmate looks sniffly, and if so, lie, saying your child is sick and can't play. Or third, you could simply pick up the phone and ask her how her kid feels before she brings her over. (Hint: I'd go with option number 3.)

Since this is a standing playdate, why not have a standing rule that you will call first? It shouldn't offend her, because it's a mutually beneficial rule (her toddler won't be exposed to your baby's germ-filled drool when he's feeling under the weather). And it shouldn't surprise her, because, as a mom, she knows full well that all plans  -- no matter how fun  -- are subject to change at a moment's notice.

Implementing the phone-call rule is the easy part. Agreeing on what warrants a cancellation is a little bit trickier. After all, one mom's cough is another mom's streptococcus. And if, as you say, she's desperate to get out of the house, she may tell you that her child has a "little sniffle," but fail to inform you about the fever that preceded it the night before.

You can't blame her. But you can ask her to be more specific. You might say that you heard "something was going around," and ask about her child's symptoms. From there, you need to use your best judgment. For example, if you've barely recovered from the last virus that felled your family, you should be prepared to politely beg off. How? By telling her that you've barely recovered from the last virus. Again, as a mom, she shouldn't be offended or surprised. If she is, then I'd say it's your friendship that isn't healthy.