Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Play Date Panic

As my daughter Lily’s third birthday approached we received a barrage of party invitations. Although it does get expensive to buy birthday gift after gift, I found the parties to be a great way to meet the parents of her preschool classmates.

After several interactions with one of the mothers, Sylvia, we exchanged contact info.  This brought forth Lily’s first invitation for a play date.  As a first-time mother I’d never really given play dates a thought. Of course we have a few friends with kids who have been over but I could not imagine dropping the center of my universe off with strangers.  Panic set in. I wasn’t sure how to respond.

I decided to go with honesty. I explained to Sylvia that Lily had never been on a play date and that I was not current on play date protocol.  Surely I’m not expected to leave my baby at the home of (let’s face it) total strangers?  Thankfully, Sylvia totally understood. She set the expectations up front. Lily would be invited over for a few hours. I was expected to accompany her. My husband was invited to come as well.

The play date turned out perfect. The girls played nicely, had a great time, and I got to know Sylvia better.

The play date issue was a defining one for me as a parent.  It forced me to think long and hard about how I would handle such invitations going forward.  Just because Lily attends school with these children doesn’t mean I would agree with others’ parenting decisions.   Other issues such as safety (guns, weapons, unattended cleaning supplies or medications, inappropriate television, older-rougher siblings, and pets) are now on my radar.  I realize that I can’t keep my child in a bubble but I can, at age three, have a say in how and who she socializes with.

How do you handle these defining parenting issues?

Mindy Seals works in the information technology division at Texas Health Resources and is balancing work, married life and raising two kids.

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