Play date Etiquette 101 by Margaret Hart
Much has been blogged about play dates: from general etiquette to what to do in specific instances when, for example, a parent doesn’t offer to reimburse you for expenses above and beyond the norm for their child. I can never get enough on this subject. And maybe that’s because I am constantly arranging play dates for my son.
Whether we request a play time with a friend or we receive an invite, there is always at least three things to consider: timing, location, and trust. Timing seems to always be a challenge. One mom once wrote me an email that basically went something like this: “Timmy has baseball practice Tuesday and Thursday after school, swim team on Wednesday, and Chinese lessons on Monday. He’s free Friday. Can you drop your son off around 3:30pm?” Well, let me check my son’s calendar and I’ll get back to you. Are you kidding me? The sad truth is, this happens a lot.
Location is key because if it’s at your house, well, for one thing, you have to be home. You have to supervise. You need snacks. And it means you can’t take a nap. If the mom is a friend, and you know she’ll be staying for a while, you want your house to be relatively tidy. So now you have to clean.
Trust is a big one with me. If another adult is driving my child anywhere, I need to know something about them other than they are a parent and they have a driver’s license. I need to trust that they are good drivers, responsible, have strict rules about parking lot safety, etc. Beyond that, in general, I need to be comfortable that the other parent will supervise my child in a similar manner to my own. That’s a tough one. Some of my son’s friends have parents who work and nannies and caregivers that are too busy doing something else to notice that the kids are getting into trouble.
So how do you handle a request for a play date when one or more of these considerations does not get your internal green light? I’m sure I’m not alone in answering that we all make up little white lies. You certainly can’t tell another parent that you don’t trust their driving or that you are unsure about their supervisory skills. Or worse, that you don’t like the way they parent! So you tell them that your child is not available for a play date. And the classic line is: “Let’s look for another date.” Knowing full well that day will not likely come and if it does, it will have strict conditions.
And when your child gets invited to someone’s home for a play date, it is customary that you reciprocate, and invite that child to your house. The same goes for treating a child to a meal or a movie; you don’t ask for reimbursement, but if it’s offered you are pleased that the other parent was considerate. And you hope that the other parent will return the gesture at a future date. If that doesn’t happen at all, you reevaluate future play dates. No one likes to be taken advantage of.
All in all, play date etiquette basically follows the rules of good manners and good judgment. And listening to your “little voice”. Because if you are not comfortable with the parameters of the play date at the outset, chances are your child will sense it, and may not be comfortable either.