My best friend was making plans at her door with the dad of her son's play date. The dad was sort of angling for a dinner invitation for his son, which she gladly agreed to, figuring she would cobble something kid-friendly together as she was on her way out.
And then just as he was closing the door, the dad said: "Don't forget we are Kosher, and my son is gluten-free. Shouldn't be a problem, though."
Except it is a problem. And it is a parent play date fail. There are unspoken guidelines for parents of play dates -- especially at the homes of families with multiple children.
Give me warning for restrictive diets: I am respectful of nut-free, Kosher, gluten-free, dairy-free, additive-free and whatever else you think is important. But not on a moment's notice. And remember what seems normal to you, may not be for other families. I can be very accommodating -- I will wash out the containers if your kid brings their own meal.
Don't expect me to monitor their play: I will get involved if there are tears or screaming or a risk of bodily harm but otherwise they are on their own. I'm lazy. And I philosophically believe that kids need to learn to work things out by themselves, plus I'm lazy. You can trust me not to park them in front of the TV. I may bring out the playdough in a moment of desperation, but not much else.
Say hi and leave: I know you first-timers are nervous to leave your kid or maybe you are lonely and want a friend. But I am not that friend, I have friends; they are the parents of my first-born. We were lonely and nervous together and we commiserated over jugs of coffee. Now, I look at a play date as a time for me to get stuff done, like write this blog, or shower, or read a magazine. None of these things are done with another parent around.
My daughter has a friend with a very nice but intense mother. She would drop by halfway through the play date and want to discuss the big issues, or she would drop off her kid and just "stay for a minute" ie. hours. It got so bad that I would only have the kid over on the days I have my sitter so I knew that I wouldn't be around.
I will call you if the play date goes south: I will not blame you or your parenting methods if the kids don't get along but I will end it early. Same goes for if your kid has diarrhea, other kids' poo is even nastier than my own kids output and will result in an early trip home.
Don't expect a rundown of everything they did and ate: As I said, I'm lazy. They had fun. Trust me.
These are guidelines only, and I am sure those keen first-timers will adopt them in time as well.
What are your parent guidelines for play dates? Do you believe in a play date etiquette?
Want more? Last year I was writing about our Love for Lego.