Oh the joys of playdates.
This is not the case for lots of moms though. Through the grapevine, I've heard some really scary, borderline nightmarish stories about moms and their kids and playdates gone wrong. It hadn't really occurred to me to write anything about playdates at all until a friend shared that she does playdates with a friend of hers but that they can be awkward because she feels that her friend doesn't discipline her unruly child the way that he needs to be. I did some research and found that this happens more often than you'd think. It comes down to gently disciplining the child and risking the friendship or letting the chaotic behavior affect the happiness (and sometimes the safety) of your own children.
I found a website with probably the best advice I'd found regarding how to deal with crazy kids (that aren't your own) on playdates. I don't know about all the rest of the advice or suggestions or psycology on her site, but Betsy Brown Braun gave pretty good advice about play date disciplining on her page.
During my "research" I decided to come up with some ideas or tips concerning play date etiquette. Here's my suggestions on how to keep a play date as happy for everyone as possible.
My First and Most Important Rule for Play Dates is this:
If your child is sick, or you think they may be getting sick, DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE!!! I will say that it drives me bananas when I show up to a play date and some one else's kid (whether it's my friend's or some random child at the park or whatever) is hacking up a lung or wiping monstrous amounts of snot off their nose with the back of their hand that they're now using to climb the slide that my child is about to scoot down. Gross. Really, I'm not trying to be rude and I know that sometimes you don't know your kid is sick or has some kinda virus or bacteria until days later but give me a break people. I've got enough to deal with without adding a sick kid to the mix. Keep your kid at home if they're ill. It's polite and it's better for your kid.
Ok. Now on to the rest.
For when you're hosting the playdate in your own home:
1) Make a snack. When my neighbor and I have playdates at each other's house, we make a snack for the kids, like cookies or muffins or something of that nature. Something easy, fun or healthy but that way, if some one starts freaking out that they're hungry, you've got it covered. It also lets the other mom know that you're willing to share and that you're thinking about her as well.
2) Be prepared. Have toys ready and available, have some crafts prepped or some play dough ready. Set out some puzzles, have the bubble bottles filled, or the bikes cleaned off. Kids get antsy when they have to wait to do something and although you want your kids to learn some patience, we all know that teaching them to be prepared is also good. It just helps the play date go smoother when you can appease all involved. Also, be prepared for the mom. Have some coffee or tea ready. This is quite possibly her oasis at the moment. Think about how you'd like to be treated while you're at some one's home.
3) Be aware that not all the kids around are yours. You can't discipline them all. However, you CAN discipline your own. I have found that I didn't even realize my kids were doing something wrong until a fellow mom scolded her own child for the same behavior. Then I realized that my kids were doing the same and took action. If you keep your own kids in line, chances are, it'll help the other mom keep hers in line as well. Also, your kids may know not to touch something but some one else's child wont. If you know that something breakable or valuable is within reach, move it so you don't even have to go there. Lock doors that you don't want kids wandering into etc.
For when the play dates are at some one else's home:
1) Dress your kids appropriately. If the weather is nice, put your kids in some sneakers so they can play outside. Remember, it's a play date, not a fashion show or a competition as to who's kid is cuter. Be practical. If your kid is able to play without hindrance, they'll be happier and in the long run, so will you and the other host.
2) Teach your kids at home how you expect them to act at some one else's house. I don't let my kids jump on the couches in our house. Not because I'm concerned about our couches or I want to stop them from having fun, but because I don't want them thinking that they can do it elsewhere just because they do it at home. For the same reason, we try to keep crayons and such at the table, we don't let them wear shoes on their bed and we (try) to keep them seated while eating. Make sure your kids are aware that you're going over to some one else's house and that there are rules that they'll have to follow that may not be the same as yours. Don't let them get blindsided. When entering the house, ask things like, "Where would you like the coats?" or "Do you want them to take their shoes off at the door?"
3) If you've never been over to this person's house for a playdate before, bring a snack for everyone to share just in case. Chances are that your kids will get hungry or thirsty at some point in time so instead of making it awkward when only your kids are eating, bring enough so that the other kids can have some as well. Make it something neutral like fruit or crackers or something. Not every one lets their kids eat the same things.
4) Bring your own supplies. Just because your friend has a baby as well, doesn't mean it's polite to use up her kid's diapers. Bring your own. Bring your own sippy cups, first aid stuff (bandaids, ointments...), changes of clothes, sun screen etc. Unless, that is, you know the person really really well and know they wouldn't care. It still helps though to have your own stuff with you just in case anything were to happen.
For when you're out somewhere not at a home:
All of the above. Seriously. Just do it all. Be respectful of others and make sure you're prepared. Simple as that. It may sound weird to have etiquette for play dates but in all reality, if there isn't any kind of guidelines or respect for others involved, then chances are, the playdates could get awkward and stop. I love that my kids get to play with other children. They have a blast doing it. It makes them happy. So I don't want to mess that up since it's my responsibility to make sure that play dates happen and go smoothly.
Play dates don't have to be nightmares. I mean, I don't think that this list by any means will prevent play date mishaps but it should help. As for other moms not taking care of their own children while on a play date, I don't really have a whole lot to say about that one. Maybe I will when I experience it...