Dark rains are falling, even here in sunny Southern California. And while it's lovely to have a break from the Indian summer, and to live out the rainy day cliches of board games and cookie cutters, admit it, your kids are driving you a little nuts. They're starting to feel like cell mates. So don't go stir crazy, bring your questions here, to Ask Dad.
My kid keeps asking to have playdates with her kinder classmates but all her friends' parents bore me to tears. She's never been on one without me. How do I know it's okay to trust -- and to burden -- these semi-strangers?
I can sympathize. The world is hard for those of us who are judgemental, petty, and easily bored by people. You spend your whole childhood, and teen years, forced to spend time with people you'd rather not (sometimes in your own damn family).
Then you finally get a break where you get to choose the company you keep a little bit, and then you have kids and you're forced to deal with a whole new lot of undesirables -- other kids' parents.
Maybe you're lucky enough to have good friends with kids the same age as yours. But inevitably your little kindergartener's going to beg for a playdate with the boy whose mom's a mortgage exec and only wants to talk about home loans, or the coach who just wants tell tales about what a hard ass he is with his kids. And you're going to have to share a beer with them, if you're lucky enough to get a beer. They've probably only got Clamato or Sugar-Free Red Bull.
So of course! Drop them off and get the hell outta there! Go wander the mall without stopping at the damn Disney Store or go to the gym and work off the pounds of resentment you've gained.
We parents of older kids are just used to doing this. Sometimes we don't even bother slowing the car down as we drive by. (Ready ... unbuckle ... jump!) But the toddler and pre-K years are so tough I know it fills you with guilt to foist your kid even on your own parents who adore them.
But even if you get over that guilt, there's the trust question.
We need to dispense with the pesky murderer-molester issues first. So give the playdate parent a quick Google.
If they turn out to be the scalding lady; or the slumber party sicko; or the folks who keep the weed-loaded Rice Krispie treat within reach, maybe you should stay at the house with them. But don't break the playdate. It's a sacred bond.
Then there's the Megan's Law website and similar sites in other states for monitoring offenders of all kinds. Is there an app for that? Honestly, don't tell me, I don't want to know.
Of course if they have kids of their own and they haven't been taken away, then there's no way they'd be listed in any of those places anyway. But wait, how do you know that's their kid? How do you know they didn't murder the parents in another state, steal their child, and settle under an assumed name in your town!?
Let's brand this the kind of thinking you should maybe avoid. It could spoil your solitary Cinnabon at the mall.
If you really are concerned about more banal stuff like TV and sugar and that sort of thing, how about hosting the first one yourself, and gently grilling the other kid? What kind of food's she into? What kind of guns does she like to play with? What's her favorite R-rated movie? You can probably get the low-down on what her parents will let fly, and because you've nabbed one already, you won't have to feel guilty when it's your turn to dump your kid and run free.
When do you think it's okay to stop going on your child's playdates? How do you know you can trust the other parent?
Image via PeterBecker/Flickr