Do you suffer from play date paranoia?

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Do you ever experience play date paranoia? You know, the fear that while a child is in your care you do something utterly foreign to their background or family?

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Helen, Izzy (right and centre) and friend. This is what can happen when play dates happen at our house. Oh, and note the trampoline. . .

The other day I took my kids plus a friend, we’ll call her Rose, to Box Hill in Surrey. At the very bottom of Box Hill is a stream that you can cross using stepping stones.

Helen has visited several times and is fearless so she simply yomped across. Izzy, our four year old daughter, forged the stream with my help.

What, however, was I to do with Rose? She wanted to go across, but eventually decided not to. I can’t honestly say I blame her. It was her first visit to the site and a young boy crossing with his mum fell into the stream and got totally soaked just as she was about to attempt the crossing!

Instead I got my kids back to the same side so Helen, Izzy and Rose were all together and they splashed around in the stream. Luckily, I know this girl’s mum and dad well. Even so, a number of “what if?” questions were going through my head.

What if they don’t want their child playing in running water? What if they don’t like the fact Rose will return home with soaking wet trainers? What if? What if? What if?

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The stepping stones at the foot of Box Hill. Pic credit: Mario Sánchez Prada

Some time ago, Helen had another friend round to play. I allowed both girls to play on our trampoline. Despite repeated requests, her friend has never been back. I may be mistaken, but I am slightly concerned the reason she hasn’t been back is that I allowed the kids to use the trampoline, something that would not happen in her own home.

Of course, sometimes there’s a play date incident which leaves you thinking: “They won’t be coming back again.”

One springs to mind. It happened quite a while ago when Izzy was being potty trained. Helen had a school friend over one evening and the two older girls were playing in the garden.

Izzy needed the toilet and, well, let’s just say she relived herself in front of both her sister and her friend. Helen thought it was hilarious. The friend was more than a little shocked.

I wouldn’t have been too bothered had it not been for the reaction of her friend. I felt I had no option but to explain the situation to her mother when I took her home.

When I dropped this girl off I apologised profusely.  Thankfully the mother thought it was very, very funny and no more was said about it. In fact, Helen was invited back so no damage was done.

The reverse has also happened and my family’s values and standards have proven to be a sticking point. There are certain fast food restaurants that my wife and I won’t set foot in. My kids have never experienced the culinary delights on offer in these places.

On a few occasions mums and dads have taken our kids to eat at them, only for Helen and Izzy to pipe up and say: “We’re not allowed to eat here.”

It’s awkward, isn’t it? What is quite acceptable to one family is totally off limits to another.

Then again, if the worst I’ve ever done is introduce a child to a trampoline, I think I’m doing okay. I am, aren’t I? Please tell me I am? See, see what I mean, now I’m getting paranoid!


4 thoughts on “Do you suffer from play date paranoia?”

  1. If you’re okay with your children spending time under the repsonsability of their friends parents, then you must trust them. Their habbits might not be the same as yours but if they can raise their own child, then they can look after yours for a little bit.
    Furthermore, change is good. Seeing how their friends are educated by their parents can open your children’s minds. They might even get the “lucky” chance of doing things they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do with their own parents. Soaking your trainers, having a Happy Meal for lunch, grazing your knees from falling off a bicycle… are part of growing up and being a kid.
    I think that if you’re afraid of leaving your children with other adults, you should not feel shy to say so before leaving them and giving them instructions before rather than having an argument after.

    1. Hey Alan, you make a really good point. Play dates expose kids to different families and different ways of doing things and that’s a really positive thing. Also, I love the idea that a parent can raise their own kid so must be able to look after someone else’s for a bit. I think your approach is spot on.

  2. Cheers John, now you’ve got me paranoid.

    I’d never thought of this before, now I’m gonna be getting waivers signed before future play dates!

    Reminds me of when my eldest told his nursery he was a Muslim. Felt so sorry for his teacher who had to phone me to say he’d eaten pork sausages for lunch.

    That’s what happens when you try and celebrate all faiths but don’t adequately explain why.

    1. Oh wow. That must have been quite a shock for your nursery school! I wouldn’t get too worked up about the waivers. As I say, if the worst I have done is introduce a child to a trampoline then I think I’m doing okay!

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