Letter: Why Am I Being “Checked Out” by Another Mom Before Her Son Can Play Here?

Hi Folks! As I finish up my last few days of vacation (Mexico!), here’s a letter to chew on. — L.

Dear Free Range Kids: My son started school a few weeks ago and has already made a new friend. The boys want to have a playdate and after discussion with the other child’s mother, we arranged to have the first one here. Then she informed me that on the day of the playdate, she would pick her son up from school and follow me and my son back to our house, so she could “check it out.”

While it’s not something I’m taking personally, I am offended — and confused. Does she think our house would be suitable for my son but not for hers? Doesn’t she realize that if there was anything that would mark our house as unsuitable for a playdate, I’d be sure to cover it up, pack it away or simply hide it before she arrived?   How far is “‘checking it out” likely to go? Just the areas the kids will be playing in or every room in the house?

Is this a typical thing? Am I over reacting or is she? Part of me would dearly love to tell her what she can do with the playdate, but I don’t want to break the hearts of two 5-year-old boys.  Any advice would be dearly appreciated! – Mom with Nothing to Hide

, , , ,

197 Responses to Letter: Why Am I Being “Checked Out” by Another Mom Before Her Son Can Play Here?

  1. Katie Aaberg February 28, 2012 at 5:09 am #

    I have not experienced this particularly gross request, but if I did, the plan would be off.

  2. Roy February 28, 2012 at 5:10 am #

    Ask her for a police reference before her son can come over …

    Or, invite her in for coffee and cake. This may be her kid’s first playdate and she might still be feeling her way in the social world of 5 year olds.

  3. Jessica February 28, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    I wouldn’t agree. Or inquire as to why she felt that this was an appropriate response.

  4. Chrissy February 28, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    I think I would say something like “Well, if you’re that particular about where your child hangs out for a couple hours, I’m sure my house would not live up to your expectations. Maybe the boys will just be school friends.”

  5. Aaron Bennett February 28, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    you know… there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see who your son is playing with and how they live. It’s not an unreasonable request. Five year olds don’t have great judgement — they cannot evaluate their own safety, that’s why they have parents. If she wanted to run a background check or anything that’s obviously wacko, but she probably just wants to look around, make you are normal people who don’t have crackpipes sitting on the coffee table.

  6. bug February 28, 2012 at 5:20 am #

    I like the cake idea that Roy had. You could be seeing a lot more of this family from now until sixth grade, so why not turn her weird energy into something positive and stay on the high road of community building.

  7. Lollipoplover February 28, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    If she’s the paranoid type, she should have suggested a neutral location, like a park. To put you in a defensive position, wanting to “check it out”, shows poor social skills on her part.

    But I do think you may be overreacting. Give her a second chance, have a sense of humor, and dust her glass for fingerprints “just in case, you never know these days.”

  8. MaeMae February 28, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    I would ask her why. I work in a field where I have to go in houses and apartments for inspections. I never imagined that people could be so disgusting or live in such filthy conditions. I see it all the time. Maybe she has too. I have definitely been aware of where my children go and try to drop by to get a glimpse of the interior of the house before they stay. I’m not paranoid about it but definitely more aware of what’s out there.

  9. bug February 28, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    And, wouldn’t it be nice if at the beginning of every school year, or at another time, someone from the class hosted a family get-together for the whole class and their parents — maybe pizza in the park — so people could get to know each other in the beginning (and before you have to meet to iron out some difference that the kids are having).

    Some teachers do this….but it’s not too late for someone in your class to do it….

  10. Katie Aaberg February 28, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    @Aaron
    @MaeMae

    There’s nothing wrong with being cautious and checking something out. There is something wrong with telling the person who has invited you over that you are doing so. Make an excuse, say “my son will be nervous if I don’t drop him off/come inside” or whatever… that way paranoid mom can do her thing without making this other mom (who is graciously inviting her child over!) feel like she’s undergoing a background check.

  11. Meg February 28, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    Cut her some slack; you don’t know what in her life experience made her ask this but you have an opportunity to show her that she has nothing to fear. Invite her in for a cup of coffee and get to know her.

  12. Linda Wightman February 28, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    It’s a very reasonable request — poorly worded, and showing a distinct lack of social skills, but reasonable, nonetheless. Why wouldn’t you want to get to know the parents of your child’s friends? You might make new friends yourself.

  13. Megan February 28, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    I don’t see any problem with this. I’m just curious If anyone allows a stranger to babysit their five year old without first meeting them? There’s a lot to be said for the mommy instinct. And perhaps there’s more going on. Maybe her son has health issues or struggles in new places. You want her to give YOU the benefit of the doubt, but you’re not willing to extend the same courtesy.

  14. Christina February 28, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    This is pretty normal in my experience with five year old play dates, although mom is phrasing it wrong, and you should have stepped up do she didn’t need to ask. Ask her in for a cup of coffee. mine are teens now, so I’m personally well past this

    I am not a picky parent, and my house isn’t spotless, but there have been playdates I’ve discouraged based on the other kids home life. One of my sons friends lived in a definitely questionable neighborhood where the gang task force was very active, play dates were at our house. Another had poorly trained aggressive dogs when my kids had very little exposure to dogs at all. Another had a step parent who really obviously disliked the kids, no reason to put my kid in the middle of that. One had a dad that was a big kid himself, and his boys will be boys attitude left me questioning what my kid would be doing and learning at their house (I knew that their young son was allowed to watch rated R horror movies). And I have a girlfriend who is a hoarder, I wouldn’t let my kids go for a play date at her house either.

    Don’t look it as an insult to you, and as unhelicoptery as we are, few of us would condone the play dates I’ve described.

  15. Jonna Ball February 28, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    Maybe she worded it strangely, but I think y’all are overreacting. This is good parenting – meeting the other mom and seeing where/how they live creates community. This way she does know who her kid is spending time with and where so she CAN trust that things will be fine. I would think another mom is lazy (or selfish or unfriendly) if she wants me to pick her kid up, watch him for a few hours, and return him to her house at the appointed time without ever coming to check it out. Cancelling the playdate hurts the kids and only gives the impression that YOU are unfriendly or DO have something to hide.

  16. Bob February 28, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    Sounds as if she might have had a bad experience in the past and it’s made her overly cautious and suspicious. Try not to be too offended (I know, it’s easy for me to say), at least until you know her better. She might just be lacking in tact. On the other hand, she might have a few loose screws. You won’t know until you get to know her.

  17. Diana February 28, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    I think some are to easily offended by her request. Maybe she worded her request wrong, come “check it out”. Maybe she just wanted to know exactly where her son would be playing, not to come check out your house. I agree with Aaron, nothing wrong with a parent wanting to know where and who their child is with.
    On the other hand, maybe she does but you should consider this. I live in a very small town and am a volunteer fire fighter, I have been inside many houses in my town and have been appaled at the living conditions some people have their children in. I’m not talking about a house that is not kept perfectly, I know mine is not. I’m talking about filth! Just because a child looks fine at school does not mean all is well at home.
    I say invite her in and have some coffee with her, like Roy said, maybe she is just nervous about having her son with someone she really doesn’t know all that well.

  18. LauraL February 28, 2012 at 5:34 am #

    I know I’ve asked parents in the past, “So, no weapons just lying around for my kid to grab, right?” in a teasing manner and they laugh back and assure me, of course not.

    I think she just may be new to the whole ‘playdate’ thing and has been STRONGLY CAUTIONED by parenting type magazines and online fearmongerers that she MUST CHECK IT OUT before leaving her child behind.

    It’s not totally unreasonable. Give her the benefit of the doubt. You might find out she had a really good reason that actually didn’t have anything to do with you personally.

  19. Sharon February 28, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    Wow, I think a knee-jerk reaction to this request is really surprising among this community. If we expect not to be harshly judged for being free-range, don’t we owe other parents the benefit of the doubt too, sometimes? This kid is only five! I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the mom to want to drop him off personally, take a peek in the house, and make sure he’s comfortable before she leaves. He’s friends with the son, after all, and from the letter we have no indication that he’s ever spent time with this mom before. Five year olds are still pretty shy around adults… maybe mom just wants to make sure he knows where the bathroom is and that he is comfortable enough to ask for a drink of water if he needs one. I’m not at all advocating helicopter parenting, but I’m also not for throwing a five year old into a completely unknown environment with an unknown adult in charge and expecting him to be instantly comfortable and have fun.

    My son is the type of kid who gets into EVERYTHING, and at four, has zero impulse control. He made friends with another kid whose house we were soon invited to. I noticed as soon as we went into this house that a full set of professional kitchen knives were on a magnetic board on the wall, well within his reach, and that the door to the mom’s sewing room, with scissors and rotary cutters, etc. was left open as a rule. The first time the mom invited him over to play unchaperoned, I asked her to please move the knives and close the sewing room door. Is that helicoptering, or is that just knowing my preschooler better than anyone else does and being able to predict his behavior based on a very solid record of grabbing whatever tool looks most interesting? I have *no* reservations about this mom, her parenting skills, or the house being a generally safe environment. Her kids simply don’t get into stuff the way my son does. And if I hadn’t been in that house myself, I would have sounded like a wacko asking, “Do you have any knives, power tools, or needles easily accessible? If so, could you please put them away?” Instead, she understood exactly what I said: that my kid is different than her kids and that what works for her kids might not be safe for mine. She was not at all offended, and assured me she’d put up the knives and close the sewing room door. I did NOT expect her to watch my son like a hawk while he was there, and consequently I thought it quite reasonable for her to put those sorts of temptations out of his reach. Luckily, so did she.

    Sorry to go on like this, but I think it illustrates the point that you just can’t assume what someone else’s motivation is. And while we can’t – and shouldn’t – preview, direct, and supervise everything our kids do, accompanying your five year told a new acquaintance’s home before dropping him off for the first time is not really all that outrageous.

    I’m with Roy. Invite her in for coffee. Make her and her son feel welcome, and she will likely open up about her motivations. I wouldn’t take kindly to a full-blown inspection of my home, or an interrogation about my safety standards. But by assuming that’s what’s going on here, aren’t WE guilty of “worst first” thinking????

  20. Susanna K. February 28, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    The first time my 5-yr-old had friends over, their moms hung out and chatted with me for a little while when they dropped them off. I’m sure that was a kind of “checking out”, but it was done in a nice, friendly way so I didn’t mind.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this mom wanting to get to know you better, since your children are friends. But the way she’s approached it is rather socially awkward. I’d just ignore her weirdness and chat politely. You two may never be friends, but your children evidently are, so you might as well try to establish at least a cordial relationship with her.

  21. Kacey Bollrud February 28, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    They way the other mom asked to “check you out” would have made me bristle too, but I also think her intention of stopping in before the playdate just for a look & see is perfectly reasonable. Since she clearly has poor social skills, you may not be on the road to being best friends… but maybe you’re saving her son from a similar fate by socializing him. To make things go smoothly, I’d definitely have some cookies or muffins… or some of the same snack you might feed the boys. Invite her to sit, or wander with some coffee or lemonade…. maybe she’ll get some much needed socialization as well!

  22. se7en February 28, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    Gee, It sounds a bit harsh but I have had folk invite my kids over and I really wasn’t happy with them going over – for whatever reason – but that never meant the kids couldn’t be friends. And who wants to get legalistic with potential friends. When my kids were younger I would just suggest we meet up at the beach for a play so that I could get to know the mom a bit better, I wasn’t “inspecting” them, just getting to know what my kid was headed into. My little kids were far more comfortable going over to another house to play when they knew the mom as well… I know when I was a kid I hated being “dropped” at a class-mates house for a playdate… you can safely put that down to a really bad experience with a class-mates rampaging drunkard dad in grade 1 – to this day I haven’t told my folks… and honestly I know most homes are pleasant enough. But still I like my kids to be familiar with the kid and their mom first. “To check it out” may not have been the best wording… but I can see where she is coming from and just invite her to tea and be pleasant about it… this may be your kiddo’s next best friend. I would relax and go with it.

  23. Ingrid February 28, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    I definitely “check people out” before play dates. I’m not assuming that they aren’t decent parents, but if I am inviting them into my social circle (via my kids), I’d like to know things about them. I think that is fair and contributes to our relationship in the long run. For example, if by “checking them out” I see that they garden or have lots of bikes, I just have one more thing to talk about with them.
    This mom could just awkwardly be saying she’d like to know you better too.

  24. scrappedcola February 28, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    I’m thinking the parent phrased the response wrong. She probably doesn’t feel comfy with the idea of her child at a person’s house that she has never met (I know I don’t and it has nothing to do with “stranger danger”). Instead of getting overly emotional try taking time to talk to the mom instead. Some of us are not the social butterfly’s that you are and do not always phrase things that are tactful. She may not have the social skills to interact with you for various reasons or she could totally be a psycho helicopter parent. In either case, if you don’t want to control every aspect of your child’s life, you will have to deal with her and her quirks.

  25. Reluctant Grownup February 28, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    I join the “this is cool” chorus – although what “checking it out” ends up being may give you some tips on whether this mom is taking it too far. I’d want to do the same if my three yo went to somebody’s house without me for the first time – although I would probably (as others have mentioned) worded it differently.

  26. EricS February 28, 2012 at 5:53 am #

    @Aaron: But then that would mean the other mother doesn’t trust the author of the post. That she made this mother feel her standard of raising her child is less than her own. That would be a little arrogant and condescending. That would be offensive. I’ve let my kid go to friends houses, without me sometimes (other parents pick him up). Before I even met the parents, I met his friends. I see how they are, how they act, and how they are kept. If they don’t look like they’ve been abused, with tattered clothing, and poor manners, there’s a good chance that the parents are at least decent enough to watch over my own kid. Plus, mine knows to call me if he feels uncomfortable or he’s in trouble. And it goes the same for me as well. For the first little while, the parents would just drop the kids off, come out of the their cars long enough to shake hands and say hello. Then off they went. It’s called trust within the community, and no paranoia.

    But my advice to Mom With Nothing To Hide, is indulge her. She’s obviously a paranoid mother. However, if after seeing your abode and showing your hospitality, and she goes beyond her “snooping” (like criticizing or grilling you), then I would say something along the lines of “You seem to have some reservations towards this playdate, perhaps we should make it another time, when you don’t feel so uneasy. I wouldn’t want you to leave her feeling apprehensive, and worrying the whole time”. Then throw in “It’s unfortunate you feel this way, because your son seems to be enjoying himself”. You come across as concerned for HER feelings, and good nature, by making a suggestion to ease her. You don’t come across as brash and insulted. And what ever she decides, she will end up feeling pretty foolish. 😉

  27. In the Trenches February 28, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    Nothing wrong with a parent coming over and hanging out while kids play. That’s not what she said her motive was. She’s reacting from fear and suspicion. If that’s the relationship you want to have with this lady, fine. I’d pass, myself.

  28. Jeff Craig February 28, 2012 at 5:57 am #

    Why I agree, the other mother is making it sound like she wants to interrogate you and perform a background check, I would be uncomfortable letting my kids play at the house of a parent I hadn’t at least met and gotten to know a little bit. Not because they’re likely a child molester or anything, but because I want to make sure they’re at least somewhat responsible.

  29. Jay Bremner February 28, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    I understand wanting to take a look at the place where her daughter would be playing for a while, but I’d never say that I wanted to check the place out first. Instead, I’d make a play date for the kids where all of the adults stayed for coffee. You then have the option of staying for the afternoon and getting to know the other parents, or leaving after coffee and letting your child play for a few hours and then return.

  30. ank February 28, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    I agree with the others about inviting the mom over for coffee and some kind of pastry. Who knows, you’ll get to know each other better and maybe make a new friend yourself. The other mom needs to learn some better social graces though. If the boys decide to have another playdate, and she insists on staying again, ask if she wants to help fold your laundry and help you make dinner :)

  31. socalledauthor February 28, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    I think, since the children in question are 5, that the wording was poor, but there’s not a big deal about the parents meeting. I don’t know about checking out the house, per se, since my experience with kids is that they tend to be big mouths about what they see at other people’s houses, anyway. But I understand that it may make some people a little more comfortable, given different standards in cleanliness, safety, etc.

    My parents never had a problem with me riding the bus to a new friends’ house and then they’d make sure to meet and chat with the parent when they either came to get me or the other parent took me home. Caveat– I made my first school friend when I was in 2nd grade (probably around 7) so I was a little older than the students in question. (I had a friend from church, so that was a different matter entirely.)

    I understand that other people have concerns, so if I was in this situation, I think I’d accommodate. But I tend to assume that most people are actually good people (like I would HOPE that they’d think about me).

  32. 2swamped February 28, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    I’m in the “give the benefit of the doubt” camp. My son just had one of his grade one buddies over for the first time, and the little guy was clinging to his mom when she dropped him off, so I invited her in for a visit until he settled down. Her son may not be ready to hang out with strangers; she may have meant she will be there to “check out” the situation and make sure he’s going to settle down and play nicely.

    If she comes over and gives you the stink eye over your dirty dishes, pets or dust bunnies, you don’t have to have her back.

  33. Michael February 28, 2012 at 6:23 am #

    Maybe she’s lonely and needs a friend too. Maybe she’s over protective or just a caring mother.

    Invite her for coffee and cake. Invite her into your home and make her feel welcome. Answer her questions honestly and don’t automatically think the worst about her intentions.

    If she has a problem then you can address it when it presents itself.

    I like to know the who, whats and wheres of my kids plans before I let the leash go and that would include where the house is etc.

  34. LTMG February 28, 2012 at 6:42 am #

    @bug makes a good point “…so why not turn her weird energy into something positive and stay on the high road of community building.”

    Since it’s just about impossible to stop somebody’s energy moving in an unappealing direction (helicopter parenting, or anger, or etc.) without ourselves getting injured, a useful thing to do is to direct the energy away from ourselves and in a direction more useful to us. It’s a kind of interpersonal aikido. The antagonists may never know what we’ve done because they are paying attention to themselves and not the bigger situation, but the result could well be better for all.

    Manipulating other people isn’t always nice, but sometimes it’s a right thing to do.

  35. Rachel February 28, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    I think her choice of wording is poor and possibly rude, but I don’t think the idea of seeing where your five-year-old is playing is weird.

    It’s good to know if the house your kid plays at has stuff that they might not have the framework to manage. Five-year olds do not have an amazing memory for safety rules. I would want confirmation the first several times time they played at a house with risk factors that they remember how to behave with trampolines, other people’s animals, weapons, pools…whatever. It is often children visiting a home with one of the aforementioned that gets hurt or killed because they lack the skills that the resident child has learned over time.

    I’d also like to get a feel for the family. My community is, unfornately, not terribly trustworthy. My house has been vandalized a few times (one time by a “good Christian” because he and his wife thought we were sinners), I once had to stop a 7-year old from curb-stomping a classmate right in front of my house. My kids also have two mommies and I want to know that their friends’ parents are not going to take out any bigotry against them.

    I would indulge her this one time, maybe she is just socially awkward, maybe she is a danger freak, maybe her kid has a chronic illness you need to know about. Whatever the reason, do you want to risk depriving your child of a friend just because you find their parent annoying?

  36. Juliet February 28, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    I am very free range but I would never let my five year old go to someone’s house without knowing anything about them. That’s just common sense. I have two kids and my younger one is currently six years old. SOP for playdates with new friends seems to be: first one at a neutral location like a park, then the next time at one of your houses, maybe with both parents there for the first time, or stay a little bit to get the kids off to a good start then go run an errand or something until it’s time to pick your child up.

    My older daughter is in 5th grade and I do let her go to friends’ houses without knowing the parents. Usually I do try to peek my head in the door at the time I’m dropping her just to say hi. I think life goes more smoothly in general when you just use common sense and basic social sense. Wanting to say hi and get to know the family where your kid will hang out isn’t like doing a criminal background check. It’s just about using your common sense and best judgment.

  37. Tonia February 28, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Poorly worded but sounds reasonable to me, too. My parents were about as free range as it gets without being negligent, and they still “checked out” the homes of my classmates – and I think it was a good thing, because I did have one friend whose father I did NOT trust, and without the whole parental check-out thing, I’m not sure 10-year-old me would have said anything. 5-year-old me definitely wouldn’t have been able to say something was wrong.

    I mean, if the day comes and she wants to check out every room of your house, reevaluate. If you have her in for coffee and chat for ten minutes and off she goes (or you make friends and chat for a while), then I think it’s just poorly worded.

  38. thinkbannedthoughts February 28, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    My third grade daughter recently had a playdate with someone whose mother insisted on STAYING for the entire playdate. (Because her children are her most precious possession and she would never forgive herself, etc. etc. etc.)
    After the playdate we were informed that while our house seemed to meet her requirements, it would be at least five more such playdates before her daughter was allowed to play over without her – and there would NEVER be a sleepover. Ever. Because goodness knows what might happen.
    I really liked this woman’s daughter and I feel bad for her, I don’t imagine she gets many follow up playdates. It’s a genuine shame, if not an actual crime against childhood.

  39. hineata February 28, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Along with many others here, I too think the mum in question may simply have poor verbal/social skills. I have some friends who just don’t seem to know how to word things without causing offence at least some of the time – that part of their brain is underdeveloped or something! Once you get to know each other better, you may even be able to help her in that area. All part of living in a community…

    In the meantime, hopefully the boys enjoy their visit. You don’t know what you’re starting, so it pays to be as nice as possible at the start. My son’s best friends are moving across the Ditch (to Oz :-) ) at the end of the year, and we will all miss them. The two brothers have been his best friends since they were 5 and 6….A lifetime for a teenage boy…May your son find friends like this, and may this woman turn out to be a good, if awkward, sort too.

  40. Heather February 28, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    My 10 year old (aka 4th grader) was invited to a friend’s house after school and then rode his bike their with his friend. The dad had okayed the playdate. When the mom came home she had my son call me and told him that I needed to come over right away because she needed to meet me first before my son could be over there and if I couldn’t be right over my son would need to go home.

    Are you kidding me? My son is quiet and polite and very responsible. Did she think that his mom was a crack-head or something?

    I did go over, but I didn’t find out all the details from my son until I got there. He just told me she wanted to meet me, not that she was threatening to send him home if I didn’t. He was so embarrassed since this had never happened before.

    What happened to gut feelings and common sense…I hadn’t even met the kid he went home with but I trusted his judgement.

  41. Stephanie February 28, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    I think she was just a little awkward about it too. I’ve usually had parents come over first at that age. Done it for my kids too, although some parents I’ve just spoken to outside their homes.

  42. AnonymousE February 28, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    As someone who was sexually molested at a very young age by the older brother of a play date friend, I think her request is completely reasonable.

  43. Timothy February 28, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    At 5 years old, if my kid was going to play at a neighbor’s house, I’d want to spend a while chatting with the parents and get some feel for the kids he’d be playing with, the adults in charge, and the physical space. If it’s a neighbor, I’m likely to have the feel for all of that before a “play date” comes up.

    If it’s a friend from school, I’m likely to *not* have a feel for any of that before a playdate, and so I’d like to get a feel for them before my 5-year-old goes on a playdate. I also am socially awkward and would probably phrase it even worse than your guest’s parent did.

    So, I think the request is wholly appropriate.

  44. Jane February 28, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    I agree that it’s poorly worded but well-intentioned. She will be “checking the place out” with her son already in the car, ready to play, so it’s not like she’s sending over a SWAT team the day before. I think she probably just wants to know where the house is where her son will be playing, what kind of neighborhood it’s in, how to get there for the future, etc. I’d question a mother who sent her 5-year-old home in a car with another mom and not even know where they live. Especially if this is her oldest child and she’s not used to play dates. She could have said it better but not completely strange.

  45. q February 28, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    I agree with the many who say it’s not that weird; awkward maybe, but that’s likely either from inexperience or past difficulties. You don’t know her story, you don’t know her kid’s story, but there might be plenty of good reasons why she’s reluctant to have her five-year-old playing in a home she’s never seen.

  46. JMH February 28, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Like most people seem to think, this sounds like something that probably sounded like a good idea in her head… like she was trying to be clever or something, and it just completely came out wrong.

    It could be a lot of things. Given the timing, it was a sudden thing, otherwise it would’ve come up when you first made the date, not the day of. Maybe her son got nervous, and she’s saving face for him by making it her decision to come over. Maybe she decided she likes you, and is looking for an excuse to hang out with you. Maybe this is her first playdate and she knows she’s screwing everything up and wants to shoot herself in the face for it, but everytime she opens her mouth it gets worse so she didn’t bother trying to explain.

    It’s hard to say, and I know when you start focusing on the bad things (overprotective parenting in this case) that can be all you see. But it usually doesn’t hurt to assume the best in people. If she keeps crossing lines, you’re gonna want to talk to her about it, but this is only a data point not a trend yet.

  47. Queenoid February 28, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    I’m on the bandwagon here – that stopping by first is reasonable. That 5 year olds are just starting to make friends on their own. And that the mom worded it clumsily. I’ve both been clumsy in my time (although not any more – hah! I wish!) and I have had to take a breath at the clumsiness of others. So breathe deeply and put it behind you. And congrats on your kiddo making a new friend!

  48. Liz February 28, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with that. At the very least, she will have to pick up her child after the playdate, and now she will know how to get to the house. (And for the record, I don’t see “poor social skills”.)

    My daughter was 9 or 10 and invited for a sleepover at a camp friend’s house. I said no to the sleepover, but yes to an evening over there so I could visit with the mom for a bit. I even sprang for pizza for dinner. The mom was a little surprised, but explained that she is used to being the uber-responsible one in her group of friends, so she was surprised to not have an automatic yes. But she was hardly offended.

    When my daughter had her first sleepover, it was all with friends for several years from school, and her cousins. I sent an email to all the parents to find out about food allergies, sleep quirks, etc. — text below:

    ***************************
    Kiddo would like to have her 9th birthday party be a sleepover with a few special friends (9, to be exact) and would like to invite Munchkin to join her for the evening.

    We wanted to fly this past the parents first before sending out the invitations to the girls to avoid any upsetness if you don’t want her to sleep over.

    We’ve never hosted a sleepover, so we may be overthinking this, but want to make sure that you know the plan for the evening.

    We are thinking of having everyone arrive at our house between 6:30 and 7pm. Kiddo will have just come from dinner with her grandparents (a birthday tradition) but we will probably have munchies (veggies, pretzels, popcorn, etc.) available, and do pizza at some point, and ice cream and cupcakes.

    Please let us know if there is a particular food or ice cream flavor your daughter really loves, or can’t stand – we will do our best to accommodate everyone as much as possible. Please also let us know if your daughter has any food allergies we need to be sensitive to.

    In case she has any other allergies, we do have 4 cats, but there’s only one that will probably think 9 little girls in one room is just sheer heaven designed just for him; the others will probably be hiding somewhere.

    Kiddo has a few games lined up, and 1 or 2 movies. Do you have any problem with your daughter seeing “School of Rock” or the cartoon “Space Jam”? We also have an abundance of horse-related movies, i.e., “Dreamer”, “Flicka” (original and recent remake), “Saddle Club”, etc.

    We will be honest – with horse movies, usually at some point there is an injury to the horse. It is not fatal, and not particularly gory at all, and the horse will always recover beautifully, but it is a staple of horse movies, so just a forewarning. Please let us know if your daughter is particularly sensitive to this.

    The girls will be camped out in Kiddo’s room, which is basically the second floor of our house – you’re welcome to take a peek when you drop your daughter off if you’d like.

    Both Kiddo’s stepdad Buddy and I will be home all night, and are very happy to run anyone home who is not feeling like they want to stay the whole night, so please let your daughter know that she has that option.

    We are thinking of pickup Saturday morning between 10-11am.

    I (Bunny) have to leave by 9am Saturday for a prior commitment. Buddy, being the good stepdad/chef, has volunteered to make the girls breakfast before they get picked up (probably pancakes, eggs, fruit, etc.)

    Please don’t hesitate to give us a call or an e-mail with any questions you might have.

    **********************
    All the parents came in, got the grand tour of the house, talked home improvements with my husband, saw Kiddo’s “apartment” (converted second floor attic space into almost-studio apt sized room), and left.

    AND my husband was alone with the girls Saturday morning until they were picked up – GASP! Not one person said anything about that – they came in for breakfast as well . . .

    I do have a friend whose daughter was abused by her father, so having that personal experience, I would look at the request as another commenter mentioned — you don’t know what her prior experiences are, or maybe she’s just new to the area.

  49. Jennifer A February 28, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    What’s “done” around here for the kindergarten set is that for the first playdate, even the free-range parents stay and chat. After that, though, it’s all drop-off. I’ve made at least one new friend myself that way!

  50. Cath February 28, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Yikes! I just thought that having parent(s) and kid over to visit as part of the first play date was just what everyone does. Guess I should crawl out from under my rock lol!
    But seriously, as someone inviting another kid over for a play date, I always invite the parents too. Visit the house? Yes. Background check? Creepy!

  51. George Sudarkoff (@sudarkoff) February 28, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    You’re both overreacting.

  52. One Lone Castaway February 28, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    Perhaps the Mother is socially inept. Maybe she just wants to get to know you so she can feel secure, after all the first time is the hardest. Invite her in and have a cup. I know when my kid goes over to a new friend’s house I want to get to know the parent.

  53. Lisa February 28, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    When my daughter was young (preschool/kindergarten age) I always wanted to meet her friends and their parents before a playdate, but I never asked to “check it out”. I simply called the parent or chatted on the playground after school one day. I would certainly never let her go to someone’s house without knowing where it is, even now at age 9, but that is usually accomplished with an email or text of the address. Even if I wanted to see the house she’d be playing at, I think “since they’re so young, I’d feel more comfortable if the first playdate wasn’t a drop-off… any chance we could get to know each other while the boys play?” would be reasonable – wanting to “check it out” is offensive. That said, I would probably have said yes.

    My daughter is just getting to the age of sleepovers. For her 9th birthday, I let her invite 6 kids to go camping with us, for just one night. Her 21 year old sister and boyfriend came along (I needed a second driver). I said in the evite that I would have another adult with us, and I *did* make sure it was all girls I knew (and for an overnight, my daughter and I had to agree on the guest list – there were a couple of girls I was just not willing to spend 24 hours with). Some of the parents knew me well, others not as much, and only a few of them had ever been to my house. Only one had ever been camping with me. It never occurred to me to give a detailed itinerary of the sleepover (we didn’t have one), and I’d never been to the campground before (the one I normally go to is too far away for an overnight, plus this one had a pool and game room which seemed ideal for a party). Thankfully, the parents were all laid back about it, the girls had a great time, and my daughter feels like she had the birthday party of the year. I guess they assumed that if I took my own kid camping, that I’d probably take good enough care of theirs. They cooked over the fire, swam in the pool (within view of the campsite, and I insisted that at least 3 of them had to be there at the same time), watched TV (no, I didn’t get pre-approval for specific movies or shows – I told the girls to make sure they picked something they were all allowed to watch, popped in after a while to see how they were doing and ask what they were watching), played “flashlight tag”, and all got home after lunch the next day tired, dirty, and happy. I think I would have been annoyed if a parent had said he/she wanted to check me out, or check out the campground, beforehand. I would not, however, have been offended if someone had said “why don’t I help drive the girls out there and stay to help get things set up?” There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to build a sense of community, or to build friendships.

  54. Buffy February 28, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    @AnonymousE….if the playdate friend had an older brother, would that mean your child absolutely couldn’t play over there? I’m not flaming, I genuinely want to know. Your situation obviously plays a part in this, but I would think it would near impossible to eliminate everyone with an older sibling as a friend for your child.

  55. Beth February 28, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    What I got from the original post wasn’t that one mom wanted to meet the other mom, as many of you are saying; she wanted to check out the environment. I guess I didn’t know that there’s an epidemic of parents of 5-year-olds having stuff laying around that is inappropriate for 5-year-olds. I liked EricS’s suggestion of using the friend as a cue -if he looks well-cared-for, the parents are probably OK.

    Someone said “Nothing wrong with a parent coming over and hanging out while kids play.” I say “Oh yes there is.” Unless invited, and I see nothing wrong with *inviting* an apprehensive mom over for coffee, I don’t want another parent at my house while our kids play! I have things to do, and I don’t believe that my child having a friend over means I am required to also entertain someone.

  56. Tori February 28, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    I can’t imagine how you are resisting telling her to shove the play date where the sun doesn’t shine. This is so madly rude! Ask her why and what she is looking for. I’m dying to know! Will she be inspecting your electric plug sockets for covers! If you do go ahead with the play date make sure you guys do some wild fun stuff that mama would never let her kid do at home. Find trees to climb and worms to eat!

  57. Dr. Peter Geidel February 28, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    I cannot believe how things have changed. When I was growing up, the neighborhood children flocked to our house, because my mother always gave cookies and candy to everyone who came over. Their mothers were glad to let them go for an afternoon, but were less enthusiastic when I came to their house.
    Strange inconsistencies.

  58. Charles J Gervasi February 28, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Maybe she wants to be friends with you too but is very socially inept in trying to execute it.

  59. celia February 28, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    She is just doing her job. I do not consider myself overly cautious, but I have some dear relatives that I love and respect and I would still NEVER allow my son to play at their house unless I was right on top of him. They don’t keep their guns locked up. Their house is a kids paradise with plenty of room to run and play…except for that deal breaker. I would NEVER tell them I think it is wrong, I just would never let my son play there without me to supervise. She probably just wants to make sure it is just the normal level of crazy that you get in a house with kids.

  60. Tori February 28, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    This is so not cool! I had to comment again! It’s overprotective! Did you guys never go to play at friends houses that werent like your own. Trying to protect children from every unapproved of situation will limit their experience of the world and opportunities to learn from those experiences. Let the kid go once, if he doesn’t enjoy himself or the place isn’t up to your standards don’t take him there again! I learnt so much about what I love about my own family’s way of being by seeing the differences in other families.

  61. Liz barnes February 28, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    I don’t think it’s strange. I ask parents about guns in the house before my kids go over. If a parent says, I’ve got guns, I’d probably ask to see how they are secured before I left my kid there.
    The other parent could have put it in a more positive way, but not everyone is good at that type of thing.

  62. Leanne February 28, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    When I was growing up in the 70s, my parents had no idea where some of my friends even lived let alone who their parents were and what kind of home they kept. One girl in our neighbourhood had a father who was daily passed out in a lazy boy and often vomitted on himself. We didn’t really want to be very near that at age 5 or so and would just play outside with her instead.

    We walked home from school every day so if we didn’t get back till almost 5 pm after hanging at someone’s house for supper, there was nary an eyebrow raised.

    So, according to how people used to live in North America, yes, this is a bit much to be scoped out for a play date. I don’t feel the least compunction to pre-approve another parent’s home. You can pretty much get a feel for what sort of parent they are from casual interactions at school.

  63. Uly February 28, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Did you guys never go to play at friends houses that werent like your own.

    At five, if I went to somebody’s house, my parents knew them. Sometimes they didn’t like those people, but they definitely KNEW the other parents.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to at least meet the other people, in person, before you leave your kindergartener unattended at their house.

    That said, like everybody else, I think the real problem is the awkwardly honest way she phrased it. The normal way to snoop on your neighbors is to drop off some baked goods or invite them to a barbecue.

  64. Leanne February 28, 2012 at 9:43 am #

    ETA: I don’t live in the US so having a gun in the house is a really remote possibility.

  65. Shay February 28, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    She seems like the paranoid type. I personally do not want children who have paranoid parents to come to my house. If their kids get hurt, they’ll freak out. I am NEVER in the mood to deal with that. Plus if the kids get hurt because OMG they tripped over a Lego and fell on the corner of the study desk, they’d probably sue me. Maybe it would be best if your kids are friends at school and maybe sometimes you and the mom can hang out with the kids at a park.

  66. molly February 28, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    That’s rude. Let’s not overanalyze it, just downright rude. Perhaps she could have dropped her kid off and had a short conversation with you if she needed that. But “checking things out”…rude.

  67. Maureen February 28, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    “I am very free-range but…” has become a very common phrase around here.

    SIGH.

  68. HalfMomHalfHuman February 28, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    The wording she used was awkward & unfortunate, and assuming she just wants to step inside, maybe chat a few minutes (and yes, possibly discreetly ‘scope the place out’) I feel it’s completely reasonable. I would wonder about the parents of a child who didn’t at least step in my house and chat a few minutes for an initial play date, or who weren’t welcoming of the same. We all do this I think, I just don’t think we announce it so blatantly.

  69. Per February 28, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    “Checking out” the home of a new friend is an ancient social ritual. It has nothing to do with post-9/11 paranoia – it is just how we make friends. While it is not really OK to invite yourself to somebody else’s house, if you invite her son, then the invitation is presumed to extend to the mother as well.

    Smile, invite her for coffee, and be sure to check out her home on the next play-date.

  70. Beth February 28, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    She was a tad on the rude side with that one. I try to be a little more stealth when I’m getting to know the parents and homes of my son’s friends.

  71. Martha February 28, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    I think another Mum asking to check my place out would have made me defensive, but on the other hand I very much understand that she SHOULD be asking. Like someone above said, a 5 years old doesn’t have the judgement to know if his surroundings are safe or not, that’s what parents are for. If we don’t know what this person’s house looks like, one might assume that we don’t know this person very well. And so leaving our young kids there without any knowledge of what’s in the house, just trusting that the person is safe because they smile nicely and have their own 5 year old, would be careless and perhaps naive.

  72. rhodykat February 28, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    I did approve a playmate for my 6yo at a house I’d never been to. He’d been to a birthday party there (grandma dropped him and picked him up) and I’d met the mother briefly at a birthday party. I trust that if it was a bad place to be, he wouldn’t’ have wanted to go back. In the end, he couldn’t get on the bus to go to the other kids house b’c of bus pass issues, so I texted the mother, who called the school and had me bring her son to my house sight unseen. I drove her son home, too, so she never saw my house. I think if I didn’t talk to the parents at all, I would want to check it out before I let my son go somewhere but, historically, so long as I’m comfortable with the parents, I’ll let him go without checking it out. The first time moms drop off at our house, I always invite them in for coffee so they can check it out – most politely decline, but some do come in. It’s not unreasonable in kindergarten when you’re feeling out all the families.

  73. Suzanne February 28, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    Not that I have something new to add but I think that this is probably the other mom’s only or oldest child and she worded the request really badly. On the other hand maybe she is just really honest and frank. We are ok with her saying “I’m not trying to offend you and I’m really looking forward to a couple of kid free hours but I’d like to drop him off myself and make sure he’s comfortable before I take off.” No one would think it was wierd if she asked to drop him off an hour after school and made some excuse for the lag but it’s offensive that she was honest about her intentions. That said, I would feel kind of offended too but there are a lot of mom’s that wouldn’t let thier 5 year old stay at a playdate if she didn’t stay too so maybe she is trying to make baby steps toward being freerange. If she keeps acting wierd then I would be more concerned.

  74. Cheryl W February 28, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Prior to my free range days, I did go with my kids to at least some of the play dates. Particularly with my son, who like another poster, was very active, into everything, and very liable to go off on his own. (Yes, he is socially different.) I didn’t want my son to do something and then the parent feel responsible.

    I never said to ‘check things out”. It was more “because my son is all over the place.” I think that most of the mom’s who were not close friends with us, did see what I meant after we came over.

  75. Another Christy February 28, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Ok question for the community. What’s the best way to ask if a family has guns in their house and if they’re locked up? We’ve just moved to a big hunting community and i am uncomfortable with my little kids (4-5) around guns until they’re old enough to understand basic gun safety.

  76. Brian February 28, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I gotta say, although this request sounds worded awkwardly, I always like to meet the parents of my kids’ new friends too. Largely to me it’s a matter of civility – I’d feel rude not introducing myself and thanking the parent for having my kid over. Call me old-fashioned, I guess, but I like to shake hands with and smile at my kids friends parents, in person. And yes, it is partly to make sure the environment is reasonable, too. I’ve seen households where the only parent(s) present were routinely drunk as a skunk or high on hard drugs in the afternoons when the kids get home from school. So to me it’s about that, but mostly just about being civil and social. And often times, you just end up with a new acquaintance and then enjoy seeing them around in the course of things.

  77. Jacqueline February 28, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    We moved cities when I was 17, with a driver’s licence (although not my own car). Obviously, I had a fair amount of leeway, but my parents were more nervous about me going out with friends then they had been before we moved. Why? Because before the move, I’d been friends with the same people for years and they knew all the parents and kids. Once we moved, that wasn’t the case, and it was a little uncomfortable for them. And I was 17, not five.

  78. My First Skool February 28, 2012 at 10:38 am #

    I did receive such request. I believe overprotective parents are sometime hurting the child instead.

  79. Ben February 28, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Mom #1 is overly paranoid, or just doesn’t have good manners. Nothing wrong in being curious about where your kid is going but show some tact.

    Mom #2 is being overly sensitive – use some humor.

  80. HalfMomHalfHuman February 28, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    Quite frankly, after reading the particular tone of the letter from ‘Mom with nothing to hide’ I wouldn’t send my kid over. You could have simply had this discussion with the Mom. I hope the kids can be friends, I doubt these Mom’s will be. ‘Nothing to Hide’ actually already has something to hide. Hope the ‘rude’ Mom never has to read this whole string of comments.

  81. Mombo February 28, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    We’ve been on the receiving end of this before and these are the kind of people that are fun to toy with. Go ahead, invite mom in saying, “While the boys get settled playing, do you have a minute for a cup of coffee? I understand your need to see where Precious will be playing. (Just when she thinks you understand, turn the tables) Actually, this will give me a chance to check YOU out too! (Somehow, parents like this never think their questions are okay when applied to them.) Then ask her, “Have you or your husband ever been incarcerated, taken drugs or been part of a cult? I noticed how nervous and tense you became when the boys wanted to play together and I want to make sure you’re not a tweaker. Oh, and I hope you don’t mind – I checked to see if your husband’s name is on the sex offender list. You can’t be too safe!” Hopefully, she’ll quickly understand how rude and forward she’s been and that she’s not the only one that cares about their child even if you are being facetious with her. At least she’ll know you saw through her and the road runs both ways! Maybe she’ll be nicer to the next mom she wants to arrange a play date with.

  82. socalledauthor February 28, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    @Tori– For me, the age has the biggest impact here. The kid is 5. Give the kid another year or 2 (depending on the kid, of course) and I’d say it was a little overbearing to want to ‘check things out’. Five years old may be having their first experiences staying at the house of someone who isn’t family or friends of the family (or without a parent there the whole time)– they may still be learning how to behave and how to trust their instincts about sketchy situations.

    Personally, I would think that a single afternoon without my pre-approval is not a big deal. I would probably do as my parents did and have a friendly chat with the parent(s), meet my kid’s friend, etc at the end of the afternoon when my child was returned to me.

  83. Bill February 28, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    So it seems to me that the modern concept of a “Play Date” may be at the root of the problem.

    I managed to grow up without benefit of “Play Dates”….we wound up at various houses in the neighborhood, depending on the season, who had a television set, etc.

    We knew where we could go without checking in with Mom, and when we needed to let Mom know where we were going.

    Parents arranging “Play Dates”…a totally foreign concept.

  84. Jenn February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    @Another Christy- Even if you did ask someone if they had guns in their home, I think that you also may offend them by asking just like this mom, asking to check out the writer’s home. When my son was invited to go to a classmate’s home for lunch after their morning kindergarten class, my husband freaked. I work in the day and have the day care pick up my son at school where he spends the rest of the day. I don’t get the opportunity to meet other parents of my son’s classmates. I had met the mom and child once on a field trip, and thought they were both nice. My son had positive things to say about the child so I had to trust his judgement and my limited experience with this family and sent him on his play date. My husband was worried about our son because “there could be guns!” I had to laugh because any of our friends or family could have guns and we would never know. It’s not like people walk around with a tattoo saying, “I have a gun” and I’m sure SOMEONE I know has a gun (or another secret of some sort that I would not agree with) but hasn’t shared that info with me. We just reviewed with our son a few of our basic rules for respecting others and ourselves for safety and courtesy. I did show up 15 minutes early to pick him up, so there was time that I could chat with the mom if she invited me in and so I could be there before I was expected and see how it went for myself.

    I think what it all comes down to is the balance between protecting our children but also giving them freedom to grow into independent adults. I agree the mother poorly worded her request. If you’re unsure about the invitation for a play date at their home, invite the parent and child to come to your home first and hopefully it will allay any fears that you have. You may forge a new friendship for yourself! Being free range doesn’t mean you send your kids off into the world without proper preparation- Free range is preparing your child to become independent and sometimes that includes `screening’ the parents of your child’s friends, just like you screen your child’s friends.

  85. Donna February 28, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    I’m amazed at the number of parents here insist on “checking out” playdates. I can probably count on one hand the number of conversations my mother had with the parents of my school friends on one hand and have fingers left over. I’m sure that I still have several good friends from school whose house my mother has never seen and parents my mother has never met. Checking out another parent was never even a small consideration in my childhood.

    I truly have no desire to “check out” any of the parents of my child’s friends beyond asking where they live (we lived in an inner city and there were some neighborhoods my child was not allowed to enter). If the friend is well-kept and doesn’t live in crack town, I think the environment will be safe for my child for A COUPLE HOURS. It’s not as though I am giving them my child to raise forever. They’ve managed to keep their own off-spring alive and in reasonably good repair for 6 years, I think they can handle doing the same for mine for 2 hours without going through a full inspection. Good grief.

    That said, I would let the mother check you out and let the kids play. You are not going to do anything other than hurting your own son if you refuse because your feelings are hurt and it isn’t going to make an impact on the other mother. Be the bigger person here and chalk it up to some bad social skills.

  86. Puzzled February 28, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    “That sounds like fun. Next time the boys want to play, I’ll come inspect your house. Make sure to get the blueprints for me.”

  87. Maggie February 28, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    My 9,8,and 5 YO’s are allowed to play outside in the neighborhood with anyone. If I was driving the 5YO to the house of a family I didn’t know, I would want to meet the family. I wouldn’t say “I need to check you out” though. If kids are playing at my house, I don’t care if I know the family or not. ANY child is welcome in my home. Last fall a group of middle school kids were going home after practice and stopped in front of my house to argue about where they were going. One kid wanted to go to “so-and-so’s house to get a bottle of water, and his buddies were telling him they had to go right to wherever they were going or they’d get in trouble. I was on my porch and overheard, so I offered to get him a glass of water. Suprisingly, he didn’t freak out about consuming something a stranger gave him, and said thank you very politely.

  88. Julie February 28, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Funny you should post this today. My daughter, who will be 7 in two months, has been invited to quite a few play dates in the past few weeks, and, being the fairly trusting person that I am, have not really had a problem letting her go, as these are kids from her class, who she has known since September.

    Where I live is a pretty good area, but you never know who might be growing pot plants in their basement, or God forbid be a pedophile (and yes, I get updates from the sex offender web-site every month). I stumbled on your blog today, and subscribed because I was curious to follow someone’s thoughts on giving my daughter the freedom to make friends and build relationships she may have for a lifetime without hovering or being “that kind of mom”.

    It’s always in the back of my mind, as decent as people might seem to be, there’s no way you can never know. And, I’m letting my child go into a situation that I’m not fully sure of, but letting her (i.e. just letting her ride home on the bus with her friend), because on the surface, the folks seem okay and my daughter never stops talking about her friend.

    Anyone have thoughts?

  89. amy costanza February 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    I had a parent handle a kindergarten play date the same way. Being new to the world of playdates myself, I wondered if this was normal, and I’d been negligent for not visiting other kids houses. The mom’s first comment, upon arriving at our house, was in regards to our close proximity to the freeway. She wondered if we ever felt in particular danger of robberies and kidnappings– since the perpetrator would have such a clean and easy getaway. Huh… We’d lived in our house 5 years, and hadn’t thought of that. Again, I wondered if I was lax regarding my family’s safety. All said and done, it seems that knowing where and with whom your child plays is good sense. But some people are over the top, and some just plain weird.

  90. Donna February 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    “you never know who might be growing pot plants in their basement”

    So? I guess there is a slight risk that the house will be raided by the police the very minute that your child happens to be there. Otherwise, they are not going to invite your 7 year old down to their basement to see their harvest. That will be under lock and key. She’ll never know that the plants are there. Even if you check the house out beforehand, they are not going to take you down to the basement to inspect their harvest. You’ll never know they’re there.

    “God forbid be a pedophile (and yes, I get updates from the sex offender web-site every month)”

    Since pedophile’s don’t wear a neon sign, you’ll never know this by visiting the house either. The sex registry doesn’t help you. Most people on the registry are there for reasons that have nothing to do with pedophilia (stat rape, indecent exposure, even rape). Contrary to the media, most people currently charged with child molestation are NOT on the registry.

    I’m not really suggesting that you knowingly allow your children play at marijuana grow houses. Just pointing out that you will probably never know completely what is going on behind the closed doors of even your family members and best friends if antisocial things are going on. People are very good at hiding socially unacceptable habits from the general public. The fact still remains that they are probably not looking to invite your 7 year old into their marijuana harvest, etc. Even their own 7 year old probably knows nothing about it.

    You can’t control other people and you’re not all-knowing. The best way to ensure your child’s safety is to teach your child to be safe herself. Teach her your morals and that you expect her to follow them even outside the house. Make it clear that she can call you if anything makes her uncomfortable and that you will cover for her so that she doesn’t seem like a wuss in front of her friends. Make it clear that she can say “no” to any adult if they are making her uncomfortable or she doesn’t like what they are doing. Make it clear that she can tell you anything and that nobody will hurt you or her if she does, regardless of what someone tells her.

  91. Lisa February 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I would not be offended if another parent wanted to “check out” my house. For all they know I have an unfenced swimming pool and a vicious dog.

    I wonder about the parents who drop their kids off at my house without even waiting to see if an adult is home.

    By the way – I DON’T have a dog or a swimming pool…but you never know. That’s why you “check it out” first…maybe you just don’t phrase it that way.

  92. SKL February 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Poor choice of words at the very least.

    I would be very tempted to make her undergo a security screening before she could cross my threshold.

    I see nothing wrong with her being curious about your home etc. I would be curious and also hoping that maybe we’d hit it off and have a chance at a friendship. Why do people have to be so weird about meeting new people? Lots of lost opportunities, in my opinion.

  93. deborah ambler February 28, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Let’s look at the continuum. You would be very, very particular about whom you left your newborn with. You have no say about where your 21 year old goes. So, a reasonable sliding scale. When they are 5, you should absolutely meet the parents. Not GRILL the parents, but meet them. Come to the door, if you are dropping your child off. Shake hands, talk, get the feel of the place. I almost always invited kids over first just so I could meet their parents. I wasn’t nice enough to invite them over for coffee, but they would definitely come inside, we’d stand around and shoot the breeze, they would see our house, see my manner, how I interacted with the kids. And when I dropped a child off (or if it was a house my kids walked to, walked over with them the first time) I came in with them for a few minutes to do the same.

    This doesn’t seem paranoid. It seems both friendly and smart.

    Your instincts kick in within about 10 seconds about what the mood in the house is like (and it has NOTHING to do with money or neatness). My kids have good friends who live in trailers and friends in fancy subdivisions, and all those parents are responsible and loving. There is one friend who only comes to our house because the mom is always asleep during the day, and they need more supervision than she can give.

    However, once my daughter became a teenager, the vigilance kicked in in a whole new way. She’s in and out of her friend’s houses all the time, but she NEVER goes home with a boyfriend alone to his house – they come to our house where I torture them with board games and making pizza and lots of family togetherness. If he still sticks with her after all that, we know he is a keeper. :)

  94. Sherri February 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    I usually found that walking my child to the door and maybe stepping in for a moment to discuss what time I would be picking him up was sufficient “checking it out.” I’ve ususally spoken to the parents ahead of time to arrange the playdate. Usually when my kids have playdates over I spend that time doing laundry or making dinner. I would be a bit annoyed if I had to entertain the mom. If the mom wants to get to know me, then we can do that at the playground or toboggan hill. Anyway, if someone were a pedophile, you wouldn’t find that out by eating cake in their livingroom and the hoarders who live in filthy conditions don’t tend to invite playdates over (at least from what I’ve seen on tv).

  95. Crista Birney February 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    I recently went to a birthday party for a 3 year old that I babysit. I have 3 children of my own (ages 7, 6, and my son is 5) the two boys get along great and the mother and I talk every morning when she drops her son off for the day. The face book pages of his mother and grandmother (linked to mine because I care for the little boy so they can see pics and stuff) talk about going to church and stuff like that all the time. These are nice people and I like them. However, when I got to the party with my kids, most of the grown ups had beer in cozies and some of the guys were playing beer darts in the yard…where the bouncy castle was for the kids to play on. The minute the cupcakes were eaten and presents opened, the boys father and uncles got out the beer pong table! Now, my kids come from a home where I had to divorce their alcoholic dad and I have NO alcohol of any kind in my home. No, I don’t think the mom is unreasonable at all to check things out. Some people just don’t think the same way I do, or don’t understand how what they think is safe or harmless fun is NOT ok for some families. Getting to know each other is important and while I want my son to remain friends with the little boy, he is absolutely not going back over his house until I can talk with the mom and explain how I don’t want beer to be around my son while in their care, or play dates can be at my house or the park or something. I get the whole free range thing and am trying to be more open with what I let my kids do and experience but these ARE children and 5 is still very young to send my child off somewhere to someone’s house without at least checking it out a little (although some tact may have been in order).

  96. Joy February 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    My 5 year old would never be on a playdate at a home of someone I did not know enough. One visit to check it out is very free range parenting to me. I used to have a friend who used to lock her kids into one room so that they could not come out and disturb us while we were having coffee. It was 6 months, about 10 visits to her home before I realized why tje kids never came out of their room to bother us. I will never leave my child at her house for a playdate. It will never happen.

  97. Uly February 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    the hoarders who live in filthy conditions don’t tend to invite playdates over (at least from what I’ve seen on tv).

    When your house is in that condition, you don’t invite ANYbody over. Not friends, not family, not the plumber or oven repair guy. If you have to live without a working toilet or oven, well, so be it. There are people who would literally prefer to die of shame than to risk somebody seeing how their home is. (And there are DEFINITELY people who would rather not risk a CPS call for their home being a genuine safety hazard.)

  98. Donna February 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    This has come up many times before and I’m always puzzled so I’ll ask. My question is what exactly do you think you are going to learn about someone in a 5 minute meet-and-greet at the house before a playdate? Most here have said something along the lines of “well I just want to see the house and chat for a minute.” What is that supposed to accomplish really?

    It is clear that the mothers had already met and talked. No negative gut reaction was had or a playdate wouldn’t have been scheduled. At the end of the day, the mother may be a total drunk but you’ll remain completely oblivious since she’s not going to get drunk on the car ride home knowing you are following her. Or the drunk is the husband who isn’t home when you get there. They’re not going to invite you to the meth lab or marijuana grow. If the knife juggling hobby hasn’t come up in the last few conversations at school, it is unlikely to be revealed in 5 minutes at the house. The mom is not suddenly going to admit that she is a pedophile who likes little boys. You are not going to get an in depth analysis of their moral compass.

    I would understand a lengthy visit with the family or several (I don’t agree that it’s necessary but you’ll at least learn something). But I simply do not understand what simply viewing a house tells you about anyone that should not already have been established before agreeing to the playdate (i.e. the house is in gang central).

  99. Joy February 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    My 5 year old would never be left alone in a home I had not been to, especially if I did not know the parents. I used to have a friend, seemimgly normal, clean, pleasant, educated, who used to lock her 3 kids and their playdate into one room for a couple of hours at a time, so tjat she would not be disturbef on her pladate with tje other mom. It took several months for another mom and me to realize what was happening. Ugh. Checking it out is good.

  100. sarahcorteseah February 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Dont be insulted (unless she says you live in a tip and theres no way her little angel will be stepping foot over the door step… its perfectly acceptable and perfectly normal… When my sons best friend came for his first sleepover the friends mum came in and checked the rooms for smoke alarms etc… I had a chuckle when she left but since this time our sons are now 14 and have been best friends for 7 years. His mum and I have become firm friends and often get together for a glass of wine or a coffee…and my place is still one of the only places she lets her boy sleep over. I still like to know where my kids are going as well, and I dont think that makes us helicopter mums, it makes us responsible adults who take our jobs as parents seriously. Let her check you out. What harm??? She’ll be comfortable, you’ll be comfortable, the children will be happy as larry and they are only babies in the grand scheme of things.

  101. Ben February 28, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Your kids obviously enjoy each other’s company. Don’t be the interfering kind of parent that stops a perfectly fine friendship because of their own feelings. Get to know the other parents; become friends. This could end up beneficial for both the families.

  102. Katrin Geisler, Frankfurt, Germany February 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Why don’t you just invite the other mom, too? Offer her a coffee at your house, then you can talk a while and she sees your house, and if she feels fine she can leave her son with you and pick him up at the end of the playdate.
    if not she can take him with her after your coffee.

  103. This girl loves to talk February 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    I’m pretty free range but I do usually know the house, or seen it before I let my kids play unattended without me. Even just so I know where the house is incase of emergency or something??

  104. Exam Questions February 28, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    This blog is highly informative, crisp and clear. Here everything has been described in a systematic manner so that reader could get maximum information and learn many things. This is one of the best blogs I have read.

  105. Beth February 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Joy, why tell essentially the same story twice, with minor differences, 9 minutes apart?

  106. MichaelEdits February 28, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Let her check you out for her own peace of mind. What the heck?

  107. MaeMae February 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Maureen, on February 28, 2012 at 10:01 said:

    “I am very free-range but…” has become a very common phrase around here.

    SIGH.

    Well, here’s mine: “I am very free-range but…I don’t believe that means I have to agree with every single thing that Lenore or other free-range parents say.”

  108. TaraK February 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    A parent new to our school that I’d met once asked if they could pick up my first grade son for a Saturday play date and drop him off again after and I let them. Was I being negligent? We don’t know the area, the school, the background of the mom asking or (forgive me original writer, just throwing an idea out) the reputation of the mom hosting the play date. Her method was a little odd, but if that’s what she is comfortable with then that’s her right. Just because we see the world in a free range sort of way doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. However, if the mom was truly concerned for her little darling then she should have offered to host first, invite the other mom and talk about things rather than inviting herself for a tour!

  109. Brian February 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    The problem is tact more than anything. Why would the other mother announce her intentions? It is too honest. If she had just said, hey, do you mind if I bring over some coffee for us, my son does better when I am around for a bit at a new house.

  110. Selby February 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    I’m in the “reasonable request but poor choice of words” camp. Let it go, let her come over, there are bigger things to bristle about. Oh, and make sure your vibrator is put away :-)

    What? WHAT?!

  111. mme6546 February 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    three things-
    1, I’d like the full context of “check it out.” was it said with a self deprecating chuckle? an edge of control? this matters because…
    2, the whole “check it out” thing could very well be a reaction to current social “norms”. I live in an area that could have its own mom’s helipad, and can see myself saying something like this with a nervous laugh simply because I didn’t want the OTHER mom to think I was some how “bad” (I have severe anxiety issues tho, so there is that.) for not “checking”. helicopter moms can be vicious in the gossip ring, and I could just see a “and she just let me TAKE him, and never even ASKED to come see…”moment brewing in this neighborhood.
    3. as I said, I have PTSD, so I work very hard at reasonable. its why I read this….to get a sense of perspective. my rule is, if I can see the house from my yard, it doesn’t count as going anywhere…if its within walking distance, but I cant see it, you have to call me when you get there, and if its something you get driven to I have to know how to get there AND have spoken to an adult who lives there at some point in the 24 hours before you either get dropped off or get picked up. (this last mainly because DD once planned a 3 day sleepover with 3 other kids,AT MY HOUSE, didnt tell me until one got dropped off, and not ONE parent asked to speak to me. as we were in fact going to my mother’s house to help paint that weekend, I had to call up and “cancel”, and was told they had all spoken to DD who assured them it was all good. even got scolded by the mom who had to pick her kid back up for not knowing what DD was “up to”, as she apparently eavesdrops on all calls and knows “everything” that goes on in her house.)
    so, yea….it could be poor word choice, could be the helicopter from hell, OR it could be a slightly battered around the edges free ranger who’s tired of catching grief.

    probably best to…. “check it out”

    lol

  112. Heather G February 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    I got halfway through the comments and realized I needed to skip the rest if I was going to post before the baby woke up. Sorry.

    A 10 year old is capable of scoping out there surroundings and using judgement as to whether it was safe or not. A 5 year old would have to be extraordinarily mature. Also we aren’t talking about a neighborhood kid whose family you’ve had the opportunity to develop a gut instinct about. Given that the request isn’t unreasonable. Should it have been worded better? Duh. For the sake of your child’s friendship building community rather than risking offense is the best bet. However that doesn’t make the request itself offensive.

    Getting offended and acting like there is something to hide isn’t going to turn the helicopter trend around. It only feeds into the fears they are already being fed. Instead being open, friendly and building community will. Even if the other mother is a helicopter parent, what happens when the other mother comes over and sees nothing wrong with your home? What happens when she sees her son has fun out of her line of sight? What happens when she sees the worst not happen despite her not being present and hovering? If we want to end the ridiculousness overreaction we can’t overreact ourselves.

  113. ironwing February 28, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    This brought back funny memories of my first “playdate” (though we didn’t use that word in 1969, thank goodness). It was with another five-year-old little girl who became one of my best friends. The family had just moved in down the street from us. Mom found out that they had a daughter my age, and arranged for us to meet the mother and little girl for lunch at their home. (This was in a part of the U.S. where people feel comfortable visiting each other’s homes. Where I currently live, the locals consider ALL home visits invasive, even if it’s just kids playing, and the only such visiting is done by people who moved here from somewhere else).
    Anyway, Mom and the new lady chatted in the living room, and the little girl and I had juice and cookies at a small table in the kitchen. We sat and glared at each other for about an hour, then went outside. By the time we’d played in the creek and trespassed through somebody’s backyard just for fun, we were friends. Mom and her mother became friends too, though not close, since our two families were very different.

    So even if the invitation seems a bit awkward (some people are just that way), I’d take her up on it and reach out a bit. If you can both get past the initial defensiveness, it might work out very well. Or it could go the other way, and reveal some serious issue that can’t be solved. But I don’t think you have anything to lose by getting to know her better, and the boys could be the big winners.

  114. CWH February 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    This is one of those areas where there’s such a fine line. On the one hand, it’s a basic tenet of Free-Range thinking to strengthen communities and get to know our neighbors, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the mother wanting to get to know the host. As others have said, she might’ve been more polite with how she phrased it, but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with it.

    OTOH, I have definitely encountered overprotective parents in the process of arranging playdates. One 5yo girl was dropped off at our house with a list of rules. (I wasn’t privy to the list, as my DH was home with the kids that day, but I believe one of them specified how close she was permitted to go to the street.) That was probably the worst, but it’s fairly common practice for other moms to ask for or offer information regarding weapons in the house, drugs, pets, siblings, allergies, food likes & dislikes…

    The one thing I’ve never seen mentioned is electronics, and that’s the one thing that I *would* ask about, if I were going to ask anything. (Which I never actually have.) It drives me batty when my kids go to a friend’s house and they spend the entire time playing video games. Or when their kids come to our house and bring their DS, so they end up sitting on the couch, zoned out over it.

  115. Amber February 29, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    I have to say that I would not let my sons play at a stranger’s house. I would want to get to know the parents first. You can call me overprotective if you want, but as someone who was sexually abused as a child, I would never forgive myself if my child was abused by someone and I hadn’t at least TRIED to prevent it. Of course there are people you think you can trust that hurt your children, but I’d like to think that by weeding out people I don’t trust, I’m at least decreasing their chances of something bad happening.

  116. pentamom February 29, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    “Does she think our house would be suitable for my son but not for hers?”

    She doesn’t know that it is. She doesn’t know you.

    I realize it’s hard to accept that people can’t just assume that everyone else is decent and responsible, but that’s the real world — not everyone is. Most people are, yes, and we should give people the benefit of the doubt, but that is not the same as assuming that no one is irresponsible. Rationally speaking, there is no reason she should privilege you over everyone else who may or may not be raising their kids in unacceptable conditions — until she knows you, which she doesn’t, really.

    I agree she was tactless, but the reality is, she has no way of knowing whether you are a decent parent who runs an acceptable home, or not. If you wanted to give her a month to get to know you, that might work — but then your kids couldn’t play together tomorrow.

    You raise the possibility that she’s overprotective, and has impossible standards — but now you’re just doing the same thing you resent in her — not giving her the benefit of the doubt that she’s just a fine, and normal parent. That’s because neither of you *knows.* Meeting in the middle — accepting that she wants to ensure that her kid is not going to play in a crack house without taking it as a reflection on yourself, and you won’t assume that she’s going to run the white glove and count your outlet covers, is the way to handle a situation like this.

  117. pentamom February 29, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    “Most here have said something along the lines of “well I just want to see the house and chat for a minute.” What is that supposed to accomplish really? ”

    Ensuring that they don’t leave crack pipes, guns and porn on the coffee table under three layers of unwashed dishes. Some people DO live that way.

    I’m pretty laissez-faire about the kind of places my kids visit, but there are certain things I’d wish to avoid. Since they’re extreme, they would be detected in a brief visit.

  118. Virginia February 29, 2012 at 12:40 am #

    Perhaps the other mom could have expressed herself more gracefully, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable for her to want to visit your home and chat with you. Presumably she’d be perfectly willing to have you do the same thing. You’d interview a babysitter before hiring him or her; why wouldn’t you want to get to know another parent before leaving your child in his or her home? It’s not like she’s asking for a background check — just a few minutes of your time.

  119. kiesha February 29, 2012 at 12:45 am #

    I went to a lot of friends’ houses when my parents had never met their parents. The most interaction I remember was my mom asking me if so-and-so’s mom said it was okay for me to go over.

    And that list for the birthday party posted earlier– holy cow. If my parents had gotten that letter, they would have stopped reading it after the first sentence. I’m pretty sure I would have been told, “You either eat what they give you or go hungry; you don’t get to dictate what flavor ice cream you get.”

  120. Urban Daddy February 29, 2012 at 1:01 am #

    Maybe for her piece of mind she wants to see that there are toys and the kids won’t be playing in poo or on broken glass, or maybe the mom wants to come by, stay for a bit, get to know the other mom and see if they can be friends. Everybody needs friends, right?

    This happens to us all the time and we appreciate it, and do the same in turn for a first time drop off. The kids appreciate knowing we are there at the start and if they feel uncomfortable they can always come back with us. No need to look any further into it, IMHO.

  121. Alex February 29, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    I wouldn’t even let a new adult friend come over to my house, or vice versa, that I hadn’t met face-to-face first. In fact, I set up coffee shop meetings with Internet friends all the time, that are followed with a drive to a house if another thing (like quilting or a potluck with other friends) was planned. I’m not sure what the big deal is, and I’m saddened at the angry and antisocial responses to that mom’s request. Maybe the “check it out” thing rubbed people the wrong way, but since I’ve been through foster care home checks, I must be immune to fear of scrutiny, so it didn’t even parse in my mind as any kind of inspection, but more of a friendship request. Free Range doesn’t have to mean frosty rage.

  122. Susan February 29, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    Ugh. The poor woman probably reads mom boards on the internet where everyone says they would never allow their child to do anything with anyone without “checking it out” beforehand.

    I have three school-aged kids and have never had this happen (at least not as obviously as it happened to you). I always feel bad for these women who think what they read on the internet is the norm.

    I personally would follow through with the play date and never invite the son again. That is what I do with moms who think that when I invite their child over, it is also an invitation for her and her other children to come over (which may be their way of checking out me and my home). After awhile, you will know which other mom’s are like-minded and those will be the ones whose kids come to your house.

  123. Jenne February 29, 2012 at 1:49 am #

    You know, I always feel like we should invite parents over when their kids first come over, and I’ve been somewhat uncomfortable with parents who wouldn’t make the time to come in!

  124. Sheryl February 29, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    I agree with so many comments posted (and disagree with some too) – but there’s really nothing wrong with wanting to see the place where your 5 year old is going to be playing. However, the parent could have been a bit more tactful about it. I think everyone is making way too big a deal about this.

  125. Laura February 29, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Honestly I think its fine to check out someone else’s house. If you don’t know each other, I think its prudent to want more reassurance that the other person is who they seem, and checking out their house gives you a bit more information, also I think its important to get to know your neighbors, kids parents, etc to build a community. Visiting their house and chatting is part of the way you meet new people.

    My kids were playing over at a camping neighbor’s trailer, that I had been invited to check out beforehand, and I did. Then I go over to pick them up, and the place reeks of pot. I would think it would be common sense to not smoke pot when someone else’s kids are around, but apparently not. You got to balance being overprotective and prudent, and I think seeing where your kid will be playing is prudent.

  126. geminiunleashed February 29, 2012 at 2:33 am #

    Sounds like a caution thing to me. I mean I would like to see that where my kid is hanging out is safe. Think of all the kids who have been killed by neighbors

  127. pentamom February 29, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    “I would think it would be common sense to not smoke pot when someone else’s kids are around, but apparently not. ”

    Exactly. The argument that “no sane person would do X” with a kid in the house — well,that’s exactly the point! You just want to screen out for the wackos. It doesn’t mean that you assume everyone is a wacko, or that your standards for who your snowflake can visit are ridiculous. It means there ARE people who do ridiculous and dangerous things and you just want to spend two minutes to exercise the minimal amount of caution to determine that the people you’re letting your kid visit aren’t so crazy that they’d expose your kid to something harmful in an obvious way.

  128. Diane S. February 29, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    I grew up in a house that had guns not locked up – but neither were they loaded, or ammo available. The double-barrel shotgun that had been grandpas, was leaned up against the bookshelf in the living room, right under the antelope mount. The friends houses that I went to, they had guns, and *amazingly enough* no one messed with them. When I was 9? the game Pong came out – a friend got that for christmas. It was fun for about 15 minutes, then we all went back to what we had been doing – playing outside. and yes, we all had cap guns, bows & arrows (with points). Most people I know have guns in the house, and I can only think of 1 that has a gun safe.

  129. Megan February 29, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    I’m pro-free-range. I find it perfectly acceptable that a parents wants to checkout the house where his/her child will be playing. For me, it’s the same as wanting to meet a parent of my child’s friend beforehand. The logic of “Does she think our house would be suitable for my son but not for hers?” doesn’t hold. Everyone has difficult thresholds for what they find acceptable for their children. I might find it acceptable to let my child jump on beds; another parent might find the risk of falling off the bed and breaking an arm to be too great to allow the jumping.

    One of my good friend’s is very car seat safety obsessed. I am not. We accept our differing levels of comfort about this issue while not judging the other. Just because one parent is more cautious doesn’t make him/her a bad or overprotective parent. And just because one parent is more relaxed and gives more opportunities for independence doesn’t make that parent lazy or “under”protective.

  130. Diane S. February 29, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    @anotherchristy – in reply to kids that age learning gun safety…I picked up some .. soft air? air soft? guns that shot (not hard at all) blue plastic BBs. (and when I mean not hard at all, I was able to pop off some at Colmes on Hannity & Colmes on the TV, and nothing happened to the screen). I would take the girls out to the back yard, line up coke cans on the ground next to our shed (I suggest someplace that doesn’t have windows in it, as we lost several windows due to later pellet gun incidents), and go over the basics. Mainly its NOT a toy, never point it at a person, and stuff like that. My youngest was 4 when she got an airsoft pistol. We had a while teaching her that you don’t turn around to talk to someone while pointing the pistol forward. However, after about a week of daily teaching, she got the idea. My dad brought me up learning gun safety from a small child also, and I think it’s the best if you really want to make sure it sticks. It still sticks today, and I’m almost 50. Just supervise carefully, and put it out of reach/out of wherever they know when its up..and that it’s ONLY to be used when you are with them.

    I went to a parochial school, and 4th or 5th grade, they offered a hunter’s safety course at school also. When they get older, there is always 4H for stuff if you are in a more rural area, and they also offer archery.

  131. pentamom February 29, 2012 at 3:34 am #

    “Most people I know have guns in the house, and I can only think of 1 that has a gun safe.”

    To be clear, when I referred to guns lying around, I’m not talking about having guns not locked up but generally stored responsibly. I’m literally referring to leaving them lying around, in easy reach, without any care given to any kind of appropriate storage — not even thinking of the direct danger to the kids since yes, kids can be taught gun safety, but of the clear irresponsibility that signals.

    Like you’d see in a drug den, for example.

  132. Holly February 29, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    I see nothing wrong with this request. What’s wrong with knowing the family and the home where your child spends time? It’s not always about drugs or guns or being molested. Isn’t knowing your neighbors a free-range philosophy?
    I once invited a child over for a playdate and the mom just stayed. I thought it was weird at first, but then I enjoyed getting to know her. I also found out that she had recently lost a child at a young age and wanted to spend as much time with her remaining children as possible. Thinking of her helps me to remember not to judge those who I sometimes think are hovering. I don’t know what is in their hearts. Years later, we have moved from the state, and the kids have practically forgotten each other, but this mom and I still keep in touch via facebook/pinterest, etc.
    The best thing to do, always, is to be courteous and welcoming to this woman and her children. There is so much that could be gained by this act, and so very little to be gained by taking offense.

  133. Lollipoplover February 29, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    Perhaps she just wanted to check it out to see if there was a trampoline in the backyard. She may have brought a 4 page waiver…

    Parents that visit my house are always invited in. I won’t win any white glove tests but I make no apologies for the way we live. There are many animals (two frisky puppies!) so if her snowflake 5 year-old is terrified of dogs, this is something I would like to know before she leaves him with me for any stretch of time.

  134. Suze February 29, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    I know many “so-called responsible looking parents” …. Lovely homes, welcoming, educated and upwardly mobile. My next door neighbours are 2 of them with 3 kids with tons of friends. They don’t watch these kids or have rules whatsoever. And yes, they are a pair of pot head parents who sit up in their attic bedroom with the window open and smoke it. I would love to know how many of their children’s friends parents are aware of this and if they would condone their kids being friends. So in short, I’m really wondering how many parents truly check out their kids friends. I wasn’t too happy with one of my son’s friends many years ago and the state of their home. It was filthy all the time plus, cats, dogs, birds and a pet rat. My son came home with something “stuck” to backside of him; it was cat poop. That was the last time he went over there. But the child he was playing with in the house is one of the most popular and well liked kids who (again like above) have tons of friends over.

    I’m of the mind that there are plenty of parents who really don’t care. Just as long as they can dump their kids on someone else for whatever reason then fine. They come back home in one piece; fine… This mother I think is doing the right thing checking out the home albeit her tact in saying so wasn’t the best. Be thankful for parents who DO care where their kids spend their playtime with and what the homes of these kids are like because too many I see DON’T. Sad :(

  135. Danielle February 29, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    This sounds like poor wording on her part. I would want to get to know the parents of my kid’s friends, especially if they are going to be hanging out a lot. I’d also want to make sure my kid was respectful at the other person’s home, especially on a first visit. She should have said something along the lines of “it would be great if we could all get together.”

    Side note – my 10 yo nephew’s best friend’s dad says the “N” word all the time and their home is covered in confederate flags and the like. My sister didn’t know this for a while. A quick visit up front would have helped a lot.

    Try to remember that free range parenting means taking reasonable precautions with the emphasis on reasonable. Meeting the parents of a 5 yo’s new playmate falls in the realm of reasonable.

  136. Carolyn February 29, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    I seriously think you are overreacting. Of course she wants to check out the place where her son is going to play if she has never been there before. She’ll at least want to know how to get there if some emergency happened. She’ll probably want to chat with you to develop some kind of rapport. It’s not an unreasonable request and doesn’t mean more than what it is. Just “checking it out”.

  137. KarenW February 29, 2012 at 4:35 am #

    I agree with everyone who said that it was extremely bad wording. You don’t just tell someone that you want to check out their house. I would have said, “Do you mind if I come in for a while so we can get to know each other better?” or something like that.

  138. Lollipoplover February 29, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    “I wasn’t too happy with one of my son’s friends many years ago and the state of their home. It was filthy all the time plus, cats, dogs, birds and a pet rat. My son came home with something “stuck” to backside of him; it was cat poop. That was the last time he went over there. But the child he was playing with in the house is one of the most popular and well liked kids..”

    I have a friend who’s house is a disaster. We met through our boys years ago and she is one of the nicest people I know. She is a doctor and a single mom of 4 adopted kids and the type of person who would do anything for you (and has helped with many medical issues). I didn’t discover her lack of housekeeping until a few years ago. My son’s only response is that he liked playing outside at her house vs. inside.
    If I passed judgement on her on based on the state of her home, like Suze did above, I would have been incredibly stupid.

  139. Allison February 29, 2012 at 5:47 am #

    I see a lot of “what’s wrong with knowing the family?” “get to know the other mom, become friends”-type comments. As far as I’m concerned, “Getting to know” someone, not to mention becoming friends, is a lot longer process than the checking out of the house and an afternoon playdate which was the ONLY thing mentioned in the original post.

    And it’s quite possible that the OP is content with her social life and doesn’t need more friends, just because the children are friends, as well as quite possible that the entire family isn’t home to be checked out at the time of the playdate

  140. Suze February 29, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Lollipoplover….. I just stated the home was a disaster, not the parents. But I was tired of my son coming home with god knows what all over his clothes and after that his friend came over to our home when they wanted to play. Please excuse me if I have a problem with my son coming home with feces on his clothing !!!! I’m glad to find out your child was far more intelligent than mine was in suggesting that they play outside more. Please read what you said about me passing judgement on these parents and listen for irony in your statement.

  141. blackwatertown February 29, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Re the letter in the post.
    The mother of the invited boy was being tactless. She could have hidden her anxiety (or snottiness perhaps) and invited herself round for that cake and coffee.
    Speaking of which – the inviting mother could overlook the offensive request and transform it into an invitation from her to the mother of the invited boy to drop in for a chat and a cuppa. Though it doesn’t sound like the two mums will ever be soulmates.
    Even better, rope in the visiting mother to help with chores – bed linen changing – two set of adult arms, etc. It’ll also give her a chance to “check out” upstairs to ensure all meets with her exacting standards.

  142. ChickyBee February 29, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    I’m astounded by the amount of judgement I’m seeing towards both mothers. The impression I got from the letter-writer was one of confusion, not outrage. The letter writer flat out asks “Is this typical?” If she’s never been in this position before – a playdate with a kid who’s parents she doesn’t know well – then that kind of confusion is understandable.

    That said, I’m agreeing with everyone above who says how much info can you really get from a quick visit and how sad it is that so many people find it more acceptable to lie about their intentions than to just be honest about what they’re doing.

    I also think a few people here need to readjust their idea of what free range really is.

  143. Diane S. February 29, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    @pentamom hm. yeah I guess.. to my mind, guns lying around are just guns that are out in view = kind of like the shotgun that my dad had.
    And actually, the rate for accidental shootings is pretty low. In 2007 there were 54 accidental shootings for those under 13. They’re more likely to be poisoned while out at someone’s house.

  144. Kristina February 29, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    It’s a standing rule that I get to meet parents and see houses before a drop-off playdate. It gives my child an out. It’s not about me seeing the people, it’s about the possibility that we’ll get there and my child won’t be comfortable. It’s only happened once, and it was at a house where apparently they were not ashamed of their floor to ceiling boxes (literally looked like an episode of hoarders) and the fact that their dog and cat “used the facilities” as, well, facilities. My son gave me a desperate look because he did not want to play in boxes and cat pee, and I made an excuse and took him home. Every other time, I wait 5-10 minutes and make small talk, he comes back smiling, and I leave.

  145. df February 29, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Lenore I love the dialogue that you get going here and am an avid reader. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award, which I expect has happened to you before.

  146. mollie February 29, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    This one strikes me as a classic case of taking things very personally, and assuming the intentions of another without asking for clarification before jumping to conclusions.

    And even if it all is as you’ve assumed, why be offended? It’s just one person doing their very best to meet their own needs with the consciousness they’ve got in that moment. If it’s not working for you, say so, but you can still hold some compassion in your heart for that person who shares all the same values as you have.

  147. Donna February 29, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    “Ensuring that they don’t leave crack pipes, guns and porn on the coffee table under three layers of unwashed dishes. Some people DO live that way.”

    Some people do live that way. I have many clients who do so. Of course, none of them live in neighborhoods that you would consider allowing your child enter. They also don’t have playdates. In fact, most of them don’t have their children in the home. And for god’s sake, unless they are complete idiots, they do not leave illegal substances out when company is coming over. That is why CPS and cops generally make SURPRISE visits rather than scheduled appointments.

    All you’ve done is confirm that they are not the dumbest people on the planet. This may be all you want to know about the people who spend time with your children – that they are not going to win the Darwin Awards anytime soon. But you certainly have not lessened in any way the odds that they are people who do wacko things. The odds of someone pulling out a hidden crack pipe the second you walk out the door are much higher than the odds that they actually leave a crack pipe lying around when they KNOW they are having company.

    “Like you’d see in a drug den, for example.”

    Yes, because those who live in drug dens are known for inviting their children’s friends over to play. In fact, they hang signs outside their door that say “Sam’s House of Crack” too.

    Really folks, this was someone she knew at least casually and who agreed to the playdate. The kid didn’t just run off to the ‘hood with a school classmate unannounced (thus surprising the drug den operators before they could hide their stash).

    I’m not saying that there are not valid reasons that you would not want your child playing at a particular child’s house. You’re just not going to discover them on a 2 minute, prescheduled visit to the house. I deal with people who are certifiably crazy (spend years in mental institutions believing they have been impregnated by aliens) and even they can hold it together for 2 minutes.

    “She’ll at least want to know how to get there if some emergency happened.”

    What kind of realistic emergency is going to involve not being able to get directions at the time of the emergency? If the other mother calls me to tell me my daughter is sick, I can ask how to get to her house. If I have a family emergency, I can call, explain that I need to end the playdate early and ask for directions. Short of a natural disaster wiping out phone lines, I can’t think of any emergency can be navigated without prior visits to the house. So while, yes, it will suck if a tsunami hits while my child is at some friend’s house, I’m not going to make all my decisions as if a tsunami is likely to occur at any given moment.

  148. hineata February 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    @Donna, I am sure a lot of seven-year olds wouldn’t know their parents are growing/smoking pot, but…..I was in my classroom the other day and a bunch of little girls (7&8) were playing on the verandah outside. I happened to overhear their ‘game’ – one little girl has stolen Dad’s marijuana (that was what they called it – relatively sophisticated, in my opinion!) off the coffee table – what happens next? Just sad, and an in-your-face reminder to me that some of ‘my’ kids have lives radically different to my own. Sad….Sorry, off the topic of course, but your post reminded me.

    Would I send my kids over to their places? If they were friends? Frankly, probably not…..:-(

  149. LTMG February 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Seems some people are getting to the point that in order to let their kids play together they need a kind of professional matchmaker, and maybe one with a law degree. Sheesh!

    There are enough sources of anxiety in the world without fabricating more. Kids gotta be kids. Let them enjoy hours of unstructured and loosely supervised play together. If something happens, as happened often enough to any of us raised free range, then either the kids will fix it or we parents can. And life goes on quite happily.

  150. Catheirne Scott February 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I have an older family and a younger family. I was in two baby sitting clubs when the older chidlren were little. To sign up you just asked to be added to the list, you received a copy of the procedures and it was all systems go.

    By the time I was looking to join a sitters’ club for the younger family it had all changed. We had to be ‘visited’ and interviewed by some officious *^*&%^*% – two actually – and then we were in trouble because we couldn’t meet some referees’ hurdle or somesuch (being new to the state and knowing scarcely anyone). It was not acceptable to be allowed into the club on the say so of the existing member who alerted us to its existence because of course that person was probably also invovled in the same international child abduction ring as us.

    We told them to shove it and paid for sitters instead.

    And of course there was never one single incident or rumour of an incident during the 14 years of membership of two clubs when the older kids were little.

  151. Catheirne Scott February 29, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    And in terms of kids playing at friends’ houses I used to always – and still do – contact or drop around on the other parents just to see whether it’s okay with them. Kids have on occasion been known to make arrangements with each other without checking whether there’s other stuff planned already :-)

    Like that birthday party for a friend my youngest and her group organised for next Saturday only to discover the guest of honour has another engagement.

  152. Kristopher Runjan February 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Admittedly I was 7 at the time, but when I went to a new friend’s house after school, I think there was a phone call. I know they never visited because I directed my parents driving there a couple of years later.

    It certainly is expected to make some sort of contact, just so the hosting family knows who to call if there are any issues. Like you say, Catherine.

    That said, Kristina, your technique seems quite reasonable. Maybe it was different in my case because I was quite capable of leaving and getting home by myself.

  153. Charles February 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

    Something my wife discovered. When someone is posing a potentially rude request like this, return the discomfort back on them with something in the form of ‘Why do you ask?’

    Sit back and watch the hemming and hawing and backpedaling when they are about to say, “I just want to make sure your house is safe…”

    As a mixed race couple, my wife uses it when someone asks her what nationality I am, as our son looks a heck of a lot more like me than her.

  154. copmom February 29, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    I’m usually pretty helicoptery. Helicopter parenting doesn’t mean just policing your child’s environment most of the time, it means doing it all of the time. As you can imagine, that’s a lot of work. That’s why one of the tenets of helicopter parenting is: Parenting Is A Job.

    Yes a job. Like being a TSA agent is a job. Now if I were a TSA agent would I just say “Oh, hello guy with the turban. Nice weather we’re having. Just pass on by here and enjoy your vacation.” No. I most certainly would not. I’d check him out. That’s my job. But it’s not my job. My job is being a parent. And I am a helicopter parent. And another tenet of helicopter parenting is: Everyone Is A Potential Pedophile, Criminal and Crackhead. So everyone must be checked out.

    I know, I know, you don’t automatically wake up every morning believing any random person just might be as sinister as you could possibly dream him (or her!) up to be. Because you’ve lived on this planet for 20 + (maybe even another +) years and that has not been your experience. Rarely, well let’s face it, never have you learned that a person who had struck you as being average, or even those persons who struck you as being slightly strange, turned out to indeed be an ax murder. Doesn’t matter. Job description of good parenting in any run-of-the-mill parenting magazine makes it clear: Acting like a paranoid, silly freak is the order of the day.

    So what if doesn’t add up to real experience? So what if feels like you’re living inside a television crime-scene show instead of the actual world? Damnit, it’s your job as a parent to ask: What if? No matter how absurd the question. Parenting means asking the tough questions. Yes, there’ll be some causalities along the way. Some people insulted to their core by your unsavory suspicions. But that’s the price of giving voice to those uspeakable thoughts roaming around in your head. And after all, who said parenting was easy? Let’s call a spade a spade. Work sucks. Jobs, as a rule, are unpleasant. Parenting is a job. Therefore parenting is unpleasant. Get it now? Has the penny dropped? Or don’t you want a job? Are you some kind of welfare queen or something? What are you lazy? News flash: If you aren’t feeling like Being A Parent Is The Hardest Job In The World (yet another tenet of helicopter parenting) you are doing it wrong.

    So if other people are offended that you assume they are pedophile crackhead criminals wielding an ax well, they’ve got nobody to blame but themselves. You’re just doing your job. I think it’s totally out of hand that they get insulted. In fact for me them getting insulted would be a red flag. I couldn’t be comfortable leaving my defenseless child at a house where a parent would be insulted that I would assume they smoke crack and masterbate all day.

    OP, I myself personally would have avoided the awkwardness of the implied crackhouse question. I believe in openness (as should the parent of my child’s friend!). I would ask anyone willing to do myself, my child and her own child a kindness by hosting a playdate in her home if she smoked crack right to her face – nothing implied there! But in a nice way like, “Um neither you nor your husband smoke crack, do you? To each his own and all that but it’s just my son does have an allergy to crack smoke . . .” Should they reply in the negative just remember that flat-out denial is also a bad sign. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt you know. Denial = red flag.

    One hang-up I have and it’s just me I know, is to make sure I ask the other mother if she drinks gin and tonics before lunch. Thing is, I enjoy a gin and tonic myself on occasion. But only after lunch! But being a helicopter parent doesn’t mean being inflexible! Maybe would could make some kind of arrangement.

  155. mme6546 February 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    copmom-
    that level of awesome deserves a cape….

  156. Lollipoplover February 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    @copmom- your post is filled with so many paranoid thoughts (and bigotry) that all I can say is I hope you can get some professional help.

  157. KarenW March 1, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    Lollipoplover – um, hello SARCASM?

  158. Matt March 1, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    Well, the one thing — and only thing — I ask about with other parents before sending my boys to play in another family’s house is whether they have any firearms. If they do, I want to see personally how they’re secured before letting my kids in. Too many potential accidents waiting to happen, particularly with boys being boys.

  159. pentamom March 1, 2012 at 1:12 am #

    “And for god’s sake, unless they are complete idiots, they do not leave illegal substances out when company is coming over.”

    Yes, but some people ARE complete idiots, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all. Those are the people whose house I don’t want my kids to visit.

  160. pentamom March 1, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    As for nice neighborhoods, really? There are no deeply dysfunctional people living in neighborhoods where people mow their lawns?

  161. pentamom March 1, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    At any rate, Donna, I get why you don’t find it useful to visit with people before letting your child visit others. And I have no problem with that. I just don’t see why you can’t see this as a minor difference in parenting, rather than something you have to take issue with every time it comes up.

    If people are vetting others’ houses for every possible parenting difference or perceived “safety” issue, that’s obnoxious and wrong. “I’d like to meet the person and visit briefly with them before sending my child there” is just a different approach from yours, even if you don’t understand why it’s useful or believe it’s rational for someone to be made more comfortable by doing it. I don’t think you should take this practice as a signal that everyone who does it, doesn’t realize that there could be hidden issues.

  162. Fizzgig March 1, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    I check out where my daughter is going. It’s not because I don’t trust who she is playing with but because my daughter has a disability. She isn’t quite old enough to translate, “Don’t hang off the monkey bars.” to “Don’t hang off the trees.” It is a known fact that she breaks bones when hang off a monkey bar and falls. She failed to transfer this and went up a tree and broke her elbow and wrist falling out of the tree from five feet.

    As a side, generally speaking, by the time someone is inviting us over for a play date, they are already aware of my kid’s disability. They generally invite me over as well for tea or for me to look because no one wants to deal with a kid having a serious accident.

    I would be taken back by being checked out but I wouldn’t take it personal. You never know what that parent has gone through and what their kid is capable of. Thankfully, most parents who helicopter don’t ask for play dates at my place. The first thing out of my mouth is, “Go play in the neighborhood.”

  163. Emily Morris March 1, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    Bad wording, reasonable request. I’d shrug off any offense and go with it. I see it more as checking out the community than checking out potential dangers.

  164. Emily Morris March 1, 2012 at 4:07 am #

    And if she is a paranoid mom, maybe a few not-so-horrible houses will build her confidence.

  165. LTMG March 1, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    Maybe what happened in the original situation is a bit of evidence of the encroaching Internet culture. From observation, our communication avenues are shifting away from personal voice and face-to-face communications, with much nuance from tone of voice and posture to aid in total communication, to much more transactional e-mail and text messaging channels. As a consequence, I think the humanity and courtesy of interpersonal communication through all channels is getting squeezed out of the messages we send. One result of communication slimmed down to bare transactional bones is that it becomes easier to offend the receivers of our messages because the total message never had a chance of getting through.

    I’ve read that communications experts estimate that only about 10% of communication is contained in the words. In my professional life I’ve seen how colleagues of all ages are these days preferring to send an e-mail rather than make a phone call or leave their desks to go talk to somebody. Misunderstandings and bruised feelings are predictable.

  166. catherine March 1, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    This is just part of getting to know people and build community. The most polite thing to do is for the hosting parent to invite the new friend’s mom in “for a minute” to have a cup of tea or something.

    My oldest daughter is in 10th grade and I don’t “check it out” when she is just visiting at a new friend’s house. But if she is spending the night and I don’t know the family I go in with her to introduce myself and thank the family for having her over. It just takes a couple minutes and why not take the opportunity to meet someone new?

  167. Jenn March 1, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    I’m of the “doesn’t sound so unreasonable” opinion. My brother and I were definitely free range kids growing up but visiting some of our friends came with certain rules. For example, “I don’t want you to go in the barn at Joey’s house” (structurally questionable) or “When you play with Jane I’d rather it not be at her house” (the house always smelled like marijuana although of course I didn’t know what it was at the time). These are extreme examples, but I also agree with a previous comment that sometimes things your kids are used to (i.e. know to treat with respect), could cause a problem for another kid. An example at our house, that’s not harmful but is something I do differently when other peoples children come to visit, is that I put away my knitting projects. My 3 yo twins know my knitting is out of bounds and the worst they’ll do is bring it to me if it’s in the way of a fort they’re building. But other kids think it’s a great toy.

  168. Donna March 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Pentamom, I don’t have a problem with people visiting people before sending their children over. In fact, I said so in my first post — that I thought the original writer should proceed with the playdate. Nor do I send my child off to houses where I haven’t MET a parent at her young age. I find the practice of essentially inspecting someone’s house as completely and totally irrational, kinda rude and not much different than any of the other helicopter things we pick on. I suppose we should just take everything as a “minor difference in parenting” and shut down the blog.

  169. Donna March 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    We also have posters such as Suze who stated that those of us who don’t find inspection necessary are lazy parents just looking to dump off their kids on other peoples without caring. Maybe that made me just a tad testy about the issue.

    I do find it interesting that if people here do something, those of us who think it’s ridiculous (including apparently Lenore since she brought it up) should just accept it as a parenting difference and shut up.

  170. Donna March 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    @hineata – I don’t doubt that some 7 year olds have marijuana (and more serious drugs) accessible. Guns too and everything else that has been mentioned. It’s not common in middle class America (pill and alcohol abuse is more common), but it exists.

    There are definitely things going on in some other houses that I probably don’t want my child exposed to. I simply accept that I am unlikely to discover them in a 5 minute inspection of someone’s house. Particularly someone I’ve already met, had conversations with, observed with her own child and decided is a decent enough person that I’d consider a solo playdate at her house. I’ve already come to the conclusion that this other mother is not under the influence of something at school pick up, is not obviously a raving lunatic, is not too dumb to exist and has a comfortable relationship with her child. I don’t see what a house inspection adds to this. I am not saying that I won’t discover that my initial impression of trustworthiness is off. It’s simply highly unlikely to happen because of a brief glance into a house, but rather will develop based on continued interactions and what my child tells me about what goes on there.

    Letting your child hang out with someone you don’t know well is a leap of faith. Insisting on inspecting the house of someone you already know – which is all this letter is about – seems helicopterish to me.

  171. John March 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Don’t feel bad cause I’ve experienced the same thing. While staying with a former co-worker of mine whom I worked with and knew for many years, I had planned to take her son and a friend of his to a skateboard park. Well, the friend’s mom did not want him to go with us because she did not know me and therefore did not trust me. Even though she knew my former co-worker for many years, I guess she did not trust her integrity enough to believe that the OTHER friends she had and allowed to stay in her house were good and law abiding citizens.

  172. Suze March 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    @Donna…… please don’t put words in mouth. I didn’t accuse anyone of being a lazy parent if the don’t do a house inspection. All I said was that some parents do absolutely nothing and just dump their children and don’t care or know the kids, parents or anything else about the families. It happens all the time. It sounds to me like most of us here are a little more perceptive than that and need to know a few more details about our children’s friends and family. I didn’t do house inspections back when my son was younger playing with friends… I knew and was comfortable enough with the parents and that was fine but usually got to step at least in the front door of their homes.

  173. pentamom March 2, 2012 at 2:04 am #

    Donna, I think characterizing this as “someone you already know” is a stretch. It sounds like they didn’t know each other before this, so the “already know” must have occurred between the beginning of the conversation about the playdate, and the end of it. That’s hardly “knowing” in a significant sense.

    If this was someone she’d gotten to know in various ways before this, I’d see your point, but it doesn’t appear to be.

    BTW, I didn’t notice this before, but from the OP…

    “While it’s not something I’m taking personally, I am offended”

    That’s a contradiction. If you weren’t taking it personally, you wouldn’t be offended.

  174. Diane S. March 2, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    @copmom.. I’m printing that out, it’s so darn good! Wish I could really show it to some helicopter parents that I know. 😛

  175. BMS March 2, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    My sons each have a friend or two whose houses I have never seen. I’ve met the parents, but it truly doesn’t occur to me to check out their house. With most of the parents in our area, I’m much more worried about my kids breaking stuff than drugs, guns, or clutter.

    I try to keep my house tidy when I know people are coming over. But if they’re going to get offended by minor amounts of dust and kids’ toys scattered around, then I don’t have time for them. If a pile of my husband’s paperwork on the dining table and crumbs around the chairs from the after school snack bothers you, feel free to take your precious spawn elsewhere.

    I also love (sarcasm) the folks with the double standards. I have a Geo Tracker convertable. I’ve had people who were worried about me giving their kids a ride home in it, because it isn’t a tank of an SUV. I dunno, my kids have lived ffor11 years without dying horribly. What’s so special about your kid that they can only ride in a Lexus. Get over yourselves.

  176. Neelo March 2, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    Let the kids play and have friends. All people are different. You are taking it personally. I’m sure the other parent is actually not concerned about you, she just has her own policy. Chill out. Don’t stomp on your kid’s friendships just because of your own issues. It’s not that serious.

  177. Uly March 2, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Now if I were a TSA agent would I just say “Oh, hello guy with the turban. Nice weather we’re having. Just pass on by here and enjoy your vacation.” No. I most certainly would not. I’d check him out. That’s my job.

    The TSA agent’s job is to be completely ignorant about the difference between Islam and Sikhism, and also racist as well?

  178. Catherine March 2, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    I would probably just humour her. She is obviously a bit odd and paranoid. Unfortunately one of the things you learn when your child starts school is that you can’t choose their friends for them – and this often means putting up with kids and other adults you wouldn’t normally choose to spend time with (my son’s bestie is super annoying!). Grin and bear it for the sake of your son.

  179. Neelo March 2, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    Why does everyone have to be so judgmental and get into fights over this? This whole thing is such a non-issue. Why not take the time to get to know people before judging? If you want to know what real problems are go volunteer at a nearby shelter for homeless teens. Might help put some of these “problems” into perspective a bit.

  180. Classic Kids March 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    It maybe the first time she has let her child have a playdate and she maybe really anxious. If it were me, I would be warm to her and involve her in the invite to your house, saying that the invite is for her as well as her child.

  181. Neelo March 3, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    @Classic Kids, it’s nice to see people being reasonable and mature.

  182. Becky March 3, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    I don’t think the other mothers request was unreasonable at all. I think maybe she worded it wrong and gave a weird impression of paranoia. Perhaps she could have just explained that she would pick her son up from school and drive him over herself, and then when she dropped him off she could “check it out” without stating as much. Perhaps she is new at this too, and just wants to be sure she’s letting her kid play in a home that’s safe, comfortable, with normal people, etc. I’m all for “free range” and not “helicoptering”, but it seems perfectly reasonable to know where your 5 year old will be playing without you.
    ‘Mom with Nothing to Hide’, perhaps you should ask yourself if you had agreed to have the playdate at the other house, would you be entirely comfortable letting this other mom pick up your son and take him to their house, without having any clue how they live or where?

  183. pentamom March 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    “We also have posters such as Suze who stated that those of us who don’t find inspection necessary are lazy parents just looking to dump off their kids on other peoples without caring. Maybe that made me just a tad testy about the issue.”

    Okay, I missed that one. I don’t blame you for being set off by that, at all.

  184. pentamom March 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    “The TSA agent’s job is to be completely ignorant about the difference between Islam and Sikhism, and also racist as well?”

    Well, in fairness, there are Muslim cultures where turbans are worn, also. I believe under the Taliban it was pretty close to mandatory. But I’m not defending the comment you’re replying to.

  185. Liz March 4, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    This conversation makes me think I misunderstand this blog. These detailed protocols about play dates (first time – meet in a park; second play date, the parent stays; be sure to make some muffins and tea!) strike me as the very antithesis of free range. Also totally impossible for working parents -. Yes, there are dangers everywhere – guns, pools, child molesters, trampolines. But isn’t the whole point of the free range attitude that these risks are fairly low and can be handled without constant hovering over our children? I have three children and yes, I allow them to go on after school play dates on the school bus (or from preschool in another parent’s car) without more than a phone call. And I consider myself rather cautious, particularly because one of my children has a severe allergy. The predominance of hyper-cautious comments here makes me feel downright rebellious – not what I was expecting from a free range blog.

  186. KarenW March 4, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Copmom, will you please come back and explain your comment to everyone? You are a great writer with fabulous satirical wit, which I had no problem recognizing. Many here don’t get that you were being a CHARACTER of a helicopter parent. Maybe the turban part was a bit much – not all helicopter parents are bigots – but I get that you were trying to be over-the-top for comic effect. To all the people reacting negatively to copmom’s comment – seriously, do you REALLY think your average helicopter parent would SAY these things (even if they secretly believe them?) Remember the commenter who claimed that she beat her kids, just to see what kind of reaction she would get? Good lord, stop being so gullible!

  187. Susan March 4, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    ” The predominance of hyper-cautious comments here makes me feel downright rebellious – not what I was expecting from a free range blog.”

    Aha LOL no kidding!! This blog rants on about how you should blindly trust strangers in subways & supermarkets – yet now almost every poster is suddenly paranoid about their neighbors! It’s just too inconsistent & funny for words.

  188. Andy March 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    @Susan First, neighbor I never seen before is a stranger. There is no difference between them and nothing inconsistent about it.

    Second, trusting that random subway traveler is not going to snap my child is one thing. Wanting to know people the kid will spend hours with is another. Those situations are different enough and there is nothing inconsistent on having different level of trust in these situations.

  189. Slee March 5, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    i think it’s perfectly reasonable if she doesn’t know you or your living environment. how does she know she isn’t sending her kid to play in a house with a creepy stoner uncle that lives in the basement or a prominent collection of unlocked guns? or maybe your house has a creek that runs through the back of the property and her kid is unfamiliar with basic yard-abutting-waterway safety. these most likely aren’t real issues, but if a parent feels better letting her kid be somewhere she’s seen, i don’t think that’s bizarre. it’s easier to let your kids be kids if you have a vague grasp on the environment.

  190. Buffy March 5, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    @Susan, not that I am in agreement with the levels-of-playdate described in these comments, but there IS a difference between your child one aisle over in the Walmart (hint: it has nothing to do with trusting anyone but your child) and sending them to someone’s house for an afternoon.

  191. copmom March 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Faster than a speed dial phone call to a school principal’s office to protest a grade, more powerful than a toddler trying to use his own cutlery. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s a helicopter. Mom. KarenW, your cry for help to unfuddle the befuddled has reached me. Here I am.

    First off, some first aid. If you get a boo boo try a little iodine first. It can’t hurt and it might help. Same applies with this axiom here. Try a little of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor
    There now. Doesn’t that feel better already? What’s that you say? Nice, but you were looking for a bit more? Okay.

    How bout, I could suggest a certain obviousness, a kind of determined lack of observation, if you will, by some folks in not recognizing the pointed commentary evinced in my remarks by means of juxtaposing the (decried) bigotry towards The Other, as in another creed, and the (applauded) bigotry toward The Other, as in another parent. But it all just helps prove the point. So it’s all good. Been taking notes? No? No matter, I’ll recap.

    Doing the one will get you flamed. Doing the other will win you accolades for being a Very Good Parent. You thought the very worst about your follow man, your fellow parent, first. Not only should you not be ashamed of that, you should say it aloud and share any and all misgivings you may have about other parents with other parents. And don’t get confused now. Don’t think by definition the other other parent must then mean you. No. It’s those other other other parents. You know which ones I mean. The ones who are depraved. Who need to have their homes cased before your child enters it. And although that parent is not you, and although that parent is not me, there must be many of these other other other parents. Yes. Lots of them. Obviously. So numerous they pose a real threat. Tons of them really. Just trust me on this.

    Because we’re worried about those other other other parents. And we’re worried because we care. And we care because there is an actual, acute threat. What kind of idiot would waste her time caring about threats that are more or less non-existent? Not me. That’s how I know. That’s how I know those parents are out there and they are numerous and they pose a real threat. Because I care. Got that? Okay then. Glad I could be of help. Anytime.

    P.S. copmom’s son has a science fair coming up and this year we are, um, I mean he is going to take first place. Mark my words. This means copmom’s response to cries of help may be significantly delayed in the near future. In actual fact, most likely no response will be forthcoming. These science fairs 1st places don’t just win themselves you know.

  192. Diane S. March 6, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    just two asides = islam/sikhism is not a race. it’s a religion, therefore not racist. Don’t notice baptists rioting in the streets & killing people.

    #2 – I grew up with unlocked guns all over the place – friends came to my house regularly to play. Their parents had unlocked guns. My sister and I went to their house to play. Did it matter? Nope. My kids grew up in a house where there were unlocked guns about. They had friends over. And they went to play at other’s houses that there were quite a few guns at (the dad is a collector). Did it matter? No. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever *seen* a gun lock.

    In 2007, there were only 54 accidental gun deaths for children under age 13. About 12 times as many children died from drowning during the same period.

    You’d be safer for your kid making sure that the under teh sink cleaners are locked up instead.

  193. Andrea March 6, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    The weapons lying around comment amuses me. My family collects all kinds of weapons, mostly knives and swords (we’re medieval reenactment types). So yes, there are weapons “lying around” on display tables and such. No one’s hurt themselves yet, mostly because we explain to everyone who comes over that “these are real, not toys” and they may not pick them up or touch the metal parts. Children are allowed, with parents’ permission, to touch the sheaths or handles. We don’t even let most adults touch more than the sheaths or handles, because they haven’t been trained and our stuff is REAL.

  194. Diane S. March 6, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    that just reminded me – my kids have had swords & daggers in their rooms for years, since they were young teens. One got a sword that was put in the $20 bin (by mistake) so they honored the price. Had to get a new sheath made for that one, as the old one had been sliced through.

    Did you know that table knives (without serrations) will actually cut someone? I had two stitches from one – after years of mom telling me to not lick the peanut butter off the knife. She got a good laugh out of me telling her that she was right after all these years.

  195. BMS March 6, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    copmom, I think I love you…

  196. Sunnie March 30, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    I’m a fellow free range mom but I, too, made a similar request (but worded it differently) before I let my 4yo play at a new friends house. I didn’t go to the house but rather asked some questions which aren’t out of line:
    1) Do you have pets? (my daughter is afraid of dogs b/c she was bitten on 2 occasions) her answer: Yes, 9 pit bulls that live in the house. – So, had I not asked, that would have been a literal nightmare from my child.
    2) Do you have any unlocked weapons? Answer: Yes, but it’s hidden and the bullets are in another location. (Fair enough, my answer would be same.)
    I don’t think asking those are out of line. I would actually be glad if another parent asked these b/c I’d feel we have the same values/priorities.

  197. Warren September 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Oh for crying out loud…………the fact that one would want to inspect or casually check out another parents home, before allowing their child to play there with a friend is in no uncertain terms….WORST-FIRST THINKING.

    My answer would be, if upon talking to me you are not comfortable enough to have your child in my home, then do not send your child.

    As for the whole dog fear thing, if there is dogs involved then the kids already know. I do not know any child that does not tell their friends on a daily basis what their dogs have been up to lately.

    @Sunnie do yourself a big favour and get some help for your daughter to get over this dog fear as soon as possible. Yes she has had traumatic times, but as she grows older this fear could become crippling. She needs to know that her experiences are the exception, not the norm. Not all dogs bite, just as not all strangers molest.