Monday, October 11, 2010

Rules for Playdates - Elementary School Edition

Yes, back in the olden days of my youth, kids got together to play without needing a special name for doing so. But "playdate" seems here to stay,  so let's accept it and move on. With the school year underway, it's time for an update of the guiding principles of playdates in our home, as applied to the K-5 set.
  1. Don't expect me to report back on your child's every action for the time they spent under my roof.  Half the reason your kid was invited over in the first place was so they could distract mine while I hide in my office, finishing a story on deadline. Unless I hear screams and/or dishes shattering, I tend to stay out of sight. That way I’m as surprised by the baking soda volcano in the kitchen as you are!
  2. If my kids aren't allowed to say it, neither are yours while they're in my care. Be advised: “sucks,” “hella,” “crappy,” and “shut up” will be called out and shut down.
  3. Snacks will be provided, with a ratio of 1:1 healthy to unhealthy content. It just doesn't seem fair to offer carrot sticks by themselves when there are perfectly good Newman-Os in the cookie jar. On the other hand, if they happen to walk through the kitchen as I'm wolfing down a brownie and I have to pretend that I was actually just about to serve it as snack, I pledge to force feed them some blueberries too.
  4. Recognize that we have a dog, and expect that he will jump around in excitement for the first two minutes of the playdate before retiring to his bed to sleep for the remainder of it. If you are the parent of a child who is terrified of dogs, and yet like a moth to a flame can't restrain herself from saying, "Here Achilles! Come here! Come!" and then screaming as said dog approaches, let's just agree not to do this.
  5. Spontaneous kitchen dance parties do break out in our home, particularly when the iPod hits a spate of Black Eyed Peas songs. Send your child in stretchy clothing.
  6. We are a no-video-game-console family. (Why do you think my kids always want to come to your house?) The default setting for the TV is “off” during a playdate, but if the kids have finished homework, kicked a ball around outside in a game that resembles Quidditch for Muggles, played a round of Dream Date (pick the nerd, trust me!), built a Lego fort, and eaten two snacks, I may break down and let them fire up a video. Tell me seriously: would you not?
  7. Grounds for immediate termination of the playdate include:  physical violence, swearing, bullying, or saying “Shut up, your crappy music hella sucks."
  8. Grounds for my begging to extend the playdate into an overnight or to have your child return the next day include: jokes I haven't heard before, unprompted placement of dirty dishes into the dishwasher, good sportsmanship (especially as directed to a younger sibling,) a request to play with the dog in the back yard, incisive book recommendations, and a bear hug as they say goodbye.
  9. We abide by the 50/50 rule here. I will only believe fifty per cent of what your child says about you if you'll only believe fifty percent of what he or she say about me.
  10. I trust and expect you to hold my children to a similar set of guidelines in your own home, the stricter the better. Anything to help make us look good by comparison is appreciated.


  1. GIRRRRLLLLL! The best one yet, I tell you! LOVE IT. I would add "hate", "kill" & "stupid" to the banned word list... & maybe the phrase "Dave Matthews is BORING"...And while I won't be trying to do something productive like complete an article, (more likely I'll be F-book stalking) I will TOTALLY DROP EVERYTHING to offer hugs & kisses to your precious child when the dog snatches that Dorrito out of their hands.

  2. Oh yeah, I forgot the rule that when Achilles runs past and grabs a piece of pizza out of their hand, they earn an automatic Saturday sleepover.

  3. I love it, Nancy! My rules are a little different:
    1. You need to be okay with everyone in my house using "sucks" - such as when discussing the Red Sox or Jack Johnson - around your child.
    2. General ability to discuss pretty much any sport earns your kid bonus points.
    3. So does your kid complimenting me on the cleanliness of my (incredibly messy) house compared to his/her house.

    Funny thing about the nomenclature...Alex (now 14) and I struggled with what to call it when he gets together with a friend. It's clearly no longer a playdate, so we settled on "get-together" for a while, and now it's just "hanging out."

  4. Great post, especially #4.
    One parent mentioned her daughter's unease with dogs (we have a massive 18 lb cockapoo) and asked whether we could use the crate. I replied that I doubted her daughter would fit in it (sadly she didn't get the joke).

    I'd add one more helpful rule. Saying you'll pick your child up around five-ish, then arriving at 7 (without calling first) talking about how your tennis instructor was running late will have an adverse impact on the likelihood of future playdates.

  5. I think I'm going to start up a looseleaf binder where I can keep everyone else's house rules to refer to just before dropping off for the "get together." As in, Hey girls - you're going to Lysa's house - use "sucks" all you want!

    I get your joke, Barry, and applaud it. And I like your additional rule - reminds me of the time someone wanted a playdate for their daughter on a school night and when they came back 1.5 hours late, after my kids were already in bed and I was stuck playing CandyLand with their spawn, they said "Sorry, you just can't get away from the Chef's Table at Chez Panisse very quickly!"

  6. Sounds fair to me. Now, would love to read your spin on "puppy" playdates - a new world I have entered in.

  7. ... P.S. I also got (and loved) Barry's joke.

  8. Marcella, you're going to have to write that one...Andrew's barely adjusted to having one dog in the house, if we added another, even temporarily, it might put him over the edge.

  9. Loved this Nancy! I am so happy to have graduated from "playdate" to "get-together" (thank you Lisa for the proper verbage) with my 12 year olds, but now I'm back to "playdates" with our 9 month old puppy...ya just can't win.

  10. Dave Matthews is boring. But this blog post is not.

  11. It's a good thing you're in Hong Kong or she would come after you in a righteous Dave-induced fury


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