A new parenting dilemma presented itself the other day and being the first encounter with this issue, I let my gut make the call.
My two eldest daughters, ages 9 and 6 just began a new school last January after having migrated over from an "expensive-as-heck" private school a mere 45-minute-highway-drive from the house.
Thankfully, both girls possess rock solid self-esteem and had little to no problems with the abrupt and dramatic changeover to “this other galaxy.”
Each has made many friends so it’s no wonder that they get invited to their classmates’ birthday parties. My 9 year-old received an invitation to attend a pool party for a girl that she considers her (current) “best friend." The child is sweet, bright and well-mannered. We had already invited her to join our family months ago when we took our daughter out for a birthday dinner.
Anyway, my two oldest girls and I arrived to their patio party late last Sunday afternoon. Upon entering, I scanned the backyard for familiar faces yet knew nobody. I met the friend’s mother previously- she seemed reasonably hospitable and graciously invited me to an alcoholic beverage of my choice. I accepted a light beer and sipped slowly all-the-while observing my two precious princesses interact with the others in the pool.
I also noticed the father. He was comfortably seated, beer in hand and surrounded by several empties. No biggie. It’s his kid’s party- he’s “planted” and not getting behind the wheel.
But something didn’t feel right. He was civil, very quiet and polite. Yet, attempting to engage him in conversation beyond introductions was more work than finding out what my 5 year-old boy did in school on any given day. There was a certain inexplicable vacancy in his eyes and he radiated a deep-rooted sadness that just plain spooked me.
I hung out about 45 minutes as all the guests strolled in. These folks were very different from us. But, hey, I’m not a xenophobe. I’ve travelled and resided for many years in several foreign countries so am used to “other cultures.”
Hours later I returned to retrieve my kin and received a proposal to permit my girls to “sleep over.” The three girlies, tears in eyes, pleaded dramatically- in hopes that I’d succomb.
"NO" resonately loudly in my head. I liked the girl. I liked the mother. But this relentlessly stubborn "NO" enforced its control.
Truthfully, I wasn’t quite sold on the father and the whole family dynamic seemed a little “off.” Despite all the melodrama, I would not budge.
Look, the only thing we had in common with this family was being in the same school district. Period. We didn’t have any information about one another’s families, values, backgrounds, priorities or ethics.
I couldn’t imagine my girls partaking in this family’s intimate evening rituals and subsequent morning routines. And, as lying is not my forte, I couldn’t rationally explain to the kids or the mother why we had decided against it. It just had to be that way.
Where to draw the line when it comes to loaning our kids out to another family albeit for a party, play date, sleepover or weekend getaway?
How can we avoid offending others with a quick rehearsed one-liner, i.e. hidden rejection?
Like, “Oh my girls get so homesick and end up looking for us in the middle of the night.”
Do you think we were we being too overprotective? Too suspicious? Paranoid?
Were we denying our children the same treasured privileges that we enjoyed as kids?
Wasn't it a different world back then?
No parent wants to take any chances with their kids’ emotional or physical well-being by inadvertently putting them in a precarious situation, right?
What would you have done in this situation?