Once, years ago, I had an acquaintance tell me that she would never let her child come and play at our house because we keep the television on all the time. They have a tv-free home, and I guess the screens in every room of our house offended her. This was before I had children of my own, so the scenario in general was hypothetical, but her attitude stayed with me.
I haven’t encountered such a staunch mother since, but I have had enough playdates to figure out how to avoid such a situation.
Ask & Tell.
This may seem really obvious, but communication with a new parent friend is key. If they’re coming to your house, ask about food allergies or screen preferences or anything else that you should know as a hostess. As a courtesy, share what you have planned. “I’ve made brownies and cut up some apple, and it’s such a beautiful day I thought we could play in the backyard for a bit.” Doesn’t everyone act better with clear expectations?
Bring enough for everyone.
When I was a new mother, I met a friend with older children at the park. I was frazzled and in a brain fog, and didn’t show up with anything except the clothes on our backs. My friend whipped out extra juice boxes and a big handful of goldfish crackers. I was astonished. She smiled wisely and said another mom had taught her always to bring extra for other kids. Lesson learned.
My control-freak tendencies have naturally waned as my two favorite little people have entered the scene. And now that I’ve been on both sides of this equation, I’ve learned to roll with the punches when someone has to cancel last minute or when an uncontrollable tantrum ends the fun early.
So what if you’re the one who feels uncomfortable with another family on a playdate? Stay graceful and bow out of the situation. If they eat food you don’t allow, or encourage behavior you wouldn’t, note it for the future and then extract yourself and your kid naturally. Rarely is making a grand statement good for anyone, and it can ruin a pleasant relationship.
^ The three guides above boil down to Communicate, Be Generous, Stay Flexible. And those are just rules for life, aren’t they?