I received a letter in my inbox awhile back and couldn't wait to answer it. The problem was, the longer I thought about it, the more my opinion changed. There are several questions, so I'm going to break it up for you.
I have a bit of a problem. I have several friends who subscribe to a theory of parenting that is foreign to me. Which is fine--whatever works, right? Here’s the thing: I don’t like inviting them on outings, and certainly not to my house for social events.
These parents view social gatherings as free babysitting. The parents eat, mingle, and ignore their children. Did I mention their children are hellions? So the care of their gremlins is left to me, as hostess of the event, or God forbid, my other guests. This has happened multiple times, all by the same parents. I have had furniture ruined, rips in upholstery, various things broken, and too many spills to mention. It’s not that we own such invaluable things, it’s the principle of the thing.
Are you talking about me? Just kidding. I think. Look, I've been in your position. I've had things in my house broken, I've had kids jumping on my furniture. After our Christmas party last year, I found cubes of cheese hidden everywhere. It was Easter before I found the last little bit squirreled away under the bathroom sink. I've also been on the other side. I'll admit to not watching my kids too closely at social events (especially where other kids are present). I've backed out of a friend's house muttering apologies and wincing at the damage. Here's a couple of questions: Are your friends apologetic? Do they offer to repair or pay for any damage? If they're just laughing it off, they don't value your home and maybe not your friendship.
On your side of things: What do you have for these kids to do? Chances are, your house is boring as shit. Unless you have age appropriate toys, what else do they have to do but break stuff? If you have a kid between the ages of 3 and 7 as a guest, without providing them with an activity, you're asking for trouble. You're lucky if they get out of there with covering your cat in vomit or setting something on fire.
I value my relationship with these folks. I just can’t stand them as parents.
Well, here's the bottom line. You value your relationship with them. So maybe the next time they come over, you have a cool craft the kids can do outside. Or you set them up in a safe environment away from things that you don't want them messing with. When we have other kids over, I always tell my children if there's something they don't want to share, put it away in a safe place until the others leave. It's a good practice for adults, too. I never leave my bong out when friends visit.
To remedy this, my husband and I have tried to have kid-free events. But, that’s not really fair to the friends we have who actually watch their kids.
God. Sure it is. There is nothing wrong with hosting kid free events, as long as your kids are gone, too. Because having your kids there and telling everyone else to leave theirs at home is just assy.
I have a friend who I have sworn off eating in public with because she fails to see the necessity of the child eating at the table in a chair (!?!). She lets her little one roam about the restaurant and thinks this is the adorable thing. If only the fellow patrons of the restaurant shared her sentiment. I mean, everyone likes to eat while having a child run about, right?—smearing mashed potatoes on everything they touch? Precious!
Agreed. Mostly. Most parents try to frequent family friendly establishments, or pick places where they can easily go outside with a restless child. Slow service is a bitch when you have a kid under the age of about 8. But I'll admit that I've sat and finished coffee with friends on multiple occasions and let Henry walk around the coffee shop. Mashed potato-free, of course.
Now, I don’t have a problem speaking my mind when it comes to how their parenting effects me. My problem is tact. How do I have a party and nicely ask them to either not bring their kids, or vow to watch them?
I am the most non-confrontational person, maybe EVER. The very first thing I would do is do what I can to remedy the problem - namely, give the kids something to do. A movie, a craft, a board game, an outside activity, whatever I could think of to help them not be bored. Bored kids = crazy kids. If it's a party where several children will be attending, I'd even consider springing for a babysitter, or getting an older tween or teen to be the cruise director for the evening. It's a small investment that would give you some serious peace of mind.
But my best advice is this: Chill. And if you ever find yourself letting Junior down in a coffee shop to walk around so you can take five minutes and finish a conversation, have a bite of crow with that coffee.