Have you had the opportunity yet to have your “baby” ask if they could spend the night at a friend’s house? I recently was asked by my 12-year-old if she could—and I quickly responded with, “Why don’t you just stay here?” I would much rather keep my children home, where I can see exactly what they are doing. I remember my mother saying the same thing to me when I was younger and thinking, “It’s not as much fun staying here!” My mother would never let me spend the night at a friend’s house until she spoke with the parents.
I have now become that embarrassing mother that wants to get to know the parents, where they live, what they do for a living, if they have other children, what shows they watch on TV, what games they play, books they read, results of the FBI background check…I know it seems a bit extensive. But in all seriousness, even though it may be uncomfortable, I feel it’s really important for me to take the extra step and get to know the people that have the ability to influence my babies for an entire evening. I know I am embarrassing my children by doing so but hopefully one day when they are older they realize the importance and can understand how embarrassing it is for us, too.
There are a few ways to go about reaching out to the parents of your children’s friends to get to know them. Something that I do is set up a play date where I and the other parents will all be present and we can chat over coffee. Sometimes I have to make the first move in the conversation. This is easy if I have some ideas in mind of what is important to talk about, to fill in those awkward moments of silence. In the article 7 Steps to Prepare Your Child for a First Sleepover by Kate Rope from Parents Magazine, one parent says, “When I’m hosting I put it all out there. I say, ‘We have no dog, no pool, and no guns. We are going to watch this show, eat pizza and go to bed.’” I tend to follow the idea of “putting it all out there.” This way there are no questions of expectations and a good understanding of rules and plans.
The idea of someone else telling my kids what to do or allowing them to do things I wouldn’t makes me uncomfortable. But a conversation with the parents of my kid’s friends goes a long way in ensuring that I feel they will be safe, so to me, the extra step is worth it!