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The Hardest Part of Parenting: Dealing with Other Parents

Dealing with your kids' friends' parentsI’m pleased to report that compared to the nightly news and reality TV, my family is fairly normal. We don’t have criminal records, we don’t drink, smoke, swing or indulge in recreational or prescription drugs. We have steady jobs with normal hours and ordinary co-workers. We don’t have liquor in our house, the kids are always in bed by 8pm (unless it’s a weekend then we bend it to 9), and we don’t ever swear in front of them. (Behind them? Eh. No one’s perfect.) We have a realistically clean house. Knives, ice picks, and anything that could be used to start a fire is out of reach. Cleaning products are locked up, and while there are guns, they are out of sight, out of reach and there is nary a casing of ammunition in our home. We drink organic milk, eat grass fed meats, a fair amount of vegetables and snacks primarily involve fruit. Perhaps the weirdest thing about us is that we pray before each meal and go to church on Sunday.

Addie has a friend at school, and they like to pretend they are sisters. In order to play this game they pretend that Cody and I are divorced, Cody and the other mom are out of the picture, and I am remarried to the friend’s step-dad. “Halle and I played divorce today!” she exclaimed on one of her first days home from school. It was a strange conversation, but one I let go of because it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Most of Addie’s friends at school and in our neighborhood have divorced parents. I was the first kid in my elementary school to have divorced parents; now it seems to be 50/50 in Addie’s class.

“When are you and dad going to get divorced?”

“Hopefully never.”

“But when do I get a stepdad and stepmom?”

I can’t blame the kid; my stepmom and stepdad were some of the most influential people in my life, not to mention double the birthday parties and Christmas presents.

It’s frustrating. Here I am, trying to give her what I so desperately wanted, parents who remained happily married for their entire lives, and all she wants to know is when we’re getting divorced.

Her pool of friends in our neighborhood is limited to mostly boys. There are rules in place that she is not allowed to play in someone’s house unless I know the parents and she asks permission before leaving the house. The rule is there for two reasons: so I know where my kid is headed, and so the parents know I’m a pretty normal individual who has attempted to raise a well mannered and respectful child. Other kids are allowed at our house, but there are no closed doors allowed. She has two friends, brothers who are about 5 years apart in age, who LOVE to come to our house. It makes me happy knowing I have a house that’s cool to hang out in, but at the same time it’s hard to explain to Addie why she isn’t allowed at their house. The boys are nice enough, but they constantly pester me asking if they can play Assassin’s Creed or Halo on our Xbox. Addie usually convinces them that the Kinect party games are where it’s at and they all end up having a fabulous time. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t want Addie playing in a house where there are neither age nor usage limits on violent video games. The boys also smell. Terrible. The more they work up a sweat the more my house begins to smell of…bodies. I honestly don’t know how much of it is an age thing, a boy thing or a hygiene thing. Considering their mom once walked into my house with a lit cigarette, it may be all three.

I swear sometimes the hardest part of parenting is dealing with your kids’ friends’ parents.

Back to Addie and her friend Halle. Addie and Halle have wanted to have a sleepover for ages. We finally made a deal with her that if she got all of her chores done and her room clean without us pestering her and without her complaining, Halle could have a sleepover. Addie carried out her duties with nary a peep and did a really spectacular job. I began planning treats and games for the girls to play as I called Halle’s mom whom I had met at a birthday party last month.

Only Halle’s mom won’t let her have a sleepover. “I never send my kid out. Nothing personal, my husband’s a cop and there’s a lot of creeps out there.”

I asked her if her and her husband would like to come over and meet us, see our home, where the girls would be sleeping and hear a bit more about our rules.

“No. Thanks.”

“Well maybe Halle could just come over and play tomorrow afternoon? You could stay here with her?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Well, do you think there’s a time we could get the girls together? They do love playing with each other at school.”

“Yeah, I don’t know. We’ll see.”

Mind you she was the one who tracked ME down at the birthday party to get MY number so our girls could get together.

What gives?

I swear sometimes the hardest part of parenting is dealing with your kids’ friends’ parents.

Part of me wanted to ask her if she was aware of the ‘divorce game’ her daughter and Addie play. While I can understand her not wanting to send her kid over to a strange house for a sleepover, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t take me up on my offer to meet us, see our house and get to know us a little better. We didn’t even have to start the relationship with a sleepover let’s try a play date! You can stay for the entire thing! I’M SO NORMAL! It also doesn’t seem very fair to her kid, not allowing her to play with anyone or have sleepovers? I get that there are creepy people in the world, but are you really going to shelter your child from EVERYONE because of what you *think* might be out there? When Addie came home and heard that Halle wasn’t allowed over despite my best efforts, she collapsed into sobs.

Perhaps it’s the cop thing, perhaps they’ve had a bad experience with their older children, perhaps she’s a true helicopter parent or perhaps I’m just too laid back about it. I loved playing with my friends as a kid and Addie loves playing with hers. Cody’s “lawyer thing” has made me well aware of some pretty messed up people in our own community, but I still have this underlying belief that people are good. I’m obviously not sending my child to sleepovers in strange houses, but if someone wants to give me a chance to get to know them so our kids can be friends? I’ll happily give them the same courtesy and make judgements later.

Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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