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Has it Really Come to This? Parental Waivers for Kids' Birthday Parties

By Meredith Carroll |

Parental waiver

School field trip? Yes. Playdate? Really?

Over the weekend I was at a 4-year-old’s bounce house-birthday party where one of the kids unfortunately managed to bypass the inflatable slide and fall from the top of the bounce house flat to the ground. Luckily she wasn’t seriously injured because she landed flat on her back, not on her head, she didn’t twist her neck, and it was at an indoor gymnasium with a padded floor.

It’s not hard to imagine that there exist some parents who might have rushed to hold someone else responsible if their child had similarly taken it upon him or herself to jump instead of slide, and had been more seriously hurt, which is probably why waivers are becoming more common when it comes to kids’ birthday parties and playdates.

But can you even imagine asking another parent to sign a permission slip chockfull of legal language before hosting their child at your home or at a celebration for your child?

It’s one thing if your kid is going to, say, a paintball party and you’re required to sign a release of liability waiver because it’s required by the facility in order to participate. Where it gets, I don’t know, creepy?, is when you’re signing away your rights in case your kids slips and falls at a friend’s house.

Miss Manners wrote in the Washington Post that she thinks it’s kind of strange, according to MSNBC.com. It’s basically “turning a pleasant, neighborly interaction into a formal legal relationship.” And nothing screams fun on a playdate like a legally binding agreement, right?

I know there are some parents who won’t let their kids play at a house where only the dad is at home. And I know there are some parents who insist on looking over a house before leaving their children there (for a loaded gun that just happens to be on the kitchen table, maybe?). If I were someone who had those kind of reservations in the first place, I can’t see myself getting to the stage where what I might find upon inspection of the house would be the dealbreaker.

However, inviting a kid to your house or party and making their parents sign a consent form? What, exactly, has changed so much at playdates or birthday parties since I was a kid that legal clearance is required ahead of time? What are you doing in your house or at your party that you think might be worth me taking you to the legal cleaners for? Has knife-throwing replaced jump-roping as the go-to activity after school?

I can’t imagine signing a waiver for my kids to go on a playdate or attend a regular birthday party. But I can imagine rejecting any future invitations from anyone who attempted to make me sign one even once.

Click here to see a it-would-be-funny-if-it-weren’t-real-parental consent form.

Would you ever require someone to sign a waiver to come to your house, and would you ever sign one before your kid went to someone else’s house?

Photo credit: iStock

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About Meredith Carroll

meredith-carroll

Meredith Carroll

Meredith C. Carroll is an award-winning columnist and writer based in Aspen, Colorado. She can be found regularly on the Op-Ed page of The Denver Post. From 2005-2012 her other column, "Meredith Pro Tem" ran in several newspapers, as well as occasionally on The Huffington Post since 2009. Read more about her (or don’t, whatever) at her website. Read bio and latest posts → Read Meredith's latest posts →

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10 thoughts on “Has it Really Come to This? Parental Waivers for Kids' Birthday Parties

  1. Meagan says:

    What’s changed? More lawsuits. I can’t imagine doing this but I don’t find it all that strange. You see it more in households with trampolines and swimming pools.

  2. daniel says:

    No. I’ll stand there, watch my kid in the bounce house, but I’m not gonna sign it for a backyard birthday. Those parents can kiss my [connection lost]

  3. bob says:

    April fools was yesterday.

  4. Ken says:

    In many states a parent does not have the legal right to sign such a release for their child. I would never allow my child to attended a party with a bounce house unless I was present supervising my child. These bounce houses look like a toy, however they are actually controlled sources of energy.

  5. Shandeigh says:

    In this day and ago of no personal resposbility? Maybe. Everyone is always looking to blame someone for everything. Sometimes stuff just happens and it’s no ones fault. Sometimes your kid is just a little monster that jumps out of windows.

  6. Sara R. says:

    Seriously… this seems totally unsurprising to me, even reasonable. It’s unfortunate but many people are lawsuit happy – if your neighbor is willing to sue you when their kid trips on your sidewalk, then I would be more than prepared to have someone sign a waiver before hosting their kid. However, I think Ken is right, it’s pretty unlikely this would be binding in a lot of places.

  7. The Mommy Psychologist says:

    Not into my house. However, in regard to a bouncy house, I would be cautious. I actually know two horror stories. In both cases, the family sued the parents who were having the party. Yep. In one, a mother was in the bouncy house jumping, slipped, and broke her neck. In the other instances, a four year old girl was jumping, slipped, and broke her wrist. I think if you get into a bouncy house, you’re responsible for what happens. I wouldn’t ever require parents to sign a waiver, I’d just choose not to have the bouncy house at the party.

    “The child psychologist who thought she had all the answers to parenting until she became own herself.” http://www.themommypsychologist.com

  8. Jenny says:

    I personally think it is more alarming that you wouldn’t sign a waiver than be suspicious of someone who asks you to sign it. I’m thinking “Oh great, you’re (your kid is) going to stage some slip-and-fall accident at my house and try to wipe out my life’s savings.” This is especially concerning in bigger cities where you may not know most of the people/parents in your child’s class and have no idea who you are inviting into your home. It is your home and you are opening it to other people in the hopes of having a good time. You are not trying to invite over a bunch of law suit happy scammers to ruin your life. It seems reasonable that if people won’t agree not to file a law suit against you just because they happen to be on your property when they have an accident that you don’t want them at your house in the first place. I certainly don’t think it’s any more alarming than signing this type of release for school activities.

  9. veronica says:

    I’m not against the idea. I mean, when you have another kid in your home you need to watch them and be responsible for it. I’d hate to have my daughter at someone’s house who I thought I could trust and then find out she seriously hurt herself because they weren’t watching her properly. I’m not going to pay for the entire medical bill when it was their fault that it happened! I watch kids like a hawk. Even when they are old enough to play outside by themselves. I’m just paranoid that something bad will happen. I should do this waiver because i’ve had my daughter come home scratched, bruised, and bloody, because they let her boy cousin (who is 5 years older than her) push her around. I only bring her there now when i need an emergency babysitter.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Oh, give me a break! Bouncie houses are fun! …and they misspelled “accident”

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