To Play Or Not To Play: Do You Let Your Kids Go On Play-Dates … Without You?

I was hanging out with my good friend and blogger, Erin Zammett Ruddy, last night at Glamour’s Women of the Year awards. I met Erin in 2007 when I was writing the Storked! blog and she was writing the Life With Cancer blog for Glamour’s website.

Our sons, JD and Alex, were born just days apart and we both ended up blogging about the preschool years for (Erin’s still there.) It was great to catch up with her last night. The event was at 7 PM at Carnegie Hall, but we headed in early to wine n’ dine and catch up. This entailed talking about everything from our kids (Erin has 2 now), my dating life (ha), Hurricane Sandy (Erin was without power for 2 weeks!) to something super scary.

My friend Erin wrote the Erin Merryn: The Guardian Angel profile for Glamour’s Women of the Year packet. Merryn was sexually abused by two different men. When she was 11, her cousin would abuse her at family gatherings behind a locked bathroom door. Via Glamour: “I’m really scared,” reads a passage from Erin Merryn’s diary, written when she was just 11 years old. “Something happened last night, but I don’t know who to tell.”

And that wasn’t the first time that she had been abused.

From the ages of 6 to 8, she’d been molested and raped by a friend’s uncle. Merryn carried these horrific secrets with her until the day her younger sister told her that she too had been a victim of their cousin. Courageous and brave, Merryn told her parents. She didn’t stop there: In 2010 she helped draft Erin’s Law, which encourages schools to educate children about sexual abuse prevention. (More than 300,000 reports of such abuse are filed in the United States each year.) Erin vows not to stop her crusade until every state passes Erin’s Law. She already checked four off her list: Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, and Maine.

My friend told me about her experience writing the packet last night over dinner. It was incredibly unsettling as I casually sipped my wine and ate scallops. I recalled a story about one of many sleepovers I had at home as a child. My friend R was scared of the dark, scared of sleeping away from home, scared of everything and she asked me if my dad would sleep on the couch and he did. Obviously nothing happened, but looking back it was … SO inappropriate. This launched us into a conversation about JD and Alex going on play-dates, sleepovers, and birthday parties without us.

Erin and I have both allowed our kids to go on play-dates without us. Well, if you count 1 or 2 play-dates, a big deal. JD has played at Lily’s without me. He’s even driven with them when I’m not in the car. I trust Amy and Ed—I told JD they are our safe friends. Amy has dropped Lily and her EpiPen off at my condo, so I know the feeling is mutual.

I trust other people, but a lot of the times play-dates are also fun for moms, because we can talk and hang while the kids play. I’ve had opportunities to leave JD at birthday parties and karate class, but I don’t. I don’t mind reading for an hour while JD takes his class. (It’s a nice break!) Birthday parties definitely have an expiration point with me (iiiyyyiii), but I’d rather be with JD. (And fine, I like pizza and cupcakes.) I still think 5 is young for him to be places without me. Erin shares my opinion, so at least I’m not crazy, or maybe we’re both crazy. We’re OK wearing the crazy badge when it comes to our kids and our gut feelings.

Next we delved into the private parts talk with our boys. We’ve both had the talk. Our kids know about good touch/bad touch and who can assist them with bathing and bathroom. We both admit to still quickly showering with the boys and wondered if it was wrong! It’s a time-savor, we both agreed. Erin no longer kisses Alex on the lips. I still kiss JD on the lips.

This blog probably reads paranoid, but two women honored at last night’s Glamour Women of the Year awards were molested and spoke out. Kayla Harrison, 22, already a role model for having had the guts to take her former coach to court for sexual abuse at age 17, went on to become the first American—male or female—to win the gold in judo at the Olympics this summer. Go girl!

Erin and I sat stiff while Merryn accepted her award. You go girl! Thank you!

Have you talked to your kids about private parts? Do you allow your kids to go on play-dates without you?

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