Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My daughter Sadie is 11 and our neighbor’s daughter Alexis is 9. Alexis’ grandparents have a pool and Alexis invited Sadie to come swim. Alexis is used to getting her way so her grandpa said yes. This is the first time in 2 years that Sadie has been invited to swim. I said only 30 minutes because we had plans that day.
My daughter Sadie doesn’t swim well and I was under the impression that the grandma would watch them swim, but based on what my daughter told me, I don’t think they were supervised well. Plus, Alexis begged Sadie to jump off the diving board after I told both of them she had to stay in the shallow end.
I am not technically invited to go to their house, but feel like I need to if she goes swimming. And they may not really want Sadie over there and are just letting Alexis have her way. So do you think I should go over there to watch her swim? She was invited today and Sadie begged but I just said no. I don’t want to annoy Alexis’ grandparents. What do you think?
Mi Pool, Tu Pool?
Dear Mi Pool, Tu Pool,
My grandparents had a pool growing up and I loved inviting friends over to swim. And I think they loved it too because my grandmother would always bring us ice tea with real mint leaves poolside. Real mint leaves! Can you imagine that kind of service today?
And yes, there was that small incident when I rode my bicycle into the pool but overall it was pretty stress-free and enjoyable for them having me and my friends over.
I wouldn’t assume that Alexis’ grandparents don’t want Sadie over. If only there was some kind of telepathic way to know for sure. Wait – I’ve got it. And this is better than mental telepathy – the telephone!
Just give them a call and say, “Alexis has invited Sadie over to swim. I wanted to make sure it’s okay and not a bother for you.” And if they agree to have her over with a hearty, “No problem!” then please say the following. “Sadie isn’t a strong swimmer so would you mind if I came over and watched the girls in the pool?” I can imagine them being very relieved that you are taking on the responsibility and they don’t have to worry about their safety in the pool.
And that is really the most important part because WATER IS DANGEROUS. Please take it from someone whose sister almost drowned, you can not be too cautious around water. Children (even strong swimmers) need to be watched in the pool because anything can happen. If possible, I would also sign Sadie up for some swim instruction as soon as possible. Then both of you can feel more comfortable when she is in the water.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My son invited a friend over (they’re 10) and the mom called me to confirm that I’ll pick both boys after school and to “make sure there won’t be any screen time” when they are here. I was so taken aback by her question, I didn’t quite have a response, except “of course not!” which was obviously the response she wanted.
Usually, I let the boys decide what they want to do (within reason) and I certainly don’t forbid their using the computer or the TV or video games (again, within reason.) Should I call her back and give the more honest answer? Or just forbid use of any and all electronics when the kid is over here?
Stop Screening the Screen Time
I always wanted to be one of those mothers who called ahead of a playdate to make sure that my child was going to have a wholesome experience, with lots of brain-boosting activities and organic cruelty-free snacks. Ideally when I picked up my kid, she’s be fluent in a new language and brimming with self-esteem and be on her way to getting an athletic scholarship or three.
And it could happen. If only the hosting parent applied themselves a bit instead of sitting back with a cup of that very special something and the newspaper, happy that their kid has someone over so that they can get a few minutes of peace already.
But I admit it– the other reason that I didn’t call is because when I start to think about all the questions that I would want to ask – do you have guns in the house? Anyone on the Sex Offender Registry? Anyone who you think should be on the Sex Offender Registry? Do you allow violent video games in the house? Do you allow people who have played violent video games in the house? Do you have any books by Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh in the house? Do you say the Lord’s prayer at mealtime? Where are you on the whole Lean In phenomenon? Who was your favorite Brady?
As you can see, there are endless questions that you can ask, all important and all offering insight into the family who will be hosting your child. Some parents worry when their child goes on a playdate. And of course, if the parent feels that there are one or two questions that are at the top of the list, then by all means. Ask.
But I I don’t like how this mom handled the situation. The way she asked about screen time did not lend itself to a discussion, but more or less demanded an “of course!” answer. The fact that she did it badly; however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call her to talk about it.
So give her a call and be honest. Tell her that you weren’t expecting her question and after giving it some more thought, you wanted to let her know that no, screen time is not off-limits at your house during playdates, but that it is usually for a limited time. That way you are being honest and she can make the decision that she needs to make.
At the end of the day, we all have to parent the best we can. For most of us, that includes trusting the parenting community we belong to to take care of our children. And us returning the favor.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My husband and I limit our son’s exposure to violent video games, but I know he plays them when he goes to his friend’s house. How should I go about asking the parents who host the play date to not expose my kid to it without coming across like a control freak?
Apache Helicopter Mom
Dear Apache Helicopter Mom,
First of all, if your son is old enough to have friends who play violent video games, he probably wouldn’t want you to call it a play date. It’s called “hanging out.” Geez. Whatevs. [Exaggerated eyeroll]
I hate to break it to you, but the parents hosting the hang out will not only think you’re a control freak, they will also likely take offense to what they perceive as your judgment of them as bad parents for letting their kid play those violent video games. The fact is (and trust me, as the parent of an 11 year old boy, I am struggling to come to grips with this myself), as our children get older, we have less and less control over what they do when they are out of our supervision. It sucks, doesn’t it? Want to be even more horrified? Today it’s violent video games, and tomorrow it will be his first glimpse of internet porn when he’s over at his friend’s house. AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
I suggest having frequent one on one conversations with your son, letting him know specifically what it is that you think is awful about the violent video games, asking him how he feels when he plays them, what he finds fun about them, and telling him that you would really rather not he play them at all. Tell him that you know you can’t control everything he does, but that you hope that he will make good decisions when you’re not around. You could try and limit his time with this friend, but I think any kind of ban tends to backfire on us.
There is also the less sanctioned passive-aggressive route, in which you casually mention to the kid’s mom that you overheard her son telling yours how excited he gets every time he kills someone when he plays that game. All depends on how comfortable you are with subterfuge.
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
Every year when the weather turns nice, the neighborhood “hoodlums” start to wander the streets and inevitably show up at our house to hang out with our kids, ages 9, 5, and 2. When these kids are over, they are rude, disrespectful of people, pets, and property, and either ask for snacks or bring a bunch of junk food to spoil my kids’ dinners. In addition, when these kids are around, my kids think it is okay to be mouthy and rude and throw my household rules out the window.
I suspect that most of the kids that come over are living in poverty and do not have a positive home environment. I feel badly for them; however, I feel that I need to put the safety and up-bringing of my own kids first. My oldest child has Aspergers Disorder and is VERY impulsive. My middle child is adventurous and will try anything. For the safety of all three of them, they are not allowed to leave our property, and I have told them on numerous occasions that if they want to have a friend over, they need to arrange it with me (so I can arrange it with the other mom) in advance.
I feel guilty about telling these neighborhood kids to get lost and am torn between playing a “good Samaritan” and the neighborhood bitch. I don’t know any of the other parents well, and do not feel comfortable approaching them. I have seen some of these kids wandering the streets since they were preschoolers, and I am quite certain we have different standards when it comes to parenting.
I want my kids to be able to play outside without having to worry constantly about the neighborhood kids teaching bad habits and breaking our stuff.
Is there any nice way of telling these kids they need to play by my rules or get off my property?
Mi Casa is not Tu Casa
Dear Mi Casa,
You know what really bugs me? Well, yes, the new sweater vest craze inspired by one political candidate. I mean, believe whatever you want politically but I think we can all agree that the sweater vest is not good for America.
You know what also bothers me? This new trend where everyone is wearing these crazy bright colored pants. Yes, they look cute. Yes, I will eventually buy a pair for way too much money. And then you know what will happen? Out. Of. Fashion. Immediately. And please tell me what I am going to do with a pair of electric blue skinny jeans then?!
But the thing that really agitates me is when The Mouthy Housewives are needed. I mean, this is our calling! You have problems, we fix them. That was actually our motto but that thing about neglecting our kids to give you advice since 2009 seemed way funnier.
But you, my dear, don’t need us. You see, the answer to your question is right there in your letter. You ask, “Is there any nice way of telling these kids they need to play by my rules or get off my property?”
Yes! Yes, there is. You tell these kids that they need to play by your rules or they can’t come over for play dates. In fact, put these rules on a big piece of poster board. Here are some ideas…. Please and thank you must be said at all times. No food can be brought into the house. One healthy snack will be provided. Anyone who gets to rowdy will be asked to leave. That sort of thing. Whatever is important to you.
I appreciate that you want to help these children who you suspect are neglected. But letting them destroy your family and house is not helping them. Set boundaries. Stick to them. This is your home and your children. And you’re not being a bitch when you insist on protecting them. You are being a good mother.
As you all know, things here at Mouthy Housewives Headquarters usually run like a well-oiled machine. However, occasionally we’ll have what the Germans call a “Snafu.” (Or maybe it’s the Portuguese who say that, we were never big on languages.) Anyway, one of those snafus just happened in which we answered a question twice. Twice! But, where there’s confusion, there’s opportunity or something like that. So read Wendi’s answer here today, then click on over to BlogHerMoms and see how Tonya answered it. (Just don’t tell us which one you like better or we’ll have to set up the boxing ring again.)
Dear Mouthy Housewives,
My children have a friend that we see quite regularly and I’ve noticed that on EVERY occasion their pretend play revolves around playing house type games. This would normally be fine, but the “couple,” whether it be a princess and a race car dating or a regular family with baby dolls, seem to be rather whiny and fussy towards one another. I feel that I might be hearing private conversations from this child’s house.
Am I being overly concerned about this area of imaginary play with the kids (ages 4-7) or should I just leave them alone? I feel that the neighbor child is rather young to be so wrapped up in boy/girl relationships. Or is that normal?
Worried That Playing House is Becoming a Reality Show
Dear Worried That Playing House is Becoming a Reality Show,
First of all, let me warn you against Googling “girl wrapped up in boy/girl” like I just did. Holy mother of pearl, how do sex models even breathe with all of those leather restraints blocking their airways? They’re like porno Houdinis or something. I think I need to rest a moment here.
OK, I’m back. Now, let me just say upfront that I have two boys and they never really played “House.” Which is good because if they had, I’m sure our neighbors would have been treated to a lot of, “Why do you always park the car like you’re drunk, wife?” and “Maybe if you ever unloaded the dishwasher, I’d be a better driver, husband.” Because we all know it’s normal for kids to mimic what they hear at home and I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re hearing from this child.
Now, should you be concerned about it? Yes, if the little girl is saying things like, “I’ll sue your ass for alimony so fast your head will spin, jackass” to your kids or hitting them, but probably not if it’s more mundane domestic crap. Maybe she does have some disharmony at home and this is simply her way of working through it. If you know either of her parents very well, you can maybe say something benign to them like, “She sure loves to play house and fight with her pretend husband!” and see if that sets off any alarm bells. Sure it’s a little passive aggressive, but that way you’re not obviously sticking your nose in their business.
If it were me, I’d just let them continue playing what they want to play if everyone’s happy. Because chances are they’ll eventually get bored with playing “House” and move on to something new.
Like “Shacking Up.”