In the “old days” of my childhood, our moms carpooled us to birthday parties with our school friends.
In the “old days” of my childhood, our moms carpooled us to birthday parties with our school friends. One parent would drop the gang off; the other would drive them home. Moms loved it because they got a little time off. But today it seems parties and play dates are a lot more complicated for parents to figure out, especially when it comes to deciding whether to stay or go.
This is the case with Circle of Moms member Erin V. Ever since her daughter was in preschool, Erin has accompanied her to parties and play dates. But now that her daughter is 5, she realizes there may be times when dropping her off would make more sense. “I typically assumed that I should tag along, but now I’m getting the feeling that it’s less common for moms to stay at parties,” she says.
Like many moms, Erin wonders “How young is too young?” Here, Circle of Moms members share five issues to consider when deciding when you no longer should stay with your child at a party or play date.
What's the Right Age?
Unfortunately, there’s not a clear-cut answer, moms agree. A lot depends on a child’s age and temperament, and many moms, including Allison, say five or six-years-old is the threshold. But, Allison also says she’s surprised “because at many of the parties I’ve brought my six-year-old to I’ve been expected to stay.” Dropping off a six-year-old was normal when she was a kid, she says.
Krista E. agrees. “With young kids, I would definitely stick around, if for no other reason than to give the poor parents a hand,” she says. “But once they are over six or so, I would just drop him off and off I'd go.”
Will Your Child Be Comfortable?
While age is a big factor in making the decision to stay with your child or leave a party or play date, personality is an even bigger factor, says Heather. “I suggest having a play date in a neutral location like a park and hanging out a little while to meet the other parents and make sure your kids play together okay before you would leave,” she says. “My son is six and last year was the first year I allowed him to go to a friend’s house without me, but I did know them first.”
A Circle of Moms member named Sapphire employed a similar tactic, sticking around long enough to make sure her son was comfortable. “I stayed for a good 30 minutes to chit-chat with the parents to get to know them, and then I took off,” she says. “Last weekend was another birthday party and I planned to drop him (her five-year-old) off, but he didn’t feel comfortable with me leaving, so I stayed. It was actually nice because I got a chance to meet some of the other moms form my son's class."
What Kind of Party Is It?
Several Circle of Moms members also point out that a lot depends on the nature of the birthday party or the play date itself. November, who has twin eight-year-olds, believes, “It depends on if I know the parents or not and where the party is being held." As she goes on to explain, “It has to be a place where you know your children will be safe and you feel comfortable," such as at the home of close friends.
When In Doubt, Ask the Host
Many moms feel that it’s the host’s responsibility to state clearly on the invitation or play date ask whether parents should accompany their child. But Angie B. suggests that if the host parents haven't stated a preference, parents should ask whether they should stay.
“I would ask the mom when you RSVP for the party or play date,” says Angie B. “Some moms can handle a large group of children alone and some of us like to have a little help. I stopped going to my children's birthday parties and play dates when my child was about five.”
Why Some Parents Prefer to Stay
There are many moms who say that parents should attend under all circumstances and insist on tagging along no matter what the child’s age. Heather H. accompanies her three kids, ages five, eight and 12, to all birthday parties, play dates and school activities, except under “very special” circumstances.
“I only drop off my kids if they ask me not to stay and I am completely comfortable with the family they would be staying with,” she explains, adding that she leaves her contact information and “makes sure I’ve introduced myself.”
Saying it is a safety issue, April D. is adamant about staying. “These days there are sexual predators on every corner and even a relative can be a predator,” she says. “I would not leave my five or six-year-old at a party. I don't care if I’m the only mother staying.”
On the flip side, as the party hostess, Michelle W. says, “If I throw a party for my kids I do not want to be used as a babysitting service. Parents should be there." She feels there are some exceptions, "but for the most part parents should help take care of their own children at events.”
What age would you drop your child off at a party or play date?
Image Source: Sean Drielinger via Flickr/Creative Commons
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