Sleep outs and play dates ….

I am a bit more lenient when it comes to “allowing” the children to attend play dates and sleep overs.

A bit more lenient than Kennith.  A but more lenient than all most moms I know.

Connor has been sleeping out since Grade R – he made friends at his new school.  I met the moms/dads and then playdates became sleep overs.  There were two kids that he slept over at, and those children also slept over at our house.

Connor is now 10, and he probably has about three friends who he sleeps over at, and they sleep over at our home.  I am fine with it, and I don’t get all flustered if he is away from me – I know where he is, and I know he is having fun and he is safe.  And I have one less bum to wipe and child to scream at to brush their teeth, so it is all good.

Georgia has one friend (her bestie) who she is allowed to sleep over at.  She also stays over at Kennith’s sister’s home on occasion.

Kennith is not a fan of Georgia sleeping out.  The two places she stays at I trust implicitly and Kennith, I think, just gives in to me overriding his wanting to say “no” …. and the hope we may get an extra hour of sleep at some point.

I recall going to a drop off and go party with Connor.   I was not quite ready to drop off and go with parents I did not know.   I was the only mom there and I hung around in the kitchen like a bad smell.

The parents of the child whose party it was I am sure thought I was demented and they promptly ignored me.  I hung out with the housekeeper who was washing dishes, she was kind enough to make me tea and suggest I steal pieces of cake.  It was a very long three hours!!

I realised at that party that (a) Connor is old enough for drop off and go parties (b) Hanging around with other moms at a party for children milling around talking, usually about their child, is almost the least unfun thing I can imagine doing, drop off and go parties are pretty cool for the moms!

At this juncture I do wish to ask why is it that moms always get given this thankless and actually really not fun party-duty task?  Taking kids to parties, and then hanging around for 2 -3 hours making chit chat with people you would never chit chat to, and to cap it all you are normally served tea instead of wine. How is it we get all the sh&t jobs of parenting ….. but let’s get back to the subject at hand.

I have started doing drop off and go parties with Georgia.  I go in, steal a cupcake and a sausage roll, scope out the scene and if it looks fine, then I am outta.

Georgia was invited to a weekend away with her bestie this weekend.  Initially Kennith said no, he did not think it was a great idea.

I sold the idea and explained that Georgia would be safe and and and ….. I was really chuffed she was going, as I knew how excited she was and a weekend with her bestie was going to be the treat to top all treats.

K (Bestie’s mom) contacts me on Tuesday and explains she has decided to invite a friend of hers along for the weekend.

Me: {deep breath} huh-huh ……

K explains that it is a man person, but there are three bedrooms, and Bestie and Georgia will be in one bedroom.  She assures me she will not let them out of her sight for a moment.  And I do not doubt it for a moment.

I think Georgia will probably be more closely monitored with K than she will ever be with me.

The previously-near-perfect plan now includes a man person who I do not know.  What was a brilliant idea is now a less than attractive option.

I want to say “sure, I trust your judgement … I am sure it will be fine” but there is this feeling that just is not sitting well with me.  I do not know this guy, and even if I met him for 15 minutes today, will that be okay for me to pack my daughter off with him?

To say it went down like a lead balloon with Kennith might not hint at the extent of it.  We spoke about it, and I had little in the way of “pro’s to upsell this idea.”

Last night at bedtime we sat on the bed with Georgia.  Kennith suggested we not tell her, I went with the “rip it like a plaster” approach.  Kennith bravely opened it with: “Georgia, Mommy has something to tell you..!”

I proceeded to break Georgia’s heart, she cried like I had wrenched her leg off.  I decided to stick to the truth, there was a “stranger to us” man there and we did not know him, and we could not give her permission to go.

She sobbed, she howled, she blew snot bubbles out her nose, she begged, she pleaded, she promised she would be good.  We let her come lie in our bed and play on the iphone!

We spoke about stranger-danger and that was all we could say.

We did not want to indicate he was a “potential bad man” but the reality was that we did not know him, and that was it in a nutshell.

I am comfortable that the choice of her not going was the right choice, but not a “nice” choice.

The thought that gnawed at me a bit today, was how are we preparing our children in this rather unforgiving terrain called Life.

When I was Connor and Georgia’s age, I was arranging my sleep outs, weekends away and everything else.  No one asked if there were going to be strange men there – cripes the world was full of strange men and I negotiated my way around them as best as I could.

I know the quick response is “But times are different now…”

How are they different and why?

Are there more predators now than there were back in the 70’s?  Or does it just seem like it because through the immediacy of information, we are hit with a daily dose of how-shit-the-world-is-and-why-you-must-protect-your-child?

Are we not conveying to our children that the world outside our house is a dark and foreboding place?  Full of danger and threats.

When was the last time you saw children playing a game with a ball in the street?  When was the last time you let your child play in the street like we did as kids?  Well never I am afraid.

When was the last time you saw kids playing and building a “gang hut” in a veld or a bush? Definitely never – I am sure I saw a movie like that and it did not end well for anyone.

My kids aren’t permitted to play outside in my drive way without someone watching them.  And we have a large gate at the end of our driveway.

I do not allow Connor to ride his bike in our cul-de-sac ….. unless one of us sits with him.  He is 10.

At 10 I was hiking into Cape Town or catching a bus alone to go and shop in the Golden Acre!

When I left school, kids in my era were backpacking all over the world, and trusting their fate to strangers they met along the way.

{All/most} of the people I knew who headed out the front door to unchartered territories returned unscathed and un/mol/este/d, with stories of adventure, and adapting to life through Europe or where ever they had gone.

Are we possibly teaching our children to be afraid of everyone – to not trust anyone?  To not dare go anywhere without a parent firmly within eyeshot?

Does all of this not make teaching our children to be self-reliant and resourceful because they have to be, a bit tricky.  The reality is we never really let them wander off  further than the umbilical cord can stretch?

The thing I am taking away from all of this is, are we cotton-wooling our children in layers of terror/fear of the unknown/fear of strangers/too much caution, which will impede their spirit of adventure and healthy curiosity as they grow up, but we rationalise we must because it will “keep them safe”?

<note this post was written last week Thursday, I delayed publishing it as I kept amending the copy>

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