When I was a kid we didn’t have playdates. Kids just wandered the neighborhood until they found friends and had to be home before the streetlights turned on. But that’s not the case now. Now everything is organized and structured and has a date and time. And with me making the appointment, I feel a particular urgency to make sure my kids are on their best behavior while at a playdate because, somehow, my name is attached.
I have a long list of things I tell my children before they go to a playdate. I tell myself this advice is to teach my children how to act appropriately in public, and for the most part, that is true, but some of it is that I don’t want my kids making their parents look bad.
Here are a few examples of things I’ve told my children before playdates:
1. It’s fine if you pretend you’re a dog, but don’t bite anyone.
2. Offer to help clean up even if you don’t want to.
3. Flush the toilet. I don’t care if the sound is scary; no one else needs to know about your poop or your phobias.
4. If you don’t like their snacks, don’t tell them they suck. Just say, “No thank you.” People don’t need to know how rude you really are.
5. If you get too excited and barf, do it in the toilet or the garbage can. I can’t handle being known as the family who barfs on furniture.
6. Show them your dance moves. Those are cute.
7. Take off your shoes even if they don’t. I know where you’ve been.
8. If you have holes in your socks, take those off too.
9. Please don’t pee on their bathroom floor. For once, I need you to shoot that thing in a straight line.
10. Don’t break anything. It’s rude and makes us look like anarchists. But if you do break something, and it was an accident, say you are sorry.
11. Ask him if he needs help with his homework. I know it sounds lame, but I bet they’d invite you over after every school day.
12. No fighting, even if they are rude. When you’re a guest at someone’s home you need to be the bigger person. Then just don’t play with them anymore. That’s how the world works.
13. Use your “please” and “thank you”s even if they offer gross food.
14. Keep your clothing on. All of it. We’re not nudists.
15. Share your toys even if they don’t share theirs. Think of it as preparation for marriage.
16. Don’t eat your boogers. Or their boogers. No booger eating, period.
17. If they don’t know about Pokémon, don’t talk about it. That game is like a virus. Same goes for Minecraft.
18. Don’t call anyone a butthole. I wish I’d never taught you that.
19. If you need to scratch your butt, do it in the bathroom and then wash your hands. You don’t want to be that kid who picks at their butt and then reaches into the bag of chips. No one likes that kid.
20. If you need to go to the restroom, do it immediately. I don’t want you wetting your pants, trying to hide it, and getting pee all over their furniture. That’s exactly why we had to get a new sofa.
21. Don’t tell them that I told you any of these rules. In fact, don’t talk about me at all.
I don’t tell my kids this whole list before each playdate. It’s more of what they are struggling with at the moment. But ultimately, the goal is that they will represent themselves and the family appropriately and not make us all look bad. The sad thing is, I know my children better than anyone, and some of this advice is part of that. I know when my children shine, and I know what they need to work on. And all the good, bad, and ugly comes out on playdates.