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Comments

enu

I've been in the position of the parent with the unpleasant hobby, and frankly, I am very frank about it, and frankly, because I prefer frankness (!) I would prefer the other parent be upfront about it. I have no problem with another parent telling me "Jackie can't come play at your house because we don't want her exposed to the {whatever}." If the other parent will allow my child to play at their house, or at a neutral site, then I will facillitate that. Making up excuses just makes the parent with the unpleasant hobby wonder WTF????

There is something to be said about dealing with a parent who does not hide what they do. In my case, a huge percentage of the country shares my "hobby" (it's actually not mine, but another member of the family's) but is not upfront about it; in my case I am 100% confident that I could show another parent the steps we take to make sure their child would not be exposed to or in any danger from it, but in the case of a parent who doesn't disclose it? Not so sure.

I do think that it is a parent's duty and right to protect their child and if that means (in the parent's opinion) not letting their child go to someones house they should most certainly go with their gut on it and not feel bad or guilty. And going along on a first or second playdate and hanging out with the other parent drinking tea is not only a good idea, but can be a nice social opportunity as well.

Shandra

I think Moxie's advice is great.

I know my son might face this about some things I've chosen to reveal on the Internet (not hobbies, although I guess my cooking might scare some people off:)). I have been cautious about my real name, at least since 1995 or so, but it's a possibility and one that my husband and I have gone over a fair amount as being where we are comfortable on the line between sort-of activism and sort-of discretion.

I would be completely fine with someone saying so, and would prefer that to just a string of excuses. For me personally, it's a calculated risk.

I would not frame it as a "values" argument (that you're not comfortable with their values). I'd take it right down specifically to "I'm not comfortable with the fact that you do X."

You don't want to give them any room to get into whether it's appropriate, good, nice, in line with good moral development, etc. Because it has nothing to do with the Global Measuring Stick O' Values. YOU do not want YOUR daughter to hang out with them (at least in their home and possibly globally). That's all you have to say. "I'm not comfortable with this specific thing."

I personally would not tell the other parents, unless I were asked something about it like "oh have you ever been to so-and-so's house?"

Good for you for protecting your daughter. :)

MrsHaley

1) Just because you found out this information based on a Google search, doesn't make the information or your knowledge less valid. You KNOW these people have Googled themselves and have seen the same evidence you saw.

2) I agree with Mox -- don't tell the other parents. If it occurs to them to be cautious, they will find out the information just as easily as you did. You looked into the name just because you got a vibe from the lady over the phone! Other people will, too.

3) This information has a similar effect as the Megan's Law lists ... it's SO creepy to know there's a pedophile living down the street, but at least I KNOW to avoid him, rather than 25 years ago when parents had no information and had to rely on the grapevine or gut feelings. I do restrain myself from throwing rocks at his car. Barely. In this situation, at least you KNOW. You won't always know, but here, you do. No shame in that.

4) Finally, definitely tell them why DD isn't playing at their house, if they ask. They won't be surprised and you won't be prevaricating.

Cat, Galloping

I don't know how any of you can concentrate on the question. I'm just about DYING of curiosity about the hobby. My imagination is running wild!

Helen

OK, so am I the only one dying to know what the hobby is? (I know, so immature. But still, I'm dying to know.)

You are absolutely certain that the folks you found on google are indeed the other girl's parents, right? Assuming you are sure, I agree that you should be honest with the parents, if they ask, about why you don't want your daughter to be at their house. And of course it's totally up to you and your husband to decide where your daughter goes -- if you don't feel comfortable, you should not let her go to the girl's house.

But what to tell your daughter is trickier. Let's say the other girl invites your daughter over. And your daughter knows she is not allowed. What will your daughter say? Kids that age often garble what they are told. "My family doesn't agree with your parents' hobby" could come out as "Your family is bad." When those kind of sentiments catch on among a group of kids, it can be devastating for a child's social life, and permanent for as long as the child is in school. I guess what I mean is, your daughter could inadvertently cause the other girl to be ostracized, which seems unfair.

This is so tricky. You have to protect your daughter, of course, so you can't let her go over to the other girl's house. I suppose you could tell your daughter to tell the other girl that you (her parents) simply said no, and let the parents of the other girl explain it.

Ugh. Not a good situation. I feel badly for the kids. You are doing the right thing, not letting your daughter go to their house, but the kids seem too young to understand. I expect there will be (unavoidable) disappointment and hurt feelings.

Nutmeg

Ha, Cat... me too.

But seriously, I agree with everyone else. Be honest, but make it about the activity not the parents.

Maybe go out to a playground once or twice and get to know mom/dad a little bit.

And DO NOT tell other parents. That seems like it's just asking for trouble, not to mention, not really your place.

rudyinparis

Oh, I'm already thinking about this kind of thing, and Eldest doesn't start school for a few years yet. I agree with the others, that being upfront is best and not to mention to other parents.

But what to say to your daughter... Yes, what about that? What value are you teaching, depending on how you frame this? DH and I always give adamant lip service to the "our children will need to be exposed to types of people that we don't share values with"... e.g., sexist, racist (however we draw the line at guns and violence, obviously). The idea being you can't keep your kid in a bubble, you're not doing them any favors, and they need to figure it out for themselves. That said, sometimes I don't think I'll have it in me to walk the walk, when the time really comes. But again, how would I explain that and what would it teach?

I had a friend in early grade school and my parents always quietly freaked out about it. Nothing was said, explicitly, to me, but they clearly didn't like me going over to her house. They didn't like me being friends with her at all, to be honest. This was due to a difference in, let's say small-town political views, between her parents and mine. We didn't stay close, and probably wouldn't have regardless, but I do remember the whole situation making me feel confused. I think I would have at least appreciated a "Our opinions are very different about things like how we think your school should be. People have different opinions sometimes." Instead it all seemed kind of dark and mysterious. So, having just written that, I guess I do feel you should say something to your daughter, and try to use this event as a teaching moment about how people are different. What will she learn about accepting difference from this?

Lisa

I think Moxie's on to a key point: clarifying whether you don't want your daughter around folks who do this activity vs you don't wnat her exposed to the activity's associated items/location/tangible stuff. If it's the latter, you could accompany her on the playdate and get a better sense of the environment (a calculated risk; what if there are posters declaring said activity all over the walls). And I'd assume that a family with a public internet life would not be adverse to frank discussion and so like others have said, I would be straightforward rather than make excuses.

If, however, you feel that you don't want your daughter exposed to the people who practice said activity regardless of whether they do so in her presence or talk about it in her presence, then that's a whole other set of complicated head hurting dilemmas. I'm a bit stuck. I think you have to do what your gut tells you re: protecting your child, but I agree with others that explaining why she can't go to X's house is very very tricky....with potential schoolyard consequences for her. Not fun.

shirky

gah! I am going crazy with curiosity!! Civil war reenactors? Meth lab? Taxidermy? Raelians? Star Trek Conventions? Swastika embroiderers? Professional Wrestling? Shakespeare club? Toad lickers? Golf? It's golf, isn't it?

Diane

I'd have to say, it really depends on the severity of the issue. Is it a hobby she is likely to pick up on just by being in the house? Or is it something they do that their own kid probably has no idea about?

And I'm with the others above ... I really want to know what this "hobby" could possibly be. Without that information, I feel it is very difficult to answer the question. There is no one way I would handle this situation, because it would be based on so many factors.

Shandra

I came back after thinking a bit about your daughter. I guess some depends on her personality.

But I think I'd stick to it being about my feelings like: "Your father are I are not comfortable with you playing at your friend's house. But you can play at school and at our house, if it is ok with your friend's parents." And then if/when she asks more I'd probably give the general talk about how there are all different kinds of families and things at their house work for them but it doesn't mean we always feel okay about them, and what would she do if she was at a friend's house and saw something upsetting, blah blah."

In other words I'd try to keep it either about the permision - "no we're not comfortable and you're not going" or about the "general way our family handles it when we're not comfortable."

I wouldn't want something specific like "X's parents do bad things" to go back to the schoolyard through my child's mouth, because it sets up an adversarial dynamic. That's why I would do my best to keep it about how OUR family handles things.

But it is so hard to call it on very little information.

Liza

I'm glad to see I'm not the only gossip among us who is dying of curiousity about what non-physical-danger, chooseable-not-innate, values-inflamatory public lifestyle/hobby, these people are all into on the Internet.

I'm guessing homebrewing or something along those lines.

And I agree, be upfront with the parents about the issue, but more discreet with your child. I was friends with someone with whose parents my parents had political disagreements, and I knew more about it than he did. It always made me uncomfortable.

rudyinparis

I guess also I'm confused how you don't want your child in their house because of different values, but will allow your child to have the friend in your house. How are your values localized to a house? If this hobby is not harmful or illegal, yet you feel strongly enough not to let your child into their house, then what difference does it make about the house? Clearly I too am really puzzling over said hobby. If someone practices a hobby that conflicts with your values (that's a head scratcher right there, too) what does it matter about geography?

pnuts mama

bwahahaha, i thought i was the only weirdo that can't really think of an answer since i am so caught up in what the "hobby" could be...hmm, it's googleable? well, that crosses off a few of the things i thought, unless they are like board members or something...hmm...

seriously, though, the issue seems to be having your daughter alone in basically a strangers house, and i am totally on board with your being nervous about that, for no greater reason than "i really don't know these people well", amen.

w/o knowing what the "hobby" is, (assuming it's something that in their home is so out in the open, and would cause your daughter to come home with questions/etc), i would be ok with just having the friend at your home or in public somewhere for a while, until you get to know the parents better. maybe once you know them better (more than just extraneous info about their lifestyle), you'll be more comfortable with having your daughter in their home.

eventually, our kids are going to hang out with people we may not be crazy about- hopefully we've done our job instilling our values in our kids to prepare them to make good choices. am i the only one who feels a little sorry for the kid of the hobbyists? i almost want you to encourage a friendship between your kids- the poor kid sounds like she is being set up for a life as a social pariah. that makes me so sad!

pnuts mama

p.s.- my guess was nudists? but how is that on google? i also thought swingers, but how could that be known by just a visit to the home- ooh, unless it is like a commune-style house...hmm.

really, this is going to bother me all day.

anastasiav

Please don't make judgments about someone's "values" simply from what you read on the internet. Just don't do it. Please, please have some kind of further conversation with these people before you decide that you "don't agree with their family values". That's a pretty strong statement to make based on something you read on the internet. It is possible, after all, that you're mistaken - that these aren't the same people, or that you've misunderstood the situation in some other fundamental way. If you're so concerned about it, then I would just call them up and say "Hey, I read this on the internet that seems to be about you. Can you tell me a little more about it." You might be very surprised at the conversation that follows.

As she gets older, your daughter is going to have friends whose families have different values than yours, and maybe they're even going to do some things while she's there that you don't approve of (maybe the watch pro wresting on TV with the kids around, who knows). You yourself, I'm sure, had friends whose parents did things that your own parents wouldn't have dreamed of doing. I implore you do whatever you can to make sure that your distaste for the parents doesn't mean that you squash your daughter's friendship with this child.

You say "I'm not comfortable with my daughter visiting their home" - at all? Ever? Under any circumstances? For ten minutes? What if its a birthday party with 20 other kids? What if you're there? I don't really care what the hobby is, but I honestly can't understand (or imagine) any hobby (or belief) that isn't dangerous but would be so awful that my child couldn't be in the same house with it for an hour or so. Especially if I'm making assumptions based on what I found on Google and I've never actually been in the house.

I guess, in short, I'd advise Coco to put aside the obvious distaste that she now has for these people (she's basically asking if its ok to make this other 5 year old a social pariah by telling the other parents) and learn more about them before she decides they're "not nice" or bad influences or whatever. Maybe offer to have the other mom come to your house for part of the play date, and ask if you (and your daughter) can come visit them at some other time.

In short, I guess I'm saying the same thing I said up front - dont' make snap judgments about people based on what you read on the internet. Ask them about it, visit their house, get to know them as people.

caramama

I agree with being frank with the parents. Also don't go telling all the other parents. As others have said, what would that teach your daughter? And what would that say to the other parents, who might also have hobbies you don't agree with but just don't know about?

I think going to the playground with the kids and the other parent(s) is a great idea. A way to get to know them to see if it's them or their house that you have a problem with. It would also probably provide a good opportunity for you to tell the other parent why you don't want your child at their house.

I am personally concerned with bring the Pumpkin to some of my inlaws' houses because they hunt and have deer heads mounted on the walls, even though the guns are locked up safe. When she is old enough to understand that so-and-so actually killed that deer and has its head hanging on the wall, how do I reconcile that we love this relative but in our house, we don't believe in killing/hurting animals. Yet we eat meat. Hmmm. Very confusing.

(Is that it? Is it hunting? Drugs? S&M? Nudists? Wiccans? Devil worshipers? Republicans??? (just kidding for all you Republicans))

Allison

I simply love that shirky's first gues is civil war reencator... (which I don't think most people find offensive, just a bit weird!) and the second guess is METH LAB (which I think everyone with small children should find a bit more than offensive!)

You guys crack me up!!! :D

anastasiav

How is what Coco is asking really any different than saying "I don't want my daughter playing at the house of that Jewish kid?" If the question had been phrased that way (or, as someone else said above "I don't want my daughter playing at the house of that Republican kid?"), it sounds - well, frankly it sounds kind of prejudiced. And honestly, is that a value you want to teach your child?

I'm sorry if this seems harsh, and I get that this might be more about a behavior than a "value" -- but Coco's letter to Moxie doesn't make it sound that way.

So, if Coco's question really is "how to handle a situation where you are uncomfortable with your child visiting a particular friend's home, due to differences in family values" I say this -

The values you teach your own child, day in and day out, are going to be the values that are most likely to stay with them. You cannot protect your child from the values of others, nor should you try. Instead, differences in values should be treated as an opportunity for discussion and education. Keeping your child in a bubble "protected" from the world never works. What does work is loving dialog and practicing what you preach ever single day.

laura

The world has really changed, and the fact is that many of the kids now go to schools close to Mom's work rather than the home, etc so parents might not have a chance to get to know their kids' friends' parents. I think a policy, decided in advance, and followed consistently, that allows you to get to know the parents and the family before you entrust your child to their care is important. We always invite the other parents to playdates ("come over Saturday, the kids can play, I'll make us lunch.") and that give us a chance to get to know each other a little bit more. And vice versa. Recently one of my daughter's new friends' Moms responded to the invitation with a really nice "My son loves to be outside on the weekend, whey don't we meet at X park?" Whether or not approaching playdates like they are blind dates is necessary or not, it can't hurt.
Finally, the decision to expose your child to families with very different values is a difficult one and much bigger than a simple playdate negotiation. Personally, if my daughter's new friend's parents were successful internet porn entrepreneurs, as hard as it might be I would probably say something like, "I've seen your site, and of course it is for adults only, but I just wanted to know how much your family has already talked about X so I can be prepared if my daughter asks questions." and also, "I noticed that you and your spouse are really into Wicca, and that is fine with me, but if my daughter asks you about it, I would appreciate if you kept to the simple basics and left the explaining to us."

Nancy

I haven't read all the comments, but from skimming saw someone mention something- it might not be them, or it might be someone else who placed it there about them.

If you google me on the internet, my name comes up on a page with a big Nazi symbol. If you read the whole thing, it becomes obvious that it was placed by some crackpot who hates me, but not everyone gets that far (and yes, I've gone to police, etc. etc.)

There are others on the internet who share my name and (totally benign, parents would be thrilled) hobby, but aren't me. But if you wanted to know what Nancy was doing with her hobby X, they might very well think that other Nancy Lastname's more talented results are mine. They're not.

Anyway, without knowing what it is, it's impossible to advise, when the answer might be "you're worried about THAT? Oh for heaven's sake", which might be a better answer than always stroking people and reinforcing that they can and should be more controlling over every aspect of their children's lives rather than less. (depending on the activity- it really does matter!)

Treena

I think this would be a good time to start a blanket rule of "We don't do playdates at friends' houses unless we know the parents very well." That allows you to explain the situation to your child without going into details about why you don't want her to play at that specific house, and is probably just a good policy in general. You might meet a very nice woman at a PTA event and think you feel comfortable letting your child go to her house, but she might have hobbies or interests you find objectionable that just aren't google-able.

It also leaves the door open to get to know the family better, and maybe you'll change your mind about having your daughter play there at some point. Perhaps they keep their "hobby" concealed, or it somehow isn't what it seems on the internet. (Like others, I'm with those who have trouble thinking about this without knowing what the hobby is.)

I definitely wouldn't mention it to any other parents. I don't think that's your place, unless you have a very close relationship with some of the parents. Besides, the people you "warn" may participate in the same hobby as well, and you just don't know it.

AmyinMotown

I do think this is a fine line, and is something you should discuss with the other parent. So, quite frankly, they know to steer clear of you as well if it's something like you disapprove of their being gay, or Republican, or interracial, or whatever. If it is something that has potential harm, like they shoot porn videos in their spare time or whatever, then I would still tell them straight out you're not comfortable with it, not because of them per se but because of the sort of person that could happen by. Using the porn example, I would think "whatevs" in terms of our daughter being friends wth theirs, but would feel REALLY weird about her being there unsupervised because what if some creep comes by for a shoot? If they were, say, gun nuts or potheads or whatever I'd ask about what procedure are in place to protect the kids from it.

It is hard to say without knowing. I'd feel a lot weirder about my dauuhter hanging out with porn fiends or pot legalizers, again because of the type of person she may meet in being with the parents, than I would with right wing Christians or antiabortion activists, who are people whose values I disagree with but who are less likely to be engaged in illegality (to a point, of course).

Kind of to my point: my husband is a therapist, and knows other therapists who see clients out of their homes. I've said an unequivocal No to that because I just don't think it's safe to have strangers traipsing in and out with small kids in the house, no matter HOW nice they might be.

Katie

I wholeheartedly agree with those people who say you need to be frank with the parents. You are more likely to hurt a lot more people's feeling by dodging the issue and making excuses than you are by discussing it up front. If you feel strongly enough about this value or hobby to keep your kids from their house for it, you shouldn't have any qualms telling other parents what you believe.

Since we don't know what the "hobby" is I'll share my experience with my hobby - religion/mormonism. There are few things people feel stronger about than their religion. I grew up as a mormon in a community where most people were not mormon, and there were people who would not let their kids play with me because of our religion. Also, I now live in Utah where 2 out of every 3 people are mormon, and there are a few misguided parents here who will only let their kids play with other mormons. Frankly, to me, it is all pretty silly.

My parents took a different attitude and allowed me play with other kids and even go with them to their religious services. I feel like I only gained from these experiences, as it allowed me to learn about how people are different and about different religions. Because I was able to learn at a young age about different religions, it has affected the way I interact with people who disagree with me (in a positive way). I also am still a strong believing mormon, so it didn't weaken my own religious beliefs at all (on the contrary, it strengthened them).

Without knowing what the hobby is, I really don't know if my story is pertinent or not. Obviously, you should do whatever you feel is best to protect your child.

I do know, though, that if someone decided they didn't want their child to play with my daughter because we are mormon, I would much much rather the parent talk to me about it, even if they do it in a hostile, accusatory way. If they just dodged the issue my overactive imagination would come up with far worse reasons (do they think I smell bad? Do I somehow look like a abusive parent? Does my daughter behave in some atrocious manner when I'm not around?). If they were upfront I might be a little disappointed about their feelings, but I would understand and not hold a grudge against them.

Joy

OMG I laughed so hard at Shirky's comments my kids were all standing there staring at me like some kind of leper or something. My guess is ameteur porn.

Seriously, though, I have 2 comments:

First, when I was a kid, my best friend who lived a block away had an (drug/alcohol related) abusive stepfather, and if my mother had known the things that I witnessed while at her house she wouldn't have allowed me to return. (this was probably from about 2nd thru 7th grade). I have vivid memories of the experience and, though he never threatened me personally, it has made me more empathetic to others in abusive situations to this day. I'm glad I had the experience, and when my friend had troubles, she knew that my house was a safe place for her to go, which she did on several occasions.

Second, what do you do when you DO get to know the parents, and really are not comfortable with them personally? I had this happen once and she'd call to invite my son over and I just kept making lame excuses until she didn't call anymore. This person was unreliable, consistantly late picking up her son from my house, always blaming others for her shortcomings, complaining and negative about everything, whining at her son to please behave and usually frustrated with him, and I just generally didn't feel comfortable leaving my (then 4 yr old) son with her. To this day I don't feel I handled the situation well. I don't know how I could have just been straigtforward and said 'you know, I just really don't like you, personally.' I didn't know what else to do.

Can you believe it never occurred to me to google my kids' friends' parents???

Golf, HA! Shirky, I love that.

shirky

hee, allison, I was kind of funning there, of course.

But what a) goes on the internet; b) a kid would catch wind of just by playing at the house; and c) someone thinks is universally regarded as naughty enough to warn everyone at school about?

Swinging could fit A and C but not B; a religious or political thing could be A and B but not C; drugs I guess fit B and C, maybe weed, but didn't we just have that question last week, and Moxie didn't edit that one.

So I've decided it's that they collect something offensive that isn't weapons, or that they are nudists.

I am sure if they are nudists though they would wear clothes while their kid has a friend over. And if it's a gollywog/nazi propaganda collection or something, you can just tell your kid that those items make you too sad.

jill

tomorrow Moxie you have to reveal the "hobby"

dregina

I do think knowing the hobby would be helpful in discussing how to address the issue, both with the other parents and your child.

Shandra

"If the question had been phrased that way (or, as someone else said above "I don't want my daughter playing at the house of that Republican kid?"), it sounds - well, frankly it sounds kind of prejudiced."

I'm soundly biased by my life experiences here, but for a kindergarten-aged kid, honestly? I think the parents' comfort level trumps the desire to be open and fair and unprejudiced.

I'm coming at this as a parent whose son is in a totally multicultural school where two of the teachers wear hijabs, there is a Sikh student, and so on and so forth, and whose nanny is a Jamaican-born fundamentalist Xtian (and right-wing), where I am none of those things. So it's not that I'm in favour of slapping up the walls and sticking to our "own kind".

But generally, I think that when our kids are so little, it is okay for parents to make those calls even if they are prejudicial... because I truly believe that the parents' first job is to protect their kids, far and above being fair and even kind.

If I get a woozy feeling off someone, that's it - sorry to be unfair to the person; I am not putting a scarlet A on their shirt. But I am not risking my kid in the name of fairness... and all I am doing is limiting access to my kid.

If we were talking about a 9 or 10 year old, I would have a different viewpoint about it. But kindergarten is still a young age to be in a house where something's going on that you know is not ok with you.

Julie

Please, I have to know. And I'm so curious as to the other "hobbies" some of the rest of you are referring to as your own. I am so sheltered it's sad. I'm guessing swingers. It's the first thing that popped into my head. Your best intentions, Moxie, gone amuck. I also thought nudists. Internet porn? But I kind of think that is somehow dangerous to children, and Moxie was clear that it doesn't pose a threat to children. Hm. Nosepicking enthusiasts perhaps? I will be stewing all day and checking back regularly for updated ideas....both real and absurd.

As for telling your daughter.......I say no. She's too young and there is no filter on little mouths. When I was in 4th grade, I was friends with a girl who was a compulsive liar. She lived down the street from us and I LOVED her. LOVED HER. She was so cool. And exciting things always seemed to be happening to her. Her parents were very nice, but basically had no control. As an adult I see her occassionally and she actually has some emotional/mental problems. But I digress. My mom told me she didn't want me to be friends with her anymore and basically told me the reason was because she was a bad influence. The next time her mom invited me over to her house, I said "My mom doesn't want me to come over anymore because M. is a bad influence on me." Needless to say, relations cooled quickly, my mom was mortified, and PTA meetings and neighborhood events became uncomfortable. To this day, cool smiles and polite "hellos" are exchanged but not much else. And I was 9 at the time. NO FILTER. There were lots of good suggestions above as to what to say instead. This is too early for any kind of frank discussions with your child that you want to make sure stay confidential. Those can come later.

anastasiav

Shandra - re: my prejudiced comment:

I guess I'd feel differently if Coco had made any attempt at all to get to know this family before drawing conclusions about their values based on what she'd read on the internet.

If she had talked to the parents about it and was still uncomfortable, I guess I'd feel differently, but its the whole "I saw something on the internet and know I know they're BAD PEOPLE" vibe I get off the letter that bugs me. She is, at the most basic level pre-judging these parents based on very little information.

Prejudice is learned very, very young.

mel

Why not meet at the park and get to know mom or dad first? A neutral site playdate seems to be a good plan C. (Plan A being at the "Unknown Hobby House"; Plan B being at your house)

I am confused about how you can protect your kid from the hobby of the other parents when if it's that out in the open that your kid will see it, Friend is going to know about it. If you have the playdate at your house, how are you going to stop Friend from talking about it, without it sounding like you disaprove of the Hobby.

(My guesses are selling sex toys or growing hemp)

laura

Kids ask questions. So for me, a big part of it is how the other parents will answer questions. This has been a BIG deal in our family, because I have a VERY different approach (I am super straightforward but age appropriate, there are family members who just don't tell their kids things, or say things like "oh, there's no such thing as pirates" in response to a child not liking Captain Hook; they lie rather than tell their 8 year old that they are going to a funeral, etc.) I think that certain hobbies might clue me in to the fact that the people might answer my curious child differently than I would. That alone would not stop me from allowing my child to have that conversation, but I would like to know about it, because I answer questions better when I am prepared.
I think EVERY parent should answer anything controversial that someone else's child asks with a nice "You should ask your Mommy about that." But some people don't, especially, I have noticed, those for whom proselytizing their views is considered not just a virture but a commanded activity.

Shandra

anastasia - I get what you're saying and I pretty much agree.

I guess it's just that when someone's kid is so little, the parents get a pass from me, even if they are exhibiting bias.

I am not suggesting this is similar to the original question, but - I don't know. I have a hot button about my (abnormal in many ways) childhood having been impaled on the flagpole of openness. As an example, my parents didn't believe in limiting my reading material. So that is how at 8 I came to read the Story of O at one of their friends' houses (during a cocktail party) and it /still/ disturbs me - my memory of the text, and my memory of reading it; the shame and fascination and all kinds of things.

Do I count that as one of their critical errors? Not really, but it definitely served to give me the continuing idea that I was on my own in the sea of human experience.

I really, really hope to provide my son with a community of adults who will mesh with me a bit in looking out for him when he's in their homes, and if I found something out about someone that made me worry about it - I agree, the best thing would be to ask them. But the second best thing might be to just say no.

Sorry for going on about that. :) My incest-and-ritual-abuse laden background and resulting multiplicty is my big "open Internet secret" so I'm obviously not the most calm person on that kind of topic.

Maureen

A very serious topic but I have to say that some of your responses have put a (much needed!) smile on my face this AM. I was in the same camp that I was so curious as to what the hobby was after reading the question. I guess that must be human nature... I think (again hard to know for sure without knowing the hobby) is to give the family the benefit of the doubt first as everything on the Internet is definitely not always factual. People can do all sorts of creative things to "set" people up (see Nancy's reply above). That said, you can give the family the benefit of the doubt by going to the first playdate together to see what you think or postpone the playdate and get to know family better to make an educated (not based on Internet "fact") decision.

Shelley

Is it possible to go on the playdate with your daughter and see what the home is like for yourself?

Charisse

Heh, my guess was some kind of kink/internet porn entrepreneur angle. Or really weird role-playing games? Vampirism? Which goes to show you I live in San Francisco. Though maybe if they're selling bizarre avant-garde taxidermy art and Coco's family is vegetarian for moral reasons or something? You could easily run into that conflict in my neighborhood.

I don't know...unless I thought my child would actually be endangered or somehow compromised in the activity I'd probably let her go. I like the idea of meeting the parents, and possibly asking them how much the activity is part of their home life as a precaution though. A lot of people who are into weird stuff compartmentalize pretty carefully--though what they'll do when the kids reach googling age themselves is an interesting question.

Or...what about going with the child to the playdate? You could check out the house yourself and have the opportunity to have that conversation with the parents. (I'm still a little stumped on shirky's a,b,c conundrum)

Simone

I would have to agree with some of the others that the internet may not have offered you the most accurate information on the girl's parents. (I'm not saying it didn't, but we don't know that it did.) Anyway, I'd start by approaching the mom and saying something like, "My daughter asks a lot of questions and I've heard about your hobby of _______. I'm afraid that she might be curious about it but is too young, and so I'd prefer that we play elsewhere." Or something along those lines. That gives them the opportunity to explain ("oh yeah, we did that before we had kids but then we realized it wasn't a good message so we gave that up" or "we only do it when the kids are at Grandma's and the stuff is locked up") Ditto on not telling other parents. Also ditto on being curious. :)

SarcastiCarrie

My first guess was swingers, second was amateur internet porn, third was mob members, terrorists, democrats, knitters, etc. I like some other people's guesses though. How about golfing civil war re-enacters who come back after a long day on the battlefield to make homebrew while posting to netroots and doing cross-stitch?

However, the more I think about it, I am reminded of a friend-of-a-friend thing where someone was illegally transporting fireworks across state lines to resell. You can think whatever you want about whether fireworks should be illegal, but they are. Knowing that, this person is now an outlaw. Criminal activity is underground, so necessarily, it operates without certain legitimate businessman restrictions (ditto the mob). People coming and going from the house and so on. No police to call if someone threatens them or their business. (And in the case of fireworks, there is a fire hazard if you don't operate a real store with real fire protection systems.)

So, depending on what the activity is, the answer changes. Although, in all cases, I don't think it's a good idea to send your child to a stranger's house alone. Period. Get to know the people. Go with your daughter to the play date. Have them over. Then, see how you feel.

caramama

OT for Shandra: The Story of O at 8?!?!? I tried to read that in college and got too freaked out!! Never even considered finishing it. It STILL bothers me.

And I'm loving all the guesses. hehe.

veggiewarrior

If you ever feel uncomfortable about letting your child go somewhere-don't let them go! A mother's instict is invaluable and you shouldn't ignore it. Your job is to protect your children, not let them go into strangers' homes. Regardless of any "hobby" or info you might know about the parent, if you just get a weird feeling about your child being in the home-back out! You don't need hard evidence. I'd be upfront with the other parent but put most of the blame on yourself. e.g. "I'm super overprotective ever since my niece [or friend, or neighbor, etc.] had a scary experience on a playdate. If you feel comfortable letting Lucy come to our house we would be happy to have her, though. But, I understand if you need to get to know us better first. How about meeting at the playground instead?" My dear friend's daugher was molested at a friend's house. She had a "weird feeling" about the family but couldn't justify it. She meet them many times, asked other parents about them, checked their background as best she could, etc. but the "feeling" never left. There was no reason NOT to let her go so she ignored her instict and regrets it every day. I'm not trying to scare you or say that these people are pedophiles. When you get to know them they may be lovely people you enjoy spending time with and have no qualms with (even if you don't agree with their hobby). In the meantime, go with your gut. I admit, I am overprotective. My husband and I are foster parents and have heard lots of horror stories so I'm not shy about putting on the breaks like this just based on my "gut". I'm hypersensitive about babysitters and playdates because the kids have been through some horrifying things already and I know what could happen (and has). We're not going to place them in the care of or home of anyone we aren't 110% comfortable with. That means knowing the family really well. Not just briefly talking after school. That's my 2 cents. Best wishes.

Lemon

The guesses are lots of fun! Golfing is my favorite!

I think that said "hobby" has the potential to become dangerous - Moxie's words were "no immediate danger." This, coupled with Coco's concern that other parents may want to know about said "hobby" to me implies that there may eventually be some danger.

I have no problem with Coco making a judgement on these people - her #1 concern is to keep her daughter safe, and really, what else do we have to go on than our own personal judgements about people and situations?

Personally, I can't envision myself telling a random aquaintence that I googled them and what I found made me reluctant to send my child to their house to play. Although googling is fair game, saying it out loud seems a bit stalker-like to me.

Can someone explain what the upside is to Coco in being open with Golfer-Mom? It may open things up for an unwanted discussion about said Hobby. Or Golfer-Mom could become offended and then suddenly you have this extra weird bad vibe thing. Or Golfer-Mom could turn around and tell all the other moms how unreasonable Coco is. It would seem that there are many potential downsides to being open. A closed mouth holds no feet.

Tell us Moxie!!! Tell us! Tell us!!

Amy

I'm so glad to see I'm not the only one desperately trying to figure out the "hobby"!

I'm trying to think of something that would bother me so much I wouldn't let my children play at their house... even though it didn't pose a physical threat to my children. Maybe I'm just seriously lax, but I can't think of anything. Okay, if they are nudists, I think I'd ask if my child was going to be exposed (ha! "exposed"!) to the nudity or share my concerns about that, but if the parents promised that clothes would be worn while my child was there, I think I'd give it a go (given that my mommy spidey-sense didn't go off in general over the issue). I can't see a swinging life-style interfering in a play date. Oh, okay, I've got two. KKK or anti-Semites. But that wouldn't be a house thing... I think I'd prefer the children to always play in front of me so I could do damage control if the child discussed his/her parents' views on these things with my children. Wow, that would be a tough one...

So, Moxie, are you going to put us out of our misery and tell us what it is? We all promise to play nicely over it!

theWallflower

Can you tell us what it is in the next topic, after this one's fallen by the wayside? Or in a week? I must know! All I can think of is that involves nudity. Don't let my imagination run wild!

anon

I have a 1yo so this has not come up yet but it's great to see the discussion. I remember going to a friend of a friend's house (9 or 10yo) and feeling extremely uncomfortable there. To this day, I couldn't tell you why but I would've been fine if my folks had said "you're not allowed to go there anymore!".

In this case, especially with a young child, I think I would go over there for one or two playdates and if both I and my child felt comfortable, then I'd be okay letting her stay by herself. Otherwise, I wouldn't. No matter what the parents did. I don't think I'd feel the need to explain my decision to the parents who are essentially strangers to me. I would only broach a "you know, a web search shows that you..." with a friend.

Anne

Oh my goodness... Mr. Husband and I are homebrewing polyamorist unitarians whose hobby is historical costuming. Apprently, we're in trouble. No one is EVER going to want to play at our house! Our kids are doomed to social pariahness! WOE! :)

I would say if Coco is uncomfortable with this parent because she doesn't know them, then that's absolutely something she should listen to, and it's worth having playdates together as a family at a park or at someone else's home until she IS comfortable.

Likewise, if she's got a problem based on a gut feeling that these are not people she's okay with leaving her little one with, that's something to respect.

What bothers me is that it seems like she doesn't have an issue with either of those things, but DOES have an issue with the parents hobbies. AND is taking their hobby and making all sorts of assumptions about their moral values, what their houshold is like, and how they behave toward their kids based on nothing but an internet report and her own prejudgement. THAT bothers me a great deal.

To be honest, you could spend years as our friends and visit our house with your kids on lots of occasions and never even notice that we're hombrewing polyamorist localvore unitarian costumers. Okay, we own a sewing machine and if you rifled through our basement you'd see a big pot and more bottles of wine than is usual. But unless you ASKED, you'd never know. What you would probably know is that we take good care of our kids, are active in their lives, worry a lot about licensed characters and too much sugar in their diets, overact when reading board books, love blocks as much as our two year old, and are generally normal, boring, involved parents. And it kinda bugs me to know that none of that would matter to someone as much as our theoretically objectionable hobbies and the prejudgements that caused them to make about our values.

I think Coco owes it to herself and her daughter to expand her concept of due diligence a little bit and get to know these people before she puts herself in the position of limiting her daughter's friendship with their daughter -- because saying "You can't go over to their house because we don't agree with their values" is a pretty tough statement, especially if raising kids who respect diversity is important to you. And, I think it would make things awkward for her little girl. If she still feels squicky about it, then you do what you've got to. But at least then it's based on something real rather than just presumption, prejudgement and Google.

pnuts mama

see, i was out all morning and couldn't stop guessing. sigh.

"It is something that isn't an immediate physical danger to a child, like unsecured handguns or other weapons, and it's definitely a hobby and choice of activities, NOT something innate to a person that they can't change."

my biggest question still remains: "what kind of a hobby that a parent has would pose a threat to a play date in the home?"

if these people are amateur porn stars, do we really think they are shooting during a playdate? that would be dumb, and cause for a visit from CPS, etc, so, i don't think so. what if they smoke or drink? that's not really a hobby, and would it be on google? maybe if it was a drinking playdate thing, but wouldn't you be invited for that? again, if CPS is being called over this hobby around kids, then it would be harmful. what if they are white supremecists and have nazi propaganda all over the house and use the n word? maybe that would be a "hobby" that would actually ever come up or be an issue during a play date, which deals with personal values, but not physical danger.

this is my struggle: what could a visiting child be exposed to that isn't inherently dangerous but is a lifestyle/hobby/values issue, that the kid can be friends with outside the home but never visit the home? snake wranglers? i mean, at some point, the kid is going to reflect the "values" of the parents, so being friends with her outside of the home is eventually going to become a moot point.

i don't know. i remember playing at my friends houses after school in their rooms or down in their basements and not having much of a clue about the parents except in terms of "lady who gave me doritos and soda for a snack." is that it? do they support letting kids eat junk food and drink soda? sigh.

shirky

maybe they are those parents who were on myspace feeding their toddler beer???

MommyLane

I had a similar issue come up recently. My daughter went to a week-long camp and by the end of the week was fast friends with the owner's daughters. But on the last day of the camp I learned that the mother allows all four of her children (4, 6, 9 & 11)to watch R-rated movies. Had absolutely no problem with it and actually mentioned an absolutely ghastly, scary movie that the 4-year-old "just loves." Since I knew the girls would be wanting to spend time together (at their house, too, I'm sure) I just did the cowardly thing and didn't call to set up more lessons or play dates...

Snarky Mommy fka Sprengblingbling

I am guessing it's recreational pot use and they either have a site promoting legalization or they blog about their occasional pot use.

My son is too little for this -- we still do playdates with the mommies and kids -- but if he was a little older I think I would not send him to someone's house I didn't know anyway. Just because your kids go to school together doesn't mean you can trust them to watch your child for a few hours; I think you need to get to know a person before entrusting your child's safety to them.

But I would NOT mention anything to the child. As PP said, kids have no filter and it would all get blown out of proportion. I would try to get to know the mom and have a neutral-site playdate first and see how you feel about things after that. If you're still skeeved out, just don't schedule any playdates. The other mom will get the message.

And let this be a lesson to all of us bloggers: even if you think you are not identifiable, you very well could be. And do you want your fellow parents reading your labor story/views on the current presidency/stance on abortion and then judging you on it?

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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