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Parties and Parents

By Mike Snyder

I have a problem with gravity, and I don't mean metaphorically. I'm talking physically. And my gravitational woes appears to be genetic.

Saturday afternoon I dropped off my first-grade daughter at a birthday party held at the home of her just-turned-7-year-old classmate. I went in, chit-chatted for a few minutes with the parents, and then left to run a couple of errands.

I'll admit, I'm a known worrier, and leaving my daughter at parties makes me more than a little uncomfortable. After all, how well do I really know these folks? But they seemed kind, safe and wholesome, and I don't want to be a helicopter parent or the Dorky Dad. (None of the other parents stayed, either.) So, I gave the hosts my cellphone number and went to the grocery store.

When I returned at the apppointed pick-up time, the hosts apologized profusely, explaining that my daughter had tumbled down a short flight of stairs in their split-level home. By this point, my daughter was happily playing.

One good thing about we gravitationally challenged souls, we may get banged up -- a lot -- but we know how to fall well and shake it off. My daughter's a pretty tough kid where minor injuries are concerned. She proudly showed off her scraped and bruised elbow and then went back to playing with her friends.

No harm, no foul, I reassured the hosts. Accidents happen, and my daughter seemed not much the worse for it. Secretly, I would have appreciated a call when it happened, but I didn't bring it up because they seemed so distraught. They called our home that night to apologize again.

To make my case for genetics, later that evening I slipped on a landing and went down a short flight of steps on my backside. Tragically, it was not caught on video. And it definitely wasn't out of sympathy for my daughter. (Maybe we should become a family of movie stunt performers? If we're already taking the lumps, we might as well get paid for it, eh?)

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time my daughter has left a party bloodied. A few years back a fall left her with a pretty nasty cut on her lip that required a trip to the emergency room. Again, it was an accident, at a close friend's house, but my wife was there, which I think makes a huge difference.

The latest mishap got me to thinking. In our overly litigious society, why haven't we started to sue the pants off our friends and neighbors? I'm kidding, of course, but it bears remembering that we're liable for what happens in our homes. Perhaps we should advise our friends who hold an annual Halloween pumpkin-carving party to take out a policy.

While last weekend's incident wasn't cause for serious alarm, it did serve as a cautionary lesson for when we host kids' parties in our home. We've had up to 18 kids running around at one time. However, we invite parents stay, and put out a nice spread of food. Most do because we usually haven't seen them since the last kid's birthday party. The adults catch up while the kids tear up the playroom in the basement.

I know I feel a whole lot more comfortable having the parents on site. It still doesn't absolve us of liability, but it feels safer and I get to know other parents better, building more trusting relationships. Maybe we should make it clear on the invitations from now on that parents are welcome, too?

What do you think? Isn't dropping off elementary school-aged children, especially the gravitationally challenged, at parties something of an invitation to disaster, or I am just a worrywart? What's the "norm" in your neck of the woods?

By Mike Snyder |  March 11, 2008; 7:30 AM ET  | Category:  Child Development
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Comments


You should probably ride the bus with her, sit in her classroom, play right wing on her soccer team and bubble wrap her bedroom.

Posted by: Practically nuts | March 11, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

OMG, your a huge worrier. I can't imagine being that scared of your kid falling down the stairs and getting bruised. How the heck do you think you will send this kid to college one day? Seriously Mike, the problem is with you. A few minor scrapes and bruises is part of life. Clearly your daughter doesn't have a problem with it. Actually even broken bones and minor split lips are a part of childhood. I personally hate that the parents all stay at a party. It increases your cost, takes up your time, and forces parents to socialize when they don't really want to. If your worried about the amount of kids unsupervised, it is time to start limiting the number of kids invited to a party. I find it ridiculous your expected to host 18 kids at a party. I find it hard to believe that the birthday child is really close friends with 18 other children. I would like to see the return to the number of guests of the birthday child's age. That keeps the number manageable and age appropriate. But you get caught into he/she invited my kid to their party, so I feel obligated to host them. I think if you want the grand scale parties, it is best to rent those party places that come with hired adult supervision. But in all seriousness Mike, I am a pretty cautious parent, but you really need a chill pill. It isn't good for your kids to be all wound up like that. It just makes them nervous. You want to raise strong confident kids.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 11, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Wow, pretty much came into say what practically nuts said...I remember being dropped off at friend's homes all the time in elementary school and not being attached via umbilicil cord to my mom. I think that kids who go through childhood without a scratch or a bump are doing it wrong...

Posted by: Catwhowalked | March 11, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

I think my past as a camp counsellor is coming back now but... let the kids get scraped and bruised!!! And of course don't sue people unless there is actual negligence like "here kids, go play with gasoline and matches over yonder in that shed."

Falls and bumps are how young primates learn, gradually, over years, which risks to take and which not to take.

It goes for parties as well as sports. Whether to "go nuts" at a party and race down the stairs, or slow down. And if they're gravitationally challenged (I am too) they learn to hold onto the railing.

This is much, much better than at 21 getting wasted at a party and deciding to do something truly idiotic at that time.

As for when you invite the parents over... to be honest, sometimes, I think a group of parents at a party all socializing are actually less good at supervising than two adults focused exclusively on the kids. But this may be a good thing, so I'm not trying to dissuade you. However, at a certain age (8 sounds about right, if not younger) it will embarass the heck out of your kid if you force a party with parents in attendence.

Posted by: Shandra | March 11, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is 8. We've been dropping her off at parties and playdates for years. I'll always chat for a few mintutes to make sure she's getting along well and the host is comfortable. I only stay when the party is far away or too short for me to go do something else that I need to do and I am friends with the parents. I'd rather go sit in my car somewhere than interlope with parents I'm not personally friendly with, though.
My husband also had a hard time of moving on to this next stage of playing and social development. But is wasn't that he was concerned about our daughter getting hurt (we've always been a "walk it off" and "no blood, no band-aid" kind of family). He just didn't trust other parents to care if she did get hurt.

Posted by: 21117 | March 11, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I think you might be overthinking a little. Afterall, this easily could have happened while you were there, right, and the consequences (scraped knee and a couple tears) would have been the same.

Posted by: Mama | March 11, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

When I was in high school I had a friend who had a trampoline in her back yard. Before any of her friends were allowed to play on it, we had to have our parents sign a waiver of liability form stating that her parents were not responsible for any injuries sustained while playing on the trampoline. So obviously they were afraid of people suing them (although as far as I know it wasn't prompted by a bad incident or anything). This was about 15 years ago.

Posted by: Carifly | March 11, 2008 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Let your child spread their wings, don't hover. They will grow up stronger for it. You did what was prudent: you left your cell phone number. If it had been an emergency you could have come right back.

You being there and hovering will not keep your child totally safe. Life still happens, you admit sometimes you fall down. What a great lesson for your child. She fell down and came bouncing back up.

Posted by: Mukwonago wisconsin | March 11, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

This type of post and thinking is why people mock today's parents.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | March 11, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I would bet if you were there, the fall would have resulted in far more tears than if you weren't. Sounds like it was just a little fall, and she bounced back. Given how you describe your comfort level, I bet you would have fallen over yourself trying to comfort her, and she would have eaten it up. And what if they did call right when it happened? Would you have rushed over there and taken her away from the fun? Perhaps she asked them not to call you (or they asked and she said no).

My neice it 8, and she routinely does such crazy things like walk three blocks (by herself) to a friends house. I'm guessing there is no way you'd let your daughter do that. And you probably think I am insane for letting my son play on the neighborhood playground without me sitting in the bench nearby. I can see the playground from the house, and I want to raise an independant child.

Posted by: RT | March 11, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I think the parents were right not to call becuase it would tell the child that minor bruises are call for alarm and that they can't handle them without their parents help. Kids should start learning to separate from their parents well before 7. I had a neurotic mom and I think it's not good for the kid. We were practically bubble-wrapped. Kids need opportunities to develop confidence in themselves. They will need that confidence when they are grownups.

Posted by: middle70 | March 11, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I think by the time they are 5 or 6 they are old enough to be left at the party alone (provided they know better than to wander off or jump on the new white sofa in the "off limits" room). Younger kids, maybe not so much. I also agree that it's taxing to make small talk with parents I don't know well, but how else are you going to get to know them? I take my cue from other parents, unless I have some pressing errand to run. If I have to stay and chat up virtual strangers, I figure they might just be the person to clue me in to my kids hiding stuff from me in 10 years...
Oh, and the parents were probably unable to call at the time of the fall (consoling and making sure she's OK), and once she was fine, what's the point?

Posted by: CA 2 CT | March 11, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

I am never happy when my son's friends get dropped off for parties or playdates. I would rather use the time to talk and have fun with the parents too. 3/4 of my son's friends parents feel the same way but there are a few who are like, "Goodbye, I need to get the car washed, I'll be back in 2 hours." Those are the parents at school no one is friends with because no one knows them.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Oh dear. At 7, she can be dropped off. At 3 or 4, maybe not. But she spends all day in a classroom without you, right? And she goes to the playground at school with only the supervision of a teacher? If she had been seriously hurt and the parents hadn't called, I'd be mad. Or if she asked to call you and they refused. But it doesn't sound like any of those things happened.

Posted by: reston, va | March 11, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I always viewed a party as a chance to have a few hours without my kid. Unless the party was with people who were friends beyond just our kids knowing each other I'd drop off.

My ideal kids party was one at a site that was next to some cool shopping mall so I could dive out for some retail therapy for awhile.

Luckily we never had an ER-quality injuries, but I wouldn't have blamed the host parent. we've already visited most ER's at the shore, our kids are prone to falls and cuts.

I think it does make the case for host-parents lining up extra staff -fathers or other family- to be around at parties just in case you have an emergency.

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 11, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

This type of post and thinking is why people mock today's parents.
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Yawn, people mocked the parents of yesteryear too. Remember complaints about Dr. Spock? Comic Books? War shift workers? same old whiners like Arlington Dad...

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I agree with everyone else. I can't wait until I can start dropping my kids off at parties and not have to stay. As for expecting a phone call because your daughter fell - can you say "overprotective"? The only time I'd expect a call is if it requires a trip to the ER.

Posted by: Dennis | March 11, 2008 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Don't sweat this, and don't overthink it. Unless a doctor was necessary, they didn't need to call you. I guess there's always a threat of a lawsuit, but you can never avoid stupid people entirely, so are you going to let that fear control your daughter's childhood? You guys all did the right thing.

We recently had the opposite experience: got my daughter up on skis for the first time this year, and she was terrified of falling (not because of the injury thing -- she's very rough-and-tumble -- but because it would mean not being perfect). So we told her that if she didn't fall, then she wasn't having enough fun. :-)

Posted by: Laura | March 11, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I think some of the posters are being unnecessarily harsh here. He did drop his kid off at the party and left to do whatever it is he had to do. He didn't hover. He worried. So what? Some folks are more prone to worry and as long as you don't allow that to interfere with their growth and learning (and there is no evidence that is the case here) then who cares?

Nothing in his post indicates he has tried to "ride the bus with her, sit in her classroom, play right wing on her soccer team and bubble wrap her bedroom." I'm glad most people on this board are so very relaxed. Not all of us are. But that doesn't have to mean that our kids are going to be smothered, hovered over, etc.

Posted by: JenRS | March 11, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm actually an insurance adjuster and hopefully can offer a bit of insight for anyone worried about having kids over for their own child's birthday party.

A homeowner's duty is to maintain their residence as well as any "reasonable and prudent" person would. Now, you have to reasonably be able to prove it, but that is the only requirement.

If someone falls down perfectly sound stairs, while under proper supervision, all they would be entitled to is med-pay if there is any on the policy, which is no-fault coverage for non-residents of the household.

In order for there to be a successful liability claim, a claimant has to prove negligence on the homeowner. i.e. If a child fell on a loose stair or fell through the stair AND it can be proven the homeowner knew about it prior to that, then the homeowner is negligent and a liability case would likely be successful.

Likewise, if the homeowner was not keeping an eye on the kids and one of them injured themselves, they could possibly found negligent for failing to supervise the kids with due diligence.

If you keep a good watch over the kids and have your house in good enough repair to prove you did everything a "reasonable and prudent" (that's important) person would do, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

Hope I didn't bore you too badly!

Posted by: Litigation | March 11, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree with most of the posters. You have gone way overboard on this one. She's 7!!!! She fell down some steps!!! My children, at any given time, have all come home from a play date or party bloodied and bruised. It's part of being a child!!

And quite frankly, if you're having a birthday party with 18 kids, that's crazy. If it's a regular party, that's different, but 18 kids at a birthday party? For a 7yo?

You need a few more kids to get better perspective on things.

Posted by: Andrea | March 11, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I agree that it is perfectly reasonable to leave a 7 year old at a party. We started dropping off our kids at parties around age 5. That seems to be the norm around here. I do think that it depends a lot on your child and the situation though.

That said, parents need to be aware that some people will sue for anything. A cousin of mine (11 at the time) was playing in the snow at a friends house, slipped and hurt her knee. Her parents sued the family hosting this snow playing party and won. I disagree with their decision completely, but I don't think it is an uncommon situation. It is something you have to be aware of when you are taking on the responsibility of someone else's kids.

Posted by: Momof5 | March 11, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

This guy deserves to be mocked. At our parties we like to set up the "Slip 'n Slide" on our concrete patio, play "Lawn Darts" and give out "candy cigarettes" as party favors.

Posted by: NotTheirFriend | March 11, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Wow, this is a tough crowd! I think 7 is a pretty tender age, personally. Whether I'd leave my kid at the home of a stranger would depend on many things like how well I knew the parents (if not at all, I might at least linger for 15-20 minutes to see how/whether they were managing the kids), how many kids were in attendance (ever occur to you that if there are 20-25 kids and 2 parents that they could use a extra pair of hands?), and lastly, how I "feel" about it. Y'know, does my mommy radar pop up for some reason? In that case, I stay (inobtrusively, in the background, not expecting to be fed and watered, helping out if it's needed/asked for).

Also, I want to make the case for getting to know the people your kid wants to hang around. What better way to make new friends or at least become better acquaintance? Why be so impersonal and eager to avoid human interaction?

Posted by: Chausti | March 11, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Y'know, I've gotta say that I think a lot of the comments are way overreaching. You're assuming I freak out over bumps and bruises. Not the case at all. If I were there, I'm sure she still would have fallen down the steps. Stuff happens. I don't overreact when it does because I don't want my children to freak out. C'mon, this was supposed to be a light-hearted post. So I'm a little overprotective about dropping my kid off at the home of people I barely know. Okay, that's me. Can't we chill a little bit people. We're not debating the path to peace in the Mideast.

Posted by: Mike | March 11, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I'm with Mike and Chausti - I don't drop my children off with people I don't know or whose home I have never been to. My kids are 5 and 7. How do you know if they keep the pool gate locked? How do you know if they have an unsecured gun (but that's another conversation). I often stay when I do know the parents just because all of the grown ups enjoy getting together and seeing the kids having fun together. I don't know when kids parties turned into something people dislike so much? Its fun to see them with their friends and will most certainly be over before you know it.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | March 11, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Remind me never to invite you or your daughter over. Anyone who evens thinks of suing their neighbors over something like this is persona non grata. Get over yourself

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Amazing that people would leave their kids at a stranger's home then have the AUDACITY to judge those people's decisions when SURPRISE it does not mirror their own philosophies! If you do not know them - how would you know how they would react to a situation? And what a perfect missed opportunity to get to know their childrens's friends and their parents! Why are people so anti-social? It will tell you alot about your own child and you can nip situations before they explode. So next time Johnny caomes home and complains about that Bully in class you would have a clearer picture of the situation! Parents are surprised later in life to discover that their kid's friends are not the best choice - wow when did Johnny start running with the GOTH crowd - gasp!!! Take a moment and be a part of your kids life - get to know about their choices in people - it will serve you well during those teenage years!

Posted by: aleka | March 11, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

If she had broken her neck, I'm sure these posters would still say "accidents happen...just have another kid". Hey, if you want to chance losing your house to litigation - have them all over to your place!

Posted by: Better Safe | March 11, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Hey, if you want to chance losing your house to litigation - have them all over to your place!

Posted by: Better Safe | March 11, 2008 10:36 AM

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Or have high enough limits that no judge would let the case go past the policy. Umbrella policies are relatively cheap but little used. $1million is pretty much enough to keep the leaches off your investments.

Posted by: Litigation | March 11, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

One more question -- what about if you have either a swimming pool or some natural hazard (pond, ravine, what have you) on your property? Do you need liability insurance?

I just had twelve girl scouts over this weekend, and now you've got me thinking -- what if one of them had fallen off our dock? (We have a fence in the yard, but still).

What about if you own a vacation home that includes access to a lake, bay, etc. or if you take other people's kids out on a boat? Would you recommend additional insurance? Thanks. (I love free advice!)

Posted by: questions for litigation guy | March 11, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Does it ever occur to you that you should get to know some of the parents of the kids your kids socialize with prior to the party itself? A lot of schools have back to school potlucks. An excellent time to chat wit the parents. For kids that you meet through activities, drop and pick up are usually good times to chat with parents. If you feel that uneasy, why wouldn't you call up prior to the party and talk to the parents? It isn't about not socializing with the parents but about giving kids a chance to breath and grow on their own. Personally I think it is taxing to have parents stay. It increases the hosts food costs. With very young children it makes sense but not with school age kids. And isn't as if you can really not feed the parents too. Overall, the problem is really solved if people would cut down on the number of guests. With a party size of 8 grade schoolers, two parents can sufficiently supervise and there would be no reason for the parents to stay.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 11, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Mike, I don't think you're overreacting. We're a military family, and we live in the Redneck Nation part of America, and lots of poeple in our neighborhood have guns in the house. I'm always amazed at how many people DON"T ask about guns prior to dropping kids off at the house. You should. Promise yourself today that you'll start asking.

Also, I always feel better if I have an actual relationship with my kid's friend's parents (acquaintances if not friends), rather than simply knowing them as "billy's mom" or "rachel's dad". One good way to get over your fears about leaving your kids at someone else's house is actually to call the parents and say something like "You know, I"m a little uncomfortable with the whole sleepover thing, given that we don't really know each other that well." And then I either invite the mom out for coffee, or the whole family over for a barbecue. The best way to get comfortable with your village is to have the other villagers over frequently. Well worth the cost of the hamburgers and beer.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Now that my daughter's 16 and not 8, I can say that when she was 9 and younger and invited to in-home parties by people who were friends or Girl Scout moms, I had no problem leaving her there. Parties of people I barely knew, she did not go to the party. I explained I was not comfortable and she understood. (Bright kid.)
Lots of puttputt, community center, pizza parlor, bowling parties were done for the most part. After she was 10 she had more sleepovers with girlfriends who were Scouts or basketball players so I was cool with that since I'd see those parents more than once a year.

Posted by: lphill | March 11, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I have five children and when we moved to a new place (every time we do) I am pretty cautious about dropping off children at homes of strangers. Last year my 7 year old was invited to a pool party and my husband works weekends. Well, I couldn't hang around with my other 4 uninvited children, and I wasn't comfortable with my 7-year-old's swimming skills or the observation ability of strangers.

So I asked if it would be ok if my 11-year-old came to the party to help watch her little sister while she was in the pool b/c the 7-year-old has poor judgement. The mom was fine with it, and when we came back to pick them up, invited all of us to stay and enjoy the pool for a while.

I think that the age of the child, type of party, number of children, location and proposed acitivites as well as your relationship (or lack there of) with the other parents should control whether you drop off or not. There are parties I've dropped my younger ones off for, and parties where I have sat and watched what happens for my now 12-year-old. Injury is one worry, but there are others...

Posted by: Amelia | March 11, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Mike, I'm with you. I want to know the parents and know them well if I'm going to drop my child off. Just like I chose their school carefully, because they'll be there all day without me. There are things a lot worse than a tumble down the stairs that can happen without sufficient supervision or knowledge of those in whose care you're placing your child. I ask the parent what they'd prefer that I do and comply. My daughter's sixth birthday is coming up and I'd like at least a few of the parents to stick around. I don't feel I can adequately watch 15 kids on my own. A daycare trying to do that would be shut down. If parents need time to get their car washed or indulge in retail therapy, they should hire a sitter, not rely on their child's social schedule.

Posted by: Kensington, MD | March 11, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Tough crowd here. Lots of extremist commenters, many who refuse to recognize that it's a different world now than the one we grew up in - I don't think that anachronistic view helps. A nice compromise is to go in to the house or facility where the party is to be held, and stay long enough to meet the hosts and make sure there will be adequate adult supervision. That's not overbearing - it's just common sense.

Posted by: rooibos | March 11, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Well, Kensington, if you can't handle it, you shouldn't have invited 15 kids (or you should have enlisted a friend, sibling to help you). It's your responsibility to plan a party that you can handle on your own if you don't know if "some of the parents are going to stick around" especially if you didn't make it clear in the invitation that you wanted the parents to stay. They can't read minds.

Posted by: Common sense | March 11, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

If I were that parent and I read your column I would not want to invite your child to my house again.

I would not expect a phone call for a small tumble and would not hold it against the parents either. It seems that you are.
18 kids are too many to have at your house at one time and it is an invitation for disaster.

I introduce myself to the parents at the door and ask if they would like me to stay. Generally that is not wanted. Parents will ask on an invitation ahead of time.

Posted by: PRISCILLA | March 11, 2008 11:30 AM | Report abuse

One more question -- what about if you have either a swimming pool or some natural hazard (pond, ravine, what have you) on your property? Do you need liability insurance?

I just had twelve girl scouts over this weekend, and now you've got me thinking -- what if one of them had fallen off our dock? (We have a fence in the yard, but still).

What about if you own a vacation home that includes access to a lake, bay, etc. or if you take other people's kids out on a boat? Would you recommend additional insurance? Thanks. (I love free advice!)

Posted by: questions for litigation guy | March 11, 2008 10:45 AM

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You need liability insurance even if you don't have one of those hazards on your property. Like Mike said, it is a litigious society we live in. If something can harm someone and does, there is a high probability of litigation.

With swimming pools, et al, the types of harm they can cause increase exponentially. If a child drowns or has brain damage from lack of oxygen, the chances of substantial loss through litigation are very high. Needless to say, that will be a more expensive loss than a broken arm on the driveway.

If you have one of those hazards, you need to show a very diligent effort to keep them safe. A fence is a good place to start. It's very hard with that type of thing to keep it "safe". Reasonable prudence can take on a whole new meaning here. Everyone knows that those hazards need to be protected to keep little ones away and when anywhere near them, they need to be watched like a hawk.

Basically, with that type of thing, if something happens on your watch, it will be an up hill battle. It's probably best to have a parents-stay-and-watch type of situation there, but even then it's still your property and your pool.

If I had one of those hazards, I'd have very high limits of liability, PLUS an umbrella policy. What happens when you're not there and the neighbor's kid falls in and drowns? Did you do everything you could to keep that from happening? Really? ...Prove it. Juries are inherently friendly toward parents who just lost a child.

Posted by: Litigation | March 11, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

First off sleepovers are WAYYYYYY different than kids over for a general party. We don't allow people we don't know reasonably well to supervise our kids period. We need to know them real well for sleepovers, once those doors get shut your kid is at the mercy of adults and you need to be real sure of what to expect.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I think the fact that the parents called again that evening to apologize is because they either got the vibe or know you are a helicopter parent, sorry the truth hurts.

Posted by: RIDICULOUS | March 11, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Another observation, the parties I have taken my kids to that have 15-20 kids are usually run by parents that are trying to buy friends for their kids. They usually want you to stay around too because they are trying to come off as something they are not, whether that is cool, caring, popular, whatever.

Even when my kids were small (3-6) we never had more than 10 at any given party - and that was a lot. Once we had 12 and it was too much, but we got in a pickle where we were friends with 2 families that had 3 kids each that our child wanted there.

Posted by: ridiculous | March 11, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Tough crowd here. Lots of extremist commenters, many who refuse to recognize that it's a different world now than the one we grew up in - I don't think that anachronistic view helps.

Posted by: rooibos | March 11, 2008 11:21 AM
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This is the comment that inevitably comes up in these discussions. I totally disagree that "the world" is a more dangerous place than when we grew up. What's different is our pereception. When we were kids, just as many bad things happened (and actually the chance of being kidnapped by a stranger was much higher back then than today). But today we have the internet and 24 hour news channels, so when something happens, we're bombarded with it.

Yes, we should get to know our kids' friends and their parents. And you shouldn't drop off your kids if you feel uncomfortable with the situation. But expecting a phone call because your kid slipped on the stairs? That's a bit much.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Another observation, the parties I have taken my kids to that have 15-20 kids are usually run by parents that are trying to buy friends for their kids. They usually want you to stay around too because they are trying to come off as something they are not, whether that is cool, caring, popular, whatever.
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Oh my god.

I threw a craft party for my son's friends because it was a dreary Fall and one of you people came- was it you? I couldn't believe that anyone would stoop so low as to think that by throwing a party I was "buying" friends, but that's what this parent told a few other parents there, making everyone uncomfortable until they took their kid home and the guests told me what happened.

Needless to say this paranoid and borderline whacko person has not been invited to ANY kid's parties this winter. I had to sidestep their son's questions about my son's birthday, but none of us wanted that sicko parent around us.

I feel bad for that kid, but any adult inventing paranoid scenarios in their heads is not allowed around my kid.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Please back away from the lawsuit. And calm down. It's the prospect of dealing with parents like you that make me glad to be only a step-parent.

Kids will fall down. You can't keep it from happening. Your presence at every tumble does not magically lessen the damage. Your obsessiveness will not make your kid saner or happier or healthier; quite the contrary. This kind of craziness is the short path to passive, gutless kids who expect everything to be done for them. Stop now!

Posted by: lorikay | March 11, 2008 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I totally disagree that "the world" is a more dangerous place than when we grew up. What's different is our pereception.

---------

well crime rates have only recently reached the low levels they were when I was a kid, but during the Reagan Era the world was a more dangerous place, statistically, not via perspective.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse


I started leaving DD at kindergarten parties when she turned 6. I was far more nervous than her but I told her I want you to behave as you would in school and listen
to the grownups. She liked being a "big girl" and earning my trust.

Now she asks me whether or not I am leaving. Last time was yes because she in the party room of our own building. Almost everyone in the party knew what floor we lived on.

She has not had any blood yet on a playdate sometimes a little too much sugar.

Posted by: shdd | March 11, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

The world is and always has been a place where dangers are all around and one never knows when one will rise up and "get" you.
I am in my early 70's, grew up on a farm with no playmates other than my 6 years older sister, my only siblilng. Was not allowed to participate in school activities because dad worked turns and mom did not drive. Farm living was wonderful and has it's own set of positives. But, I have always had a problem with my perception of "fitting in" because it was a skill I had to cultivate, successfully or unsuccessfully, on my own when I got out in the world. So let those children go to parties, just be observant, give them a little space, you will have brought up a more confident and savvy adult. Kids can get bruises and scrapes, and a lot worse, at home.

Posted by: Ohio | March 11, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I think what Mike is saying is considering that he could be sued by someone if their child got hurt, not that he would sue. Never underestimate the ability of people to change completely when their children and/or money are involved. I have a neighbor who has a huge trampoline used by a whole mess of kids of vastly different sizes and ages. All it takes is for one kid to break his neck on that and everything they have could be gone. Not saying its right, but you certainly must be aware in this day and age that such a possibility exists.

Posted by: moxiemom | March 11, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

well crime rates have only recently reached the low levels they were when I was a kid, but during the Reagan Era the world was a more dangerous place, statistically, not via perspective.

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 12:50 PM

---------------------

The Reagan Era ended 20 years ago.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 12:46 PM
"Needless to say this paranoid and borderline whacko person has not been invited to ANY kid's parties this winter"

So you invite the parents as well, then make fun of them and ostracize their kid with adult peer pressure, nice!

Please, have your craft party and get over yourself. We had a neighbor that I knew socially that suddenly had a "decorate the cake" party because the weather was bad and her kids were driving her crazy - there were about 15 kids there and the parents had no control because their kids had no social graces. Put simply they were trying to buy their kid's some friends - was that YOU? My neighbor and I walked up to check on everything and our kids practically leapt into our arms because the parents were so bizarre. Glad you are holding the parent's behavior against the poor child, and encouraging others to do the same.

If you have 15 kids at your house to decorate, play, sing, whatever, fine. If you have parties where the whole Kindergarten class is (20 plus) and the poor birthday kid is acting like he doesn't want to to be there - you know why they invited the whole class.

Posted by: ridiculous | March 11, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Parties and Parents
By Mike Snyder

I have a problem with gravity, and I don't mean metaphorically. I'm talking physically. And my gravitational woes appears to be genetic.

Saturday afternoon I dropped off my first-grade daughter at a birthday party held at the home of her just-turned-7-year-old classmate. I went in, chit-chatted for a few minutes with the parents, and then left to run a couple of errands.

I'll admit, I'm a known worrier, and leaving my daughter at parties makes me more than a little uncomfortable. After all, how well do I really know these folks? But they seemed kind, safe and wholesome, and I don't want to be a helicopter parent or the Dorky Dad. (None of the other parents stayed, either.) So, I gave the hosts my cellphone number and went to the grocery store.

When I returned at the apppointed pick-up time, the hosts apologized profusely, explaining that my daughter had tumbled down a short flight of stairs in their split-level home. By this point, my daughter was happily playing.

One good thing about we gravitationally challenged souls, we may get banged up -- a lot -- but we know how to fall well and shake it off. My daughter's a pretty tough kid where minor injuries are concerned. She proudly showed off her scraped and bruised elbow and then went back to playing with her friends.

No harm, no foul, I reassured the hosts. Accidents happen, and my daughter seemed not much the worse for it. Secretly, I would have appreciated a call when it happened, but I didn't bring it up because they seemed so distraught. They called our home that night to apologize again.

To make my case for genetics, later that evening I slipped on a landing and went down a short flight of steps on my backside. Tragically, it was not caught on video. And it definitely wasn't out of sympathy for my daughter. (Maybe we should become a family of movie stunt performers? If we're already taking the lumps, we might as well get paid for it, eh?)

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time my daughter has left a party bloodied. A few years back a fall left her with a pretty nasty cut on her lip that required a trip to the emergency room. Again, it was an accident, at a close friend's house, but my wife was there, which I think makes a huge difference.

The latest mishap got me to thinking. In our overly litigious society, why haven't we started to sue the pants off our friends and neighbors? I'm kidding, of course, but it bears remembering that we're liable for what happens in our homes. Perhaps we should advise our friends who hold an annual Halloween pumpkin-carving party to take out a policy.

While last weekend's incident wasn't cause for serious alarm, it did serve as a cautionary lesson for when we host kids' parties in our home. We've had up to 18 kids running around at one time. However, we invite parents stay, and put out a nice spread of food. Most do because we usually haven't seen them since the last kid's birthday party. The adults catch up while the kids tear up the playroom in the basement.

I know I feel a whole lot more comfortable having the parents on site. It still doesn't absolve us of liability, but it feels safer and I get to know other parents better, building more trusting relationships. Maybe we should make it clear on the invitations from now on that parents are welcome, too?

What do you think? Isn't dropping off elementary school-aged children, especially the gravitationally challenged, at parties something of an invitation to disaster, or I am just a worrywart? What's the "norm" in your neck of the woods?

By Mike Snyder | March 11, 2008; 7:30 AM ET | Category: Child Development
Previous: If Only I Knew Now ... |

CommentsPlease email us to report offensive comments.

You should probably ride the bus with her, sit in her classroom, play right wing on her soccer team and bubble wrap her bedroom.

Posted by: Practically nuts | March 11, 2008 07:45 AM

OMG, your a huge worrier. I can't imagine being that scared of your kid falling down the stairs and getting bruised. How the heck do you think you will send this kid to college one day? Seriously Mike, the problem is with you. A few minor scrapes and bruises is part of life. Clearly your daughter doesn't have a problem with it. Actually even broken bones and minor split lips are a part of childhood. I personally hate that the parents all stay at a party. It increases your cost, takes up your time, and forces parents to socialize when they don't really want to. If your worried about the amount of kids unsupervised, it is time to start limiting the number of kids invited to a party. I find it ridiculous your expected to host 18 kids at a party. I find it hard to believe that the birthday child is really close friends with 18 other children. I would like to see the return to the number of guests of the birthday child's age. That keeps the number manageable and age appropriate. But you get caught into he/she invited my kid to their party, so I feel obligated to host them. I think if you want the grand scale parties, it is best to rent those party places that come with hired adult supervision. But in all seriousness Mike, I am a pretty cautious parent, but you really need a chill pill. It isn't good for your kids to be all wound up like that. It just makes them nervous. You want to raise strong confident kids.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 11, 2008 07:47 AM

Wow, pretty much came into say what practically nuts said...I remember being dropped off at friend's homes all the time in elementary school and not being attached via umbilicil cord to my mom. I think that kids who go through childhood without a scratch or a bump are doing it wrong...

Posted by: Catwhowalked | March 11, 2008 08:00 AM

I think my past as a camp counsellor is coming back now but... let the kids get scraped and bruised!!! And of course don't sue people unless there is actual negligence like "here kids, go play with gasoline and matches over yonder in that shed."

Falls and bumps are how young primates learn, gradually, over years, which risks to take and which not to take.

It goes for parties as well as sports. Whether to "go nuts" at a party and race down the stairs, or slow down. And if they're gravitationally challenged (I am too) they learn to hold onto the railing.

This is much, much better than at 21 getting wasted at a party and deciding to do something truly idiotic at that time.

As for when you invite the parents over... to be honest, sometimes, I think a group of parents at a party all socializing are actually less good at supervising than two adults focused exclusively on the kids. But this may be a good thing, so I'm not trying to dissuade you. However, at a certain age (8 sounds about right, if not younger) it will embarass the heck out of your kid if you force a party with parents in attendence.

Posted by: Shandra | March 11, 2008 08:03 AM

My daughter is 8. We've been dropping her off at parties and playdates for years. I'll always chat for a few mintutes to make sure she's getting along well and the host is comfortable. I only stay when the party is far away or too short for me to go do something else that I need to do and I am friends with the parents. I'd rather go sit in my car somewhere than interlope with parents I'm not personally friendly with, though.
My husband also had a hard time of moving on to this next stage of playing and social development. But is wasn't that he was concerned about our daughter getting hurt (we've always been a "walk it off" and "no blood, no band-aid" kind of family). He just didn't trust other parents to care if she did get hurt.

Posted by: 21117 | March 11, 2008 08:29 AM

I think you might be overthinking a little. Afterall, this easily could have happened while you were there, right, and the consequences (scraped knee and a couple tears) would have been the same.

Posted by: Mama | March 11, 2008 08:35 AM

When I was in high school I had a friend who had a trampoline in her back yard. Before any of her friends were allowed to play on it, we had to have our parents sign a waiver of liability form stating that her parents were not responsible for any injuries sustained while playing on the trampoline. So obviously they were afraid of people suing them (although as far as I know it wasn't prompted by a bad incident or anything). This was about 15 years ago.

Posted by: Carifly | March 11, 2008 08:40 AM

Let your child spread their wings, don't hover. They will grow up stronger for it. You did what was prudent: you left your cell phone number. If it had been an emergency you could have come right back.

You being there and hovering will not keep your child totally safe. Life still happens, you admit sometimes you fall down. What a great lesson for your child. She fell down and came bouncing back up.

Posted by: Mukwonago wisconsin | March 11, 2008 08:58 AM

This type of post and thinking is why people mock today's parents.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | March 11, 2008 09:16 AM

I would bet if you were there, the fall would have resulted in far more tears than if you weren't. Sounds like it was just a little fall, and she bounced back. Given how you describe your comfort level, I bet you would have fallen over yourself trying to comfort her, and she would have eaten it up. And what if they did call right when it happened? Would you have rushed over there and taken her away from the fun? Perhaps she asked them not to call you (or they asked and she said no).

My neice it 8, and she routinely does such crazy things like walk three blocks (by herself) to a friends house. I'm guessing there is no way you'd let your daughter do that. And you probably think I am insane for letting my son play on the neighborhood playground without me sitting in the bench nearby. I can see the playground from the house, and I want to raise an independant child.

Posted by: RT | March 11, 2008 09:25 AM

I think the parents were right not to call becuase it would tell the child that minor bruises are call for alarm and that they can't handle them without their parents help. Kids should start learning to separate from their parents well before 7. I had a neurotic mom and I think it's not good for the kid. We were practically bubble-wrapped. Kids need opportunities to develop confidence in themselves. They will need that confidence when they are grownups.

Posted by: middle70 | March 11, 2008 09:26 AM

I think by the time they are 5 or 6 they are old enough to be left at the party alone (provided they know better than to wander off or jump on the new white sofa in the "off limits" room). Younger kids, maybe not so much. I also agree that it's taxing to make small talk with parents I don't know well, but how else are you going to get to know them? I take my cue from other parents, unless I have some pressing errand to run. If I have to stay and chat up virtual strangers, I figure they might just be the person to clue me in to my kids hiding stuff from me in 10 years...
Oh, and the parents were probably unable to call at the time of the fall (consoling and making sure she's OK), and once she was fine, what's the point?

Posted by: CA 2 CT | March 11, 2008 09:26 AM

I am never happy when my son's friends get dropped off for parties or playdates. I would rather use the time to talk and have fun with the parents too. 3/4 of my son's friends parents feel the same way but there are a few who are like, "Goodbye, I need to get the car washed, I'll be back in 2 hours." Those are the parents at school no one is friends with because no one knows them.

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 09:30 AM

Oh dear. At 7, she can be dropped off. At 3 or 4, maybe not. But she spends all day in a classroom without you, right? And she goes to the playground at school with only the supervision of a teacher? If she had been seriously hurt and the parents hadn't called, I'd be mad. Or if she asked to call you and they refused. But it doesn't sound like any of those things happened.

Posted by: reston, va | March 11, 2008 09:31 AM

I always viewed a party as a chance to have a few hours without my kid. Unless the party was with people who were friends beyond just our kids knowing each other I'd drop off.

My ideal kids party was one at a site that was next to some cool shopping mall so I could dive out for some retail therapy for awhile.

Luckily we never had an ER-quality injuries, but I wouldn't have blamed the host parent. we've already visited most ER's at the shore, our kids are prone to falls and cuts.

I think it does make the case for host-parents lining up extra staff -fathers or other family- to be around at parties just in case you have an emergency.

Posted by: RedBird27 | March 11, 2008 09:31 AM

This type of post and thinking is why people mock today's parents.
---------

Yawn, people mocked the parents of yesteryear too. Remember complaints about Dr. Spock? Comic Books? War shift workers? same old whiners like Arlington Dad...

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 09:32 AM

I agree with everyone else. I can't wait until I can start dropping my kids off at parties and not have to stay. As for expecting a phone call because your daughter fell - can you say "overprotective"? The only time I'd expect a call is if it requires a trip to the ER.

Posted by: Dennis | March 11, 2008 09:32 AM

Don't sweat this, and don't overthink it. Unless a doctor was necessary, they didn't need to call you. I guess there's always a threat of a lawsuit, but you can never avoid stupid people entirely, so are you going to let that fear control your daughter's childhood? You guys all did the right thing.

We recently had the opposite experience: got my daughter up on skis for the first time this year, and she was terrified of falling (not because of the injury thing -- she's very rough-and-tumble -- but because it would mean not being perfect). So we told her that if she didn't fall, then she wasn't having enough fun. :-)

Posted by: Laura | March 11, 2008 09:34 AM

I think some of the posters are being unnecessarily harsh here. He did drop his kid off at the party and left to do whatever it is he had to do. He didn't hover. He worried. So what? Some folks are more prone to worry and as long as you don't allow that to interfere with their growth and learning (and there is no evidence that is the case here) then who cares?

Nothing in his post indicates he has tried to "ride the bus with her, sit in her classroom, play right wing on her soccer team and bubble wrap her bedroom." I'm glad most people on this board are so very relaxed. Not all of us are. But that doesn't have to mean that our kids are going to be smothered, hovered over, etc.

Posted by: JenRS | March 11, 2008 09:38 AM

I'm actually an insurance adjuster and hopefully can offer a bit of insight for anyone worried about having kids over for their own child's birthday party.

A homeowner's duty is to maintain their residence as well as any "reasonable and prudent" person would. Now, you have to reasonably be able to prove it, but that is the only requirement.

If someone falls down perfectly sound stairs, while under proper supervision, all they would be entitled to is med-pay if there is any on the policy, which is no-fault coverage for non-residents of the household.

In order for there to be a successful liability claim, a claimant has to prove negligence on the homeowner. i.e. If a child fell on a loose stair or fell through the stair AND it can be proven the homeowner knew about it prior to that, then the homeowner is negligent and a liability case would likely be successful.

Likewise, if the homeowner was not keeping an eye on the kids and one of them injured themselves, they could possibly found negligent for failing to supervise the kids with due diligence.

If you keep a good watch over the kids and have your house in good enough repair to prove you did everything a "reasonable and prudent" (that's important) person would do, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

Hope I didn't bore you too badly!

Posted by: Litigation | March 11, 2008 09:48 AM

I agree with most of the posters. You have gone way overboard on this one. She's 7!!!! She fell down some steps!!! My children, at any given time, have all come home from a play date or party bloodied and bruised. It's part of being a child!!

And quite frankly, if you're having a birthday party with 18 kids, that's crazy. If it's a regular party, that's different, but 18 kids at a birthday party? For a 7yo?

You need a few more kids to get better perspective on things.

Posted by: Andrea | March 11, 2008 09:56 AM

I agree that it is perfectly reasonable to leave a 7 year old at a party. We started dropping off our kids at parties around age 5. That seems to be the norm around here. I do think that it depends a lot on your child and the situation though.

That said, parents need to be aware that some people will sue for anything. A cousin of mine (11 at the time) was playing in the snow at a friends house, slipped and hurt her knee. Her parents sued the family hosting this snow playing party and won. I disagree with their decision completely, but I don't think it is an uncommon situation. It is something you have to be aware of when you are taking on the responsibility of someone else's kids.

Posted by: Momof5 | March 11, 2008 09:59 AM

This guy deserves to be mocked. At our parties we like to set up the "Slip 'n Slide" on our concrete patio, play "Lawn Darts" and give out "candy cigarettes" as party favors.

Posted by: NotTheirFriend | March 11, 2008 10:00 AM

Wow, this is a tough crowd! I think 7 is a pretty tender age, personally. Whether I'd leave my kid at the home of a stranger would depend on many things like how well I knew the parents (if not at all, I might at least linger for 15-20 minutes to see how/whether they were managing the kids), how many kids were in attendance (ever occur to you that if there are 20-25 kids and 2 parents that they could use a extra pair of hands?), and lastly, how I "feel" about it. Y'know, does my mommy radar pop up for some reason? In that case, I stay (inobtrusively, in the background, not expecting to be fed and watered, helping out if it's needed/asked for).

Also, I want to make the case for getting to know the people your kid wants to hang around. What better way to make new friends or at least become better acquaintance? Why be so impersonal and eager to avoid human interaction?

Posted by: Chausti | March 11, 2008 10:06 AM

Y'know, I've gotta say that I think a lot of the comments are way overreaching. You're assuming I freak out over bumps and bruises. Not the case at all. If I were there, I'm sure she still would have fallen down the steps. Stuff happens. I don't overreact when it does because I don't want my children to freak out. C'mon, this was supposed to be a light-hearted post. So I'm a little overprotective about dropping my kid off at the home of people I barely know. Okay, that's me. Can't we chill a little bit people. We're not debating the path to peace in the Mideast.

Posted by: Mike | March 11, 2008 10:22 AM

I'm with Mike and Chausti - I don't drop my children off with people I don't know or whose home I have never been to. My kids are 5 and 7. How do you know if they keep the pool gate locked? How do you know if they have an unsecured gun (but that's another conversation). I often stay when I do know the parents just because all of the grown ups enjoy getting together and seeing the kids having fun together. I don't know when kids parties turned into something people dislike so much? Its fun to see them with their friends and will most certainly be over before you know it.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | March 11, 2008 10:30 AM

Remind me never to invite you or your daughter over. Anyone who evens thinks of suing their neighbors over something like this is persona non grata. Get over yourself

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 10:33 AM

Amazing that people would leave their kids at a stranger's home then have the AUDACITY to judge those people's decisions when SURPRISE it does not mirror their own philosophies! If you do not know them - how would you know how they would react to a situation? And what a perfect missed opportunity to get to know their childrens's friends and their parents! Why are people so anti-social? It will tell you alot about your own child and you can nip situations before they explode. So next time Johnny caomes home and complains about that Bully in class you would have a clearer picture of the situation! Parents are surprised later in life to discover that their kid's friends are not the best choice - wow when did Johnny start running with the GOTH crowd - gasp!!! Take a moment and be a part of your kids life - get to know about their choices in people - it will serve you well during those teenage years!

Posted by: aleka | March 11, 2008 10:36 AM

If she had broken her neck, I'm sure these posters would still say "accidents happen...just have another kid". Hey, if you want to chance losing your house to litigation - have them all over to your place!

Posted by: Better Safe | March 11, 2008 10:36 AM

Hey, if you want to chance losing your house to litigation - have them all over to your place!

Posted by: Better Safe | March 11, 2008 10:36 AM

-----------

Or have high enough limits that no judge would let the case go past the policy. Umbrella policies are relatively cheap but little used. $1million is pretty much enough to keep the leaches off your investments.

Posted by: Litigation | March 11, 2008 10:40 AM

One more question -- what about if you have either a swimming pool or some natural hazard (pond, ravine, what have you) on your property? Do you need liability insurance?

I just had twelve girl scouts over this weekend, and now you've got me thinking -- what if one of them had fallen off our dock? (We have a fence in the yard, but still).

What about if you own a vacation home that includes access to a lake, bay, etc. or if you take other people's kids out on a boat? Would you recommend additional insurance? Thanks. (I love free advice!)


Posted by: questions for litigation guy | March 11, 2008 10:45 AM

Does it ever occur to you that you should get to know some of the parents of the kids your kids socialize with prior to the party itself? A lot of schools have back to school potlucks. An excellent time to chat wit the parents. For kids that you meet through activities, drop and pick up are usually good times to chat with parents. If you feel that uneasy, why wouldn't you call up prior to the party and talk to the parents? It isn't about not socializing with the parents but about giving kids a chance to breath and grow on their own. Personally I think it is taxing to have parents stay. It increases the hosts food costs. With very young children it makes sense but not with school age kids. And isn't as if you can really not feed the parents too. Overall, the problem is really solved if people would cut down on the number of guests. With a party size of 8 grade schoolers, two parents can sufficiently supervise and there would be no reason for the parents to stay.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 11, 2008 10:46 AM

Actually, Mike, I don't think you're overreacting. We're a military family, and we live in the Redneck Nation part of America, and lots of poeple in our neighborhood have guns in the house. I'm always amazed at how many people DON"T ask about guns prior to dropping kids off at the house. You should. Promise yourself today that you'll start asking.

Also, I always feel better if I have an actual relationship with my kid's friend's parents (acquaintances if not friends), rather than simply knowing them as "billy's mom" or "rachel's dad". One good way to get over your fears about leaving your kids at someone else's house is actually to call the parents and say something like "You know, I"m a little uncomfortable with the whole sleepover thing, given that we don't really know each other that well." And then I either invite the mom out for coffee, or the whole family over for a barbecue. The best way to get comfortable with your village is to have the other villagers over frequently. Well worth the cost of the hamburgers and beer.


Posted by: | March 11, 2008 10:49 AM

Now that my daughter's 16 and not 8, I can say that when she was 9 and younger and invited to in-home parties by people who were friends or Girl Scout moms, I had no problem leaving her there. Parties of people I barely knew, she did not go to the party. I explained I was not comfortable and she understood. (Bright kid.)
Lots of puttputt, community center, pizza parlor, bowling parties were done for the most part. After she was 10 she had more sleepovers with girlfriends who were Scouts or basketball players so I was cool with that since I'd see those parents more than once a year.


Posted by: lphill | March 11, 2008 11:05 AM

I have five children and when we moved to a new place (every time we do) I am pretty cautious about dropping off children at homes of strangers. Last year my 7 year old was invited to a pool party and my husband works weekends. Well, I couldn't hang around with my other 4 uninvited children, and I wasn't comfortable with my 7-year-old's swimming skills or the observation ability of strangers.

So I asked if it would be ok if my 11-year-old came to the party to help watch her little sister while she was in the pool b/c the 7-year-old has poor judgement. The mom was fine with it, and when we came back to pick them up, invited all of us to stay and enjoy the pool for a while.

I think that the age of the child, type of party, number of children, location and proposed acitivites as well as your relationship (or lack there of) with the other parents should control whether you drop off or not. There are parties I've dropped my younger ones off for, and parties where I have sat and watched what happens for my now 12-year-old. Injury is one worry, but there are others...

Posted by: Amelia | March 11, 2008 11:10 AM

Mike, I'm with you. I want to know the parents and know them well if I'm going to drop my child off. Just like I chose their school carefully, because they'll be there all day without me. There are things a lot worse than a tumble down the stairs that can happen without sufficient supervision or knowledge of those in whose care you're placing your child. I ask the parent what they'd prefer that I do and comply. My daughter's sixth birthday is coming up and I'd like at least a few of the parents to stick around. I don't feel I can adequately watch 15 kids on my own. A daycare trying to do that would be shut down. If parents need time to get their car washed or indulge in retail therapy, they should hire a sitter, not rely on their child's social schedule.

Posted by: Kensington, MD | March 11, 2008 11:12 AM

Tough crowd here. Lots of extremist commenters, many who refuse to recognize that it's a different world now than the one we grew up in - I don't think that anachronistic view helps. A nice compromise is to go in to the house or facility where the party is to be held, and stay long enough to meet the hosts and make sure there will be adequate adult supervision. That's not overbearing - it's just common sense.

Posted by: rooibos | March 11, 2008 11:21 AM

Well, Kensington, if you can't handle it, you shouldn't have invited 15 kids (or you should have enlisted a friend, sibling to help you). It's your responsibility to plan a party that you can handle on your own if you don't know if "some of the parents are going to stick around" especially if you didn't make it clear in the invitation that you wanted the parents to stay. They can't read minds.

Posted by: Common sense | March 11, 2008 11:21 AM

If I were that parent and I read your column I would not want to invite your child to my house again.

I would not expect a phone call for a small tumble and would not hold it against the parents either. It seems that you are.
18 kids are too many to have at your house at one time and it is an invitation for disaster.

I introduce myself to the parents at the door and ask if they would like me to stay. Generally that is not wanted. Parents will ask on an invitation ahead of time.

Posted by: PRISCILLA | March 11, 2008 11:30 AM

One more question -- what about if you have either a swimming pool or some natural hazard (pond, ravine, what have you) on your property? Do you need liability insurance?

I just had twelve girl scouts over this weekend, and now you've got me thinking -- what if one of them had fallen off our dock? (We have a fence in the yard, but still).

What about if you own a vacation home that includes access to a lake, bay, etc. or if you take other people's kids out on a boat? Would you recommend additional insurance? Thanks. (I love free advice!)

Posted by: questions for litigation guy | March 11, 2008 10:45 AM

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You need liability insurance even if you don't have one of those hazards on your property. Like Mike said, it is a litigious society we live in. If something can harm someone and does, there is a high probability of litigation.

With swimming pools, et al, the types of harm they can cause increase exponentially. If a child drowns or has brain damage from lack of oxygen, the chances of substantial loss through litigation are very high. Needless to say, that will be a more expensive loss than a broken arm on the driveway.

If you have one of those hazards, you need to show a very diligent effort to keep them safe. A fence is a good place to start. It's very hard with that type of thing to keep it "safe". Reasonable prudence can take on a whole new meaning here. Everyone knows that those hazards need to be protected to keep little ones away and when anywhere near them, they need to be watched like a hawk.

Basically, with that type of thing, if something happens on your watch, it will be an up hill battle. It's probably best to have a parents-stay-and-watch type of situation there, but even then it's still your property and your pool.

If I had one of those hazards, I'd have very high limits of liability, PLUS an umbrella policy. What happens when you're not there and the neighbor's kid falls in and drowns? Did you do everything you could to keep that from happening? Really? ...Prove it. Juries are inherently friendly toward parents who just lost a child.

Posted by: Litigation | March 11, 2008 11:38 AM

First off sleepovers are WAYYYYYY different than kids over for a general party. We don't allow people we don't know reasonably well to supervise our kids period. We need to know them real well for sleepovers, once those doors get shut your kid is at the mercy of adults and you need to be real sure of what to expect.

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 11:41 AM

I think the fact that the parents called again that evening to apologize is because they either got the vibe or know you are a helicopter parent, sorry the truth hurts.

Posted by: RIDICULOUS | March 11, 2008 12:06 PM

Another observation, the parties I have taken my kids to that have 15-20 kids are usually run by parents that are trying to buy friends for their kids. They usually want you to stay around too because they are trying to come off as something they are not, whether that is cool, caring, popular, whatever.

Even when my kids were small (3-6) we never had more than 10 at any given party - and that was a lot. Once we had 12 and it was too much, but we got in a pickle where we were friends with 2 families that had 3 kids each that our child wanted there.

Posted by: ridiculous | March 11, 2008 12:16 PM

Tough crowd here. Lots of extremist commenters, many who refuse to recognize that it's a different world now than the one we grew up in - I don't think that anachronistic view helps.

Posted by: rooibos | March 11, 2008 11:21 AM
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This is the comment that inevitably comes up in these discussions. I totally disagree that "the world" is a more dangerous place than when we grew up. What's different is our pereception. When we were kids, just as many bad things happened (and actually the chance of being kidnapped by a stranger was much higher back then than today). But today we have the internet and 24 hour news channels, so when something happens, we're bombarded with it.

Yes, we should get to know our kids' friends and their parents. And you shouldn't drop off your kids if you feel uncomfortable with the situation. But expecting a phone call because your kid slipped on the stairs? That's a bit much.

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 12:26 PM

Another observation, the parties I have taken my kids to that have 15-20 kids are usually run by parents that are trying to buy friends for their kids. They usually want you to stay around too because they are trying to come off as something they are not, whether that is cool, caring, popular, whatever.
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Oh my god.

I threw a craft party for my son's friends because it was a dreary Fall and one of you people came- was it you? I couldn't believe that anyone would stoop so low as to think that by throwing a party I was "buying" friends, but that's what this parent told a few other parents there, making everyone uncomfortable until they took their kid home and the guests told me what happened.

Needless to say this paranoid and borderline whacko person has not been invited to ANY kid's parties this winter. I had to sidestep their son's questions about my son's birthday, but none of us wanted that sicko parent around us.

I feel bad for that kid, but any adult inventing paranoid scenarios in their heads is not allowed around my kid.

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 12:46 PM

Please back away from the lawsuit. And calm down. It's the prospect of dealing with parents like you that make me glad to be only a step-parent.

Kids will fall down. You can't keep it from happening. Your presence at every tumble does not magically lessen the damage. Your obsessiveness will not make your kid saner or happier or healthier; quite the contrary. This kind of craziness is the short path to passive, gutless kids who expect everything to be done for them. Stop now!

Posted by: lorikay | March 11, 2008 12:49 PM

I totally disagree that "the world" is a more dangerous place than when we grew up. What's different is our pereception.

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well crime rates have only recently reached the low levels they were when I was a kid, but during the Reagan Era the world was a more dangerous place, statistically, not via perspective.

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 12:50 PM


I started leaving DD at kindergarten parties when she turned 6. I was far more nervous than her but I told her I want you to behave as you would in school and listen
to the grownups. She liked being a "big girl" and earning my trust.

Now she asks me whether or not I am leaving. Last time was yes because she in the party room of our own building. Almost everyone in the party knew what floor we lived on.

She has not had any blood yet on a playdate sometimes a little too much sugar.


Posted by: shdd | March 11, 2008 01:19 PM

The world is and always has been a place where dangers are all around and one never knows when one will rise up and "get" you.
I am in my early 70's, grew up on a farm with no playmates other than my 6 years older sister, my only siblilng. Was not allowed to participate in school activities because dad worked turns and mom did not drive. Farm living was wonderful and has it's own set of positives. But, I have always had a problem with my perception of "fitting in" because it was a skill I had to cultivate, successfully or unsuccessfully, on my own when I got out in the world. So let those children go to parties, just be observant, give them a little space, you will have brought up a more confident and savvy adult. Kids can get bruises and scrapes, and a lot worse, at home.

Posted by: Ohio | March 11, 2008 01:55 PM

I think what Mike is saying is considering that he could be sued by someone if their child got hurt, not that he would sue. Never underestimate the ability of people to change completely when their children and/or money are involved. I have a neighbor who has a huge trampoline used by a whole mess of kids of vastly different sizes and ages. All it takes is for one kid to break his neck on that and everything they have could be gone. Not saying its right, but you certainly must be aware in this day and age that such a possibility exists.

Posted by: moxiemom | March 11, 2008 02:09 PM
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And that's why you should get a good umbrella policy and not worry about it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with you people???? Why don't you know your kid's friends parents? The only adults that the kids and their friends have in common are the daycare providers because your dual careers are too high of a priority.

Posted by: NotTheirFriend | March 11, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I once dropped my 3.5 year-old off at a party held at a moonbounce party place after I went in and chatted with the mother. Most of the kids there were in her pre-K. I would have stayed normally, but I had her brother with me, and he was not invited. Afterwards, the host parent said that if she had known my son was only 6, she would have asked him to join the party. Most of the parents in her class tend to stay at the parties and chat. I have found this to be valuable, because I discovered that they thought the private PK-12 school our children attended was the best thing since sliced bread (I disagreed privately, but at least I knew where they were coming from).

Now, I explain the situation and ask if it's okay to bring my son too. The parents have been fine with that. if I don't know or feel comfortable with the parents, I stay.

My ex or I have accompanied our son to the parties to which he has been invited, mostly because we don't know the parents or the party is rather far away. Also, my son has disabilities, so one of us will stick around just to make sure, but we stay out of the way. At one party, a host parent and another relative were rather frosty to my son (according to my ex).

My son has been dropped off at a playdate (I accompanied him to the first, but it really was unnecessary). I listen to my gut, observe my child's comfort level and chat with the parents. That's how I determine whether I stay or go. Reasons to stay include an evening party (a disaster for my tired daughter) or a party with 30+ kids (same party, same disaster).

Regarding some of these comments, you know, reading is truly fundamental. So is comprehension. Mike did not seriously contemplate suing. Nor did he act like a helicopter parent. He doesn't need to back away from the lawsuit; someone needs to back away from sniffing that drama dust.

Posted by: Ree | March 11, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Ree, if your son did not have the disability, would you still linger?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Dude,
You are a wuss. Toughen up or your kid will be worse than you.

Posted by: Been There Didn't Do That | March 11, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

If everyone kept their kids at home, protected them from all the evils growing up and not allowed them to get a bloody nose once in a while without bringing lawsuits (basically what's happening today), we will end up with more whiners and wussy-thinking leaders entering this worlds work force with quite a different aspect on life as compared to the rest of the world.

This will, of course, finally finish off any remaining hopes to remain a superpower that our forefathers and our own fathers worked so hard to build.

God help this country and our new up-and-coming army of wussies. Mind as well turn into Frenchmen and join the ranks of the Has-Beens....

Posted by: LL22102 | March 11, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Ree, if your son did not have the disability, would you still linger?

Posted by: | March 11, 2008 02:36 PM

No,unless I got a bad vibe about the parents or party venue at drop-off time. He did well with the recent playdate (according to him and the lack of complaints from the friend's parents). This is his third playdate. The first playdate, I didn't know what to do. Stay or go? Both kids have disabilities; what will happen? I was relieved when I saw that I could have left. My son is growing up and is experiencing some normal aspects of life. I can let go of some of the overprotection, little by little.

Posted by: Ree | March 11, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I personally feel it is a good idea to get to know the parents of your kid's friends. Inviting (not requiring) parents to stay is a good thing provided you are prepared for the answer.
As far as litigation goes, I think if you get to know the parents you will know who to invite and who not to invite.

Some of you posters should apologize. Dont you remember that if you cant say anything nice, dont say anything at all? Go back and review Mike's comments. I think a few buzzwords pushed some buttons and this post went left.

Posted by: Rod | March 11, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

In the last century, on another continent, I lived in a community where at least one parent, and more often the entire family, was expected to stay during any child's birthday party. The kids played. The parents chatted. If the extended families were present the grandmothers compared grandbabies, and business-people got caught up on each other's professional doings. Kids did fall down, bruise themselves, and get back up again. The handiest adult found the band-aids. It was not idyllic, just the way of life in that place. It helped us build and maintain our social ties. Perhaps, this would not be such a bad model to try here.

Posted by: contrarymom | March 11, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I love the Anti-American criticisms of dual earner families. I own my own business and I fell in love with a medical doctor. I am not going to let my employees down and she's not going to let her patients down. I'm sorry your job was unfulfilling, but deal with your issues. My wife has saved the lives of at least a dozen patients since our son was born- please tell me that isn't useful to society?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with you people???? Why don't you know your kid's friends parents?
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Because one is an immigrant family who doesn't appear to speak much English and they haven't shown up to school events. So my son sees that friend at school, but they never come over to our house and schools no longer distribute contact information, so all we can do is send invitations home with him and they never call us or email.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

My kid was at a chuck e cheese party, with his mom there and tripped and hit his eye socket on a chair. It swelled up and he went to the emergency room. Kids do stupid stuff like fall,trip etc whether you are there are not. My daughter cartwheeled down the stairs and was not hurt at our friends house right in front of me. Stuff happens, it's called life.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

I have to go with the 'lighten up all you over-judgemental posters' contingent.

At younger son's last birthday we had a party in a nearby park. The invitations said that parents were welcome to stay if they liked. A few did, and some didn't.

It was really nice to get to talk with people I don't know all that well. DH knows them better because he's the SAHP. But he "doesn't do" parties, so it was up to me to make it happen for my kid.

Posted by: Sue | March 11, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

My kid is too young for parties right now, but this debate reminds me ...

A few years ago, I had a home music studio where I taught music to kids ages 5-12. I advertised in the paper. I almost *never* got asked for references (out of around 150 total students that I had, only TWO PARENTS ever asked me for references) - and the majority of parents just dropped their kids off and came to pick them up later, even on the first day of lessons when they didn't know me from Adam.

That always amazed me.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 11, 2008 8:56 PM | Report abuse

fr LL22102:

>...God help this country and our new up-and-coming army of wussies. Mind as well turn into Frenchmen and join the ranks of the Has-Beens....

Grow UP and get a life. There is NOTHING wrong with being French. I know. i'm 1/4 French, my grandmother was descended from the Hugenots. Read world history and learn.

Posted by: Alex | March 12, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Are kidding me?!? I am sorry to be so blunt about this (my anonymity helps of course) but stop being such a wussy and grow a pair.
Your daughter fell down and you want to be called. DUDE! Be a MAN! Stop over protecting your kids and let them live. This does not mean let them run a muck but it does mean that you have to let them fall down, you have to let them fly on their own. If you dont, you are DOOMING your grandchildren to a life of misery! Cause your kid will be a super over protective parent.
You drop the kids off at the party and dont think twice about it until you pick them up and if they get hurt while they are there you put a band-aide on it. Unless the other parent was swinging an axe or was shoving them to the floor, you let it go.
Its called life. Welcome to it

Posted by: Dan | March 12, 2008 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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