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Ask Amy: Preschool play dates put mom in pickle

DEAR AMY: I have a 4-year-old, a toddler and another child on the way. I am a stay-at-home mother. One perk of parenthood has been meeting lots of new people through community organizations such as the YMCA, library programs, playgrounds and now my oldest child’s school.

Since my son started preschool, however, I have been thrown for a loop. Several parents who have never met me or my child have e-mailed me to make arrangements with their nannies for our kids to have play dates. They have prefaced these get-togethers with reasons such as, “Our son needs more boys to play with,” and “Our nanny is looking for something to do.” I have never met their nannies.

Maybe I come from a time and a place where play time was less structured, but on one level this feels presumptuous and on another downright rude. Thus far, I have tried to gently evade these requests by stating something like, “I’d love to meet you sometime — I’ve heard a lot about your son from mine.”

This doesn’t always work. I’m fine with socializing, and I’m empathetic to the life of working parents, but when someone I don’t know asks me to schedule my time to hang out with his/her employee, I have to balk. There is rarely a minute of the day when I am “looking for something to do.”

Am I being overly sensitive in an unfamiliar situation, and what is the best way to approach this without feeling like a doormat or being snippy? -- Mother Irked

DEAR IRKED: When I was a stay-at-home mom, I frequently found myself lumped together with the neighborhood nannies, some of whom became friends. I also found myself occasionally treated like an employee by other moms whose daytime parenting seemed to comprise mainly making arrangements. Some of this awkwardness goes away when the children get older and their play dates are no longer automatically accompanied by the caregivers.

Clarity about what you want will dictate how you should act. If you (or your son) want to have a child over to play, you initiate. If a parent contacts you for a play date and your son is interested, then accept. If you don’t know the parent, the nanny or the child very well, then politely decline, as you are currently doing.

DEAR AMY: My husband and I are in our late 60s. After we retired, we redecorated our home. It is lovely and exactly how we want it. However, on our birthdays, Christmas, etc., we’re recipients of tacky stuff. We have no desire to display it in our home.

What do we do with stuff our family members obviously want us to display — college football team stuff, framed pictures of places they’ve traveled to and things they alone are interested in?

What should we say to them? -- No More Stuff

DEAR STUFF: One reason you may be receiving the items you cite is because you have become “hard to buy for.” You would be doing your family members a favor by addressing this issue, kindly and with affection.

You need to make a simple statement, accompanied by an alternative idea, and leave your judgment about the tackiness of these gifts out of it.

Tell them, “We have successfully downsized and really like our pared-down lifestyle. I wonder if you all would be willing to rethink your gift-giving. We’re keeping a scrapbook of cards and photos from you, but aside from that we’d like to share experiences together instead of material things. That would be the best gift for us.”

DEAR AMY: The question from “Dad” cracked me up. This father was concerned about whether his adult daughter’s choice to bunk with a new male friend in Europe was “ladylike.”

I bet if the roles were reversed and the daughter was a son who was going to stay with a woman he had met on a cruise, the father would be high-fiving him. -- Laughing

DEAR LAUGHING: I assume “Dad” would also not worry that the (hypothetical) female friend might be the head of a sex-trafficking ring, as this father fretted.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune



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