Drop-Off Parenting

I have wanted to write about this for a while, but I didn’t quite have the courage to do so before now for fear of offending people I know and like and care about. I’munna just own it. This totally comes from a place of judgment – which I know I should never do because I might find myself in that particular camp at some point. So I am going to put it out there and maybe you guys can give me some insight that might help me better understand drop-off parenting.

What am I talking about? I will tell you.

The First Drop Off

When my daughter was 5, she was invited to a classmate’s 7-year-old’s birthday party. I took her over only to realize it was a drop-off situation.

Awwwwwww…FREAK OUT!

I had never encountered this before, and because I didn’t expect it, I was totally put on the spot. Fortunately, the mom of the little girl was the class room-mother, so I knew her fairly well. But I didn’t know her husband and we had never been to their house before.

I expressed some hesitation to the mom at the door and she welcomed me to stay but there were no other parents there. The party was all girls and they were having a great time. It was adorable.

Totally uncomfortable with it, I dropped off. My husband and son and I went out to eat and I was wigging out the whole time. Everything was fine, and my daughter had a blast, but I realized I had some thinking to do.

More and more situations like this started coming our way.

Drop Off Play Date

Several months later. I got a call from the mother of a little girl in my daughter’s class. The kids were out of school, and it happened to be the little girl’s birthday. The mother asked if Molly could come over and play for a few hours. Caught off guard, it seemed like a good idea when I first heard it, so I said yes. Then the mother proceeded to tell me that she had to leave for a chiropractor appointment during the play date but her husband was going to be there because he was taking the day off to be with his daughter. We hung up.

And then it hit me. What am I doing? I don’t know these people. I can’t take my six-year-old little girl over to a house I have never been to and leave her with a man I don’t know. That’s crazy! Embarrassed and feeling like an absolute tool, I called her back and asked if instead we could all meet somewhere for a play date. It was a REALLY good decision. The mom is sweet as can be and she and I got along great. She probably thinks I am an idiot and never expressed interest in a play date again. But it turns out the child was full of knowledge of things she was WAY to young to know about. In fact, as the school year progressed and my daughter came home and said inappropriate things – nearly every time she had learned it from this girl.  In the end, I am not sorry about how that worked out.

Here’s what I don’t understand. How come these parents expected me to drop my kid off there when I don’t know them from Adam’s housecat? Is that what they do with their daughter?

Birthday Parties – the New Babysitting Co-Op

What I am learning is birthday parties are sort of treated like a babysitting swap between parents. What gets me, is people who dropped their kids off at my daughter’s birthday party this year who didn’t even know us. What if we were a bunch of pedophiles? Okay, we aren’t, but do you people care so much about 2 hours of free time that you would just drop your kids off unsupervised at a birthday party with a bunch of adults that are strangers to them? 

I was talking to a friend about this yesterday and she said she thinks it’s because our kids go to a nice school and most of the people are from upper middle class families. To me, that’s like assuming everyone at church is holy. You just never know.

Not Holding Her Back - The Youngest Kid in the Class

My daughter is really young. She barely made the cut off for starting kindergarten but she was ready so I sent her. There are all these kids in her class that were held back a year so there’s a noticeable age gap between my daughter and many her classmates.  In all the thinking and worrying I did about whether or not to send her on to kindergarten, no one ever warned me about situations like this coming along earlier. And another thing in the mix here – a lot of these kids are the youngest of several siblings, so the parents with older kids have achieved a more laid-back attitude about all this (and likely would think I am a nut job).

That’s part of my hesitation in even writing about this. I may get there one day, so I know it is super dangerous to be so judgmental (okay, mostly mental). But as for right now…I just don’t understand dropping off parenting.

I know I need to relax (uh, a lot), but I am not sure when that comfort-level is coming.

I would love to know what you guys think about this.

20 Responses to Drop-Off Parenting

  1. Shell October 26, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    I think you have to do what makes you comfortable.

    I dropped my first grader off at a party last month. The house is a 3 minute walk from mine and I’ve met the parents a few times. I had my other two boys and no one to watch them.

    But, when we had my oldest’s party last year and it was at a bounce place,I was freaked out that a parent was going to drop her child off and not stay- b/c I had to deal with party stuff- so the idea of keeping a child I didn’t know from leaving/being TAKEN from a public place totally freaked me out.

    I think you have to look at each situation and figure out what you are comfortable with.

    • Heather October 26, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

      I didn’t actually expect many people to agree with me on this viewpoint. I was sort of bracing for impact with this one. It’s helpful to me to hear what other people think/feel about it because this is one of those I feel pretty strongly about.

      So, thanks for your comment, Shell.

  2. Jodi October 26, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I think you’re right on point! I always stayed for bday parties and play dates if I didn’t know the parents well enough. This continued until my daughter was in 6th grade. After that, she had her own cell phone and knew to call me if she wasn’t comfortable at a friend’s house. She never called btw.

    When we moved 3hrs from home, we were the parents who stayed at the parties and playdates and got to know the other parents. It’s called being responsible! Oh, and I’ve never been comfortable w/ my daughter staying over night with a friend who has older brothers. never.

    I say, listen to your gut, b/c it’s normally God whispering in your ear. He gave you mother’s intuition. Who cares what others think. She’s your baby! :) no apologies for being protective

    • Heather October 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

      Jodi, Jodi, Jodi. Thank you for your comment. What’s weird is lots of people I know and like drop off like nobody’s business. I don’t want to offend them, but I just don’t understand it. I finally decided to write about it because I realized how firm I am in my opinion on it. Not that it won’t change as my kids get older, it probably will, but for my little kids it’s my job to be really careful about the influences I allow. I know this will get much harder as the kids grow up and assert their own opinions about what to/not to do. But for now, I am in protective mode. Thanks again for your feedback and support.

  3. Mama4Chaos October 26, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    My husband and I feel quite similar to you about that sort of thing. We just can’t do it. I know my mother did the drop-off thing, though. But I just can’t trust people enough to do it myself. Plus, I feel like my kids are my responsibility (my daughter also has Asperger’s so I’m sure that plays a factor in my feelings about it). I won’t let anyone drop off their kids with me. i don’t want to be held accountable if something happens on my watch. I couldn’t live with myself…Although, at the same time, I also think it’s healthy for our kids to get a break from their parents. But I think it should be done when you’ve gotten to know the parents first…

    • Heather October 26, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

      I need to know the whole family and have been to their house. I want to know what kind of parents they are. Some parents I know are totally checked out. They want to let their kid have someone come over to play so they don’t have to deal with their own kid – or at least that’s what it seems like to me. This is not all about molestation. My kids will be learning all kinds of things I don’t want them to know eventually, but I want to hold off as long as possible. So, I am really picky about who we hang out with.

  4. sara@domesticallychallenged October 26, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    I feel much the same. I hate leaving my kids, and just allowed Elijah to go to a party on his own in 2nd grade! I have to know the parents as well, because otherwise I would freak!

    • Heather October 26, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Sara. It’s definitely different when you know the parents well and a drop off is what everyone is expecting and comfortable with. It’s when you don’t know the people, or when they don’t know us that makes me scratch my head.

  5. Anastasia October 26, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    I am surprised at that stuff too. I mean I have trouble keeping an eye on my rambunctious 5 year old. How do I suspect one other mom to keep track of 10 of them! It’s hard to make that kind of decision.

  6. Jennifer October 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Oh I know we’ve had this conversation many times and you know I’ve got your back on this one, my friend, The only reason I feel okay dropping Simone at GS is because I’ve known the troop leaders for so long, and because I know you’re usually there!

    I also feel like these are the fun days and I want to be a part of those moments of watching my 2nd grader interact and play with her pals!

    And finally, you have one round at this with each child and you are the “responsible party” for them. It’s your job and duty, one handed to you when you decided to be a parent, to keep them safe. You’ve got to do it in whatever way makes you feel the most comfortable.

    And good for you, bringing this out into bloggy world!

    • Heather October 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

      I have dropped off at Girl Scouts, too. That’s one where I am completely at ease, too.

      It’s these circumstances when people drop off and they don’t even know the people their kid will be around that have me perplexed.

      Hope no one is mad at me for talking about this. There are some people I really like a lot that I know love their kids who do it. I just don’t understand it.

  7. Rachel October 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Great post. I agree with you.

    When we were growing up, I remember running back and forth between my house and the neighbors. But, it was different then. We knew the family. My parents are still in the same house and so are the neighbors.

    I don’t agree with helicopter parenting. But, I do believe that as parents, it’s our job to teach and lead our children so that later they are able to make good choices for themselves.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Heather October 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

      I’m not a helicopter parent, but I am protective. I have to say motherhood has taught me a lot about myself. I’m learning something almost every day.

  8. Sherryl October 27, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    This post and all the comments have been an eye opener for me. My little guy is only 2, and we haven’t had any occasions to think about this yet. I’m with you and think I’d rather stay with my son, or have the parents stay with their child while at my house. I’m glad you brought this up. Now I can think about how I would verbalize this to well-intentioned, if misguided, parents of my son’s future friends.

    • Heather October 27, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

      Hey Sherryl! thought about you the other day when I picked up some almonds. Salted – not my favorite. The honey roasted however were amazing. Okay, so covered in sugar is not the point, I know, but aren’t there some omegas in there of something. Well, I had some omega 3!

      Okay on this topic. I never knew it was coming. It just sort of happened and over time I realized it was a shift that just comes with this age 6-7. No one warned me, so consider yourself ahead of the game! (Way to be on it!)

      Happy Halloween –

  9. Adrienne October 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I’m totally with you on this!! I freaked out the first time I dropped my son off for a pre-planned drop-off sleepover bday party. He was in third grade. No, I did not know the parents well, I had actually even been kindly warned by another mom whom I do know well that they probably wouldn’t pass my “inspection” if you will. Not bad people, just not my cup of tea. (I hope that doesn’t sound too stuck up!) But, my son REALLY wanted to go. So…we let him. It was awful for me, fun for him, BUT he never went back for a sleepover event there again. I learned the parents pretty much let the kids remain unsupervised for nearly 24 hours, they had full range of the kitchen to make themselves whatever they wanted, which ended up being cheetos and pepsi all night. He came home filthy, and sick to his stomach. I think this family was too mature and worldly for him. He wasn’t ready for it.

    Now, he’s my oldest and I’m admittedly paranoid about everything. Pedophiles on the top of the list! I was a mess when I dropped him off to teenage friends of older siblings playing pool in the living room while listening to “Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith. It was like a bad nightmare in real life! LOL

    These parents had two older (much older) children and had reached that laid back stage you mentioned. I’m still not there and my son is now 13. I’ve only ever let him spend the night away again at one other family’s house after meeting the parents and being ok with them.

    I have let go of some control, but they only have us to protect them. I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to them because I made a poor decision. That being said, we have to cut cord a little eventually. I just think kindergarten is too young for that unless you know the family well and are 100% comfortable with them!

  10. Jennifer November 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    Hi Heather, after you mentioned your blog, I sought it out. I’m glad I did…I totally agree with you here, and I’m glad I’m not the only one. When my older girls had their 4-year birthday party, a friend’s parent dropped off her 4-year-old son. I didn’t really know them and they didn’t know me other than passing each other at daycare. I felt totally responsible for this little boy, and here I was with my girls having their party and Kara was not even one month old!! I’m always shocked that people just don’t seem to care, and I think I am pretty laid back!

    • Heather November 8, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Hey, thanks for finding TheMommyhood! Hope you like it and thank you for you comment. It’s kind of nice to know I am not alone on this issue like I thought I was. It is interesting to see how things change with our kids as they continue to grow. There are nbew issues for us all the time as a parents and new issues for my kids, too. It’s still easy (for the most part) but I know harder times are coming. They always say little kids – little problems….big kids – big problems. For now, I am loving that my kids are somewhat independent (everyone wipes their own butt) and no one has too much of an attitude. Yet.

  11. Tonie May 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I was just googling for information on how to tell parents I don’t want them to come to the party. I obviously stumbled across the wrong post. LOL My daughter will be turning 6 and all the parents have known us for 5 years. My house isn’t that big and I can no longer afford to host parties out at $200+ venues. Last year the parents came to our home and there was no room to move. Not to mention that the behavior of the parents was poor and stressed me out while I was trying to run the activities and enjoy the party. Parents don’t have kid birthday parties. It is not a social function for adults and it makes it really hard to have the party going when your house is small and they are talking and in the way but not keeping their children involved in doing the activities. The parents do expect to be fed if they are there, and so now you’re buying food and cleaning up after upwards of 30 people for a party for 8 kids. I am just not up for that. :o/

    • Heather May 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      Tonie, You make an EXCELLENT point! I was having a bounce party and we were expecting 25 kids. I didn’t want to be watching everyone’s kids. I wanted to play with mine during the party. And I did. The scale of that was just too much. I will say that I’m getting more and more comfortable with dropoff situations as time goes by. It helps that I’m getting to know parents more, too. With the exception of a pool party. I am not comfortable letting someone else watch my kid at a pool.

      A party with eight kids sounds fantastic, and I agree it would be hard to manage with parents. You are so right about the food. One of the reasons to do it at home is to keep it affordable and that kills that. Are you having activities? If so, could you put on the invite you are welcome to drop your child off at X time and pick up at X time. Could you maybe put that if any parents want to stay, you’d love to assign them to help manage one of the activities. Basically, let them know you will put them to work. That might make some folks go for drop off. Good luck. Hope it goes well.

Leave a Reply