Is there a gun in the house?
When my kids were in preschool it was easy to plan playdates. Most of the time I was dropping them off at a neighbor's house. I knew their complete video collection and dietary offerings as well as I knew my own. There were no worries that they would watch something racier than Sesame Street or eat something greasier then a grilled cheese. My only concern was that they might find a gun and shoot themselves.
I've always had this one obsessive fear of kids and guns perhaps rooted in a story my husband wrote nearly 20 years ago about a 9-year-old boy who killed himself because his "girlfriend" gave him the cold shoulder one day during fourth grade. My fear was only augmented when I later interviewed a policeman who taught gun safety classes only to have his own son accidentally shoot himself with a neighbor's gun while playing with a friend. So I dared to ask playdates' parents if they had any guns in the house and if so, were they locked up. Other than that slightly awkward question, I had no other concerns because I knew the hosts so well.
Well, preschool and elementary playdates are a thing of the past. My oldest is in sixth grade in a school of about 1,000 students and she has friends whose parents I don't know. What's the drill now for making sure she's heading to a house where the parents will be home and keeping a good eye on the kids? How do I know if a new friend could influence her to make bad choices? How do I control what they look at and who they talk to on the Internet? Or for fear of being a classified a "helicopter parent", do I simply trust her to take care of herself, do the right thing and remember the phrase: "My mom would kill me if I did that. And I know she would end up finding out."
What do you do when your child, be he 4 or 15, is going on a playdate or sleepover at the home of a someone you don't know at all?
-- Katherine Snow Smith, Go Momma magazine