Comfort level is foremost when sending a child on a playdate
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Q: My daughter, a preschooler, is being invited to play at the home of a classmate whose parents are very ignorant about race. At a recent classroom function, I witnessed this classmate's parents recounting (in front of our children!) "ethnic stereotype" jokes from a comedy club they attended. I worry about letting my daughter play at their house because I don't know what kind of racist attitudes and language she might be exposed to there. So far, I've avoided any more playdates at their house and only allow my daughter to invite her friend to our house or a neutral location. What do you advise in such a situation? Should I tell the classmate's mother why I don't want my daughter to play at her house?
A: Certainly you don't want to send a child of any age, but especially a young one, to play at someone's house when you don't feel entirely comfortable. You're also under no obligation to explain why you don't feel comfortable. Just keep saying no, keep inviting their child over, and the other parents will either accept that or not.
Having said that, I think it's important not to get too worked up over your child's exposure to political incorrectness, or lousy dynamics in someone else's house, or crude language, or whatever. You can control only so much of what your kids see and learn. You can choose not to say (bleep), and you can be faultless in your self-control, and then you'll be standing in line at a ballgame and someone in the bathroom line will drop a string of (bleeps) right in front of your kid. Or, their classmate will use it every other word on the playground when the teacher's out of earshot.
The education you give to your kids is the one you deliver consistently. You are the one they watch, along with other everyday, authoritative people in their lives, like teachers. If you behave in a certain way, then they'll learn to distinguish that from episodes of a different, undesirable behavior.
When you see them struggling to make that distinction — with peers, for example, who are also an everyday presence — that's when you step in to help.
Be supportive of your sister no matter what she decides
Q: How common and relevant are cold feet before a wedding? Last week my sister told me she was calling off the wedding (this weekend). Two days later, everything was fine. What do I do with this?
A: Be glad it's not your marriage.
Also give her a nonjudgmental place to say anything she wants to say. If you're not close, then you're probably not going to get anywhere with this, but it can help sometimes if you say, "I'll love you if you go through with this, and I'll love you if you don't. Is there any reason you might not want to go through with this?"
A stunning number of people have the wedding, essentially, because they've already paid the caterer. Everyone in that position needs at least one soul to assure them that canceling is not the worst case.