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Play Dates and the Innocent Child

A comment on another article got me stirred up this morning.

I raised my kids before the advent of the playdate, (or maybe I was just finishing up at the birth of the playdate). I never had to deal with the social undertones that go on there.

But, I recall visit teaching a woman whom I considered an excellent individual who had, as far as I could tell, wonderful children. There was certainly nothing I could see about her, or her family that would make them social pariahs. I remeber sitting on her living room floor for the first year of visit teaching her (starter home, no furniture), but her home was clean and I did not see this as a problem, it was cozy though humble and invited friendship. Her oldest child was six when I visit taught her and this women was lamenting to us one particular visit, about some of the politics in the ward over asking for play dates. She said that some mothers were very cliquey and it was hard to explain to her son why he couldn’t go play with his friend from Sunday School, or why his friend from Sunday School had repeatedly declined his invitation to play, only to see him shortly thereafter with other friends. 

This mother felt that the other mother was jockeying for ‘better’ friends for her child. (My naivete amazes me sometimes, but I was shocked!) How could an active woman in the church who gave such great lessons in Relief Society on Sunday, turn around on a Tuesday and snub a child of God? And an innocent 6-year-old at that?

Now I have a 5-year-old granddaughter, who is pointedly not being raised in the church, while at the same time, living in Utah. Would you let your child go play at the home of a smoker? Would you let the innocent child of your smoking (puff puff, not hubba hubba) neighbor, play at your house? Does the innocent child inherit the sins of his/her parents and is therefore consciously or unconsciously shunned from good LDS society? I already know the answers to these questions. We all want to protect our children.

I think though that crossing over the border into Grandmaville, has made me start seeing all children as my own.

I would ask responses though to how you would deal with several things:

  1. Are you inclusive in your play dates of those in your ward/neighborhood that may need a help up?
  2. Do you look to the non-member families around you and wonder what good influence you may be in the lives of those children?

What does the gospel of Jesus Christ demand of us, if anything, in this type of situation? Are we required only ‘not to throw stones’ or is more required?

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Vennesa August 12, 2011, 7:05 pm

    There aren’t many children in our neighborhood, so when a new family with 8 kids moved in next-door we were excited to get to know them. Turns out they were Baptist. Not a problem for me. But for the 4 years they lived here they were never allowed inside our home. Why? Because we are LDS. They would sit on the other side of our chain-link fence and talk to my kids, but only if their dad wasn’t home.
    It was really sad. Why can’t kids just be kids?
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  • Darcee Yates August 12, 2011, 7:39 pm

    Vennesa, Thanks for reminding me it goes both ways. Living in Utah, I usually only see the one side.
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  • Alison Moore Smith August 13, 2011, 1:44 am

    In my 47 years I have lived ten in Florida, four in California, half a year in England, and the rest in Utah. I’m sure it happens, but I have never personally known any parent who forbid their kids to play with a nonmember nor a child who wasn’t included because they were not a member. In fact, from the time I was very young, we were always encouraged to invite nonmembers to play and to come to Primary/Mutual as an act of fellowship.

    Some of the most popular kids in my almost 100% LDS high schools weren’t members and a few of them even attended seminary with their friends.

    On the other hand there was a nonmember guy in Eagle Mountain who claimed (anonymously, on a message board) that LDS neighbor kids weren’t allowed to play at his house. He went on at some length about how hateful Mormons were. But I pointed out to him that on past posts he had ranted about how stupid Mormons were and how he “made a point to drink beer on my porch and throw the cans on the lawns of the idiot morons.” Were kids kept away because they weren’t LDS?

    In Boca we had neighbors with two little boys the same ages as Jessica and Belinda. We were good friends until they found out we were Mormons. (They were evangelical Christians.) Suddenly our kids only interacted in the culdesac and then, when Jessica and her friend (both five) got into a disagreement about whether David killed Goliath with a rock or a slingshot (!), her friend yelled, “Well, that’s because Mormons make up their own Bible!” Then he told her they couldn’t be friends and ran inside.

    The mom was completely cool to me for about four months, then she thawed — and asked me to sing the hound dog song (from the other thread) at the kids Baptist school. After that, things were fine. 🙂

    Our homeschool group in Florida was very welcoming (and I’m still friends with a few of the women there). I was very involved and volunteered in multiple capacities. But when it had THREE LDS families join (out of a couple hundred families), I guess it was too much. They wrote a “statement of faith” that all members were required to sign. It was written fairly specifically to exclude Mormons (stuff about accepting the trinity, etc.).

    In a different house in Boca, we had all Jewish neighbors (whom we played with and babysat for, etc.) except one Catholic family. We often had the girll (6-7) in our house after school when no one was home and/or when she was locked out. When she asked to see our Living Scriptures videos, I got permission from her mom first. My kids went to a birthday party at their friends house and the parents put on a movie that Belinda and Alana knew they shouldn’t watch. They asked if they could do something else until the movie was over, explaining that their parents didn’t want them to see it. At first she relented and let them in the toy room. Then she went in and demanded that they join the party. My kids called and asked to come home.

    After that, I didn’t let my kids go over there. NOT because they were Catholic (we had a number of other Catholic friends), but because the parents did not respect our wishes, even when the kids expressed them.

    Like I said, I’m sure there are members who won’t let their kids play with certain other kids. But given the anecdotal experience I have, I would suggest that often nonmembers assume it’s BECAUSE they aren’t members, when there are really other reasons. Like someone who is antagonistic toward the church or someone who makes a point to disrespect the church or someone who does something that the parents would object to no matter the religion.

    All in all, I figure that parents can decide who their kids play with. When we were written out of Boca Homeschoolers, I was a bit sad, but not angry. I figured it was a protective measure they felt was necessary. I wish they had talked to one of us, but they weren’t obligated to.

    Now I have a 5-year-old granddaughter, who is pointedly not being raised in the church, while at the same time, living in Utah.

    The thing I noticed in this sentence was “pointedly.” I don’t know what you meant by that, but often those who are disaffected from the church (wherever they live), make it a point to take shots at the church or to do things to prove they aren’t Mormons.

    To be honest, smoking is one of those things. Who in their right mind smokes these days? I mean go ahead and rebel, but to give yourself lung cancer just to prove a point? Back when Sam did research at the University of Utah, it seemed as if they had exponentially more smokers than any other campus in the country — all to prove that even though they LIVED in Utah, they weren’t Mormon “sheep.”

    So, I’m not sure I’d let my kids play at a home where they were “pointedly” not Mormon. Depends on what you mean by that.

    To your actual questions, Darcee:

    Would you let your child go play at the home of a smoker?

    I don’t know. The dad of my best friends in elementary school was a pipe smoker and the dad of my best friend in junior high smoked cigarettes. Neither was a member (although the pipe smoker joined the church a few years later) and I played at their homes all the time. But second-hand smoke not only makes ME really sick, but I now know of its dangers. I’d rather them not be exposed to it often.

    Would you let the innocent child of your smoking neighbor, play at your house?

    Depends on the kid. The parents’ smoking wouldn’t be an issue either way. As long as a kid is decent and will abide by our rules — no cursing, be kind to family (younger siblings!) and other friends (no ditching or ganging up), respect property, etc. — I have no other requirements. (To date, we’ve never had a child in our home who required more than an explanation about our expectations.)

    Does the innocent child inherit the sins of his/her parents and is therefore consciously or unconsciously shunned from good LDS society?

    Like I said, all my life I’ve seen the opposite. I’ve seen LDS folks become second families to many non-LDS kids. In the case of family you describe, I would directly discuss the issue with woman. The story doesn’t make a lot of sense. In most cases I’ve seen there is more to the story than the one side.
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  • Katie August 13, 2011, 7:43 am

    Where we live, we don’t have a lot of LDS kids to choose from. The ward has been difficult because we have a lot of moves (medical school). My daughter is the only girl in her SS class. The street we live on does not have a lot of direct access to families with kids. We depend on school and the ward for our social networks. My daughter has a friend that two years ago, I didn’t have a problem with her hanging out with. However, in those two years, the parents have divorced, Dad has a girlfriend that he brings to school functions, and Mom has a boyfriend who had his shirt off and reeked of alcohol last time we picked her up from the home. The young girl is still nice (a little snotty at times for my taste), but I understand that her life right now is not great. I would rather she come to our house then my daughter go to hers. In fact, after the last incident where boyfriend greeted us shirtless, she is not going over.

    I have a son (6) who struggles socially. He is learning, but he has a hard time getting along with other kids. He does not get any calls to play and sometimes his requests have been turned down. He had a rough time in Primary, but is doing much better as he gets older.

    So, I have been on both sides. One child I don’t want to go over to some people’s home and one child who I would bake the family dinner for a week if he were invited over to play.

  • Angie August 14, 2011, 2:57 pm

    I real.ly like how my ward does the playgroup thing – they advertise it in the RS bulletin and all are invited. I’m sure there are individuals who get together outside of that as well (which means others are uninvited) but I haven’t seen any children being excluding others at church or anything.

    I think navigating our chidlren’s friendships can be hard anyway, regardless of religion. There is one family in my ward who I can see are really trying to foster a friendship between my daughter and theirs. There have been a few problems with it, though. One problem is that the girls really don’t seem to have that much in common and, I think for both of them, it feels like something their parents are trying to force. And not only do they not have much in common, but I am not particularly fond of some of the things that go on in their house. Both parents work full time and there are no restrictions on media, etc. My daughter is invited over regularly for sleepovers even though I have told the mom that we don’t do sleepovers as a family policy (does she think I’m going to change my mind? This has been our policy for 12 years and I’m not changing it now…I have my reasons). So, while of course I want my daughter to be kind to this other girl, I’m not really gunning for them to be attached at the hip or anything.

    Another daughter is in a different situation – her best friend lives next door and is not LDS. Not only not LDS, but very different values in the home. Fortunately, the girls themselves have chosen to spend most of their time at our house because we have more “fun stuff”, but they do occasionally ask to play at the other house. I am, admittedly, careful about that. The father used to smoke in the home and that really bothered me. I do not like my child being exposed to smoke. He now smokes outside because his wife quit smoking and she asked him to move it outdoors, so that’s good…but there are additional concerns about this girl being under the care of her 16-year-old sister and sister’s boyfriend much of the time. My daughter isn’t allowed over there when that’s the case, other than to play in the back yard where I can see them. There is also free alcohol use in the home (mostly in late-night parties in their back yard, which my bedroom window looks out on, always fun at 3 in the morning with a bunch of laughing drunk people) but for the most part I am fine with my daughter playing over there when the mom is home. Like I said, most of the time they would rather be at my house anyway. Do her parents think I’m snobby or think I’m better than them? I don’t think so, but to be honest I really don’t care. Sorry if that sounds harsh, I have to do what is best for my kid. To the kids, I don’t have to say, “no, you can’t play over there today because dad has a hangover or sister and boyfriend are in charge” but I just give another reason why they can’t play that day. I love this little girl (and her family has been good neighbors to us too and I like them as well) but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to throw my 8-year-old into that environment. By the way, this little girl attends many church functions with us and wants to be baptized. She is 9, and mom and dad aren’t on board with that yet, but they do let her attend activities and such.

    I think with anything child-related, we have to use wisdom and the spirit. I’m not into forcing friendships, not preventing my children from being friends with who they want to, as long as they are protected.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 15, 2011, 1:03 am

    Katie and Angie, I appreciate your thoughtful comments. 🙂
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  • Darcee Yates August 15, 2011, 2:03 pm

    All of your comments remind me of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Our knowledge extends to what ‘it was like for us’. Collectlively, we get a bigger picture.
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  • MonMon August 20, 2011, 10:28 pm

    Well, that was a conversation stopper, Darcie.

    I think blaming the church or saying it’s because of not being a member is an easy way to explain it but not true. Who would ever say don’t play with nonmembers would also say don’t go on a mission where you have to talk to nonmembers.

    I think mostly it’s when _standards_ are different that people don’t want their kids to play and so instead of look at what they are doing that bothers mormons they just blame not being members.

    Not sending your kids to get second hand smoke isn’t about not being a member, its about using your brain.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 22, 2011, 11:16 am

    MonMon, I would tend to agree that it’s almost always a values/behavior issue. Darcee hasn’t responded to my question about what it means to be “pointedly” not raised in the church. But that might have something to do with it.
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  • Pandora August 25, 2011, 3:42 pm

    Parents have the right to decide who their kids play with. If it’s because values are different, religions are different, influences are different, it doesn’t matter.

    I don’t know any Mormons who don’t let their kids play with nonmormons just because of that. If most of the Mormon kids can’t play with you, there is a reason. Figure out the reason. How about ask someone the reason.

    I say get over it and find your kids friends who they fit with. The “poor me” thing is just a waste of time.

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