Care and Feeding

Workin’ for the Weekend

My kid wants weekday play dates, but I want to restrict them to Saturday and Sunday. Who’s right?

Photo illustration: A child with hands in the prayer position praying for a play date. Please, Mom?
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

How often can I let my fifth-grader cajole me into letting him have a play date on a weekday? He begs and whines about this daily, and I feel like a bad mom for saying “not on weekdays.” My son’s school does not give homework other than reading, but I have heard that this really ramps up in middle school—he will be a sixth-grader this fall. I know that play is constructive, but I find it important to balance it with other constructive (and necessary) activities.

I’m a working parent with a spouse who travels frequently. As a result, I operate somewhat like a single parent with my kids. Basically, I want him to do something more constructive and to have a more predictable routine on weekdays. I am open to being told I am wrong.

—Not on Weekdays

Dear Weekdays,

I think you’re jumping the gun. For a fifth-grader, a play date on a weekday is just fine. Make a deal! Tell him he can have one play date a week if he promises not to hassle you the rest of the time. Play is necessary, in addition to being constructive, and 10 years old is too young to be locked into a trudge of organized activities and homework, especially when he has something perfectly natural he’d rather be doing.

If having a predictable weekday routine makes your life as a parent tremendously easier, that’s absolutely something to give some weight to, and why I suggest making a weekly play date part of your larger routine as opposed to just giving in at odd moments.

If he has more homework next year, you can reassess. We’ll all be dead someday, but we don’t need to practice lying in a coffin just yet.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My almost 5-year-old daughter is crushing hard on a boy in her class. In fact she is “in love with him”(!!). They hold hands, hug, and talk constantly about how they are going to marry one another. Today she told me that she has kissed him “19” times. I’ve been a little taken aback by all of this. I know I sound prudish, which I’m generally not, but I didn’t experience anything like this myself as a child and don’t recall any of the other 5-year-olds in my class doing it either. I can’t figure out why I feel weird about it. I know it’s sweet and innocent and yet I’m feeling a kind of way! Any insight?

—I’m Ridiculous?!

Dear IR,

Ah, young love. I very much wanted to kiss Andrew Malinowski when I was that age, but never worked up the courage to go for it. For some reason, he failed to realize that my frenetic twirling in his direction was a seduction tactic.

I can assure you that this is not at all weird (and trust me when I say that you don’t remember an eighth of the weird stuff you did when you were 5 anyway). I would check in with your daughter’s teachers to make sure that the behavior they’re seeing in class and on the playground is within the bounds of acceptability. (It is entirely possible that she has never kissed him!) I’d also have a brief talk about making sure people want us to kiss them before we kiss them, and then I’d wait for her to develop a new interest. It shouldn’t take long.

As long as her young man isn’t uncomfortable and his parents aren’t uncomfortable and the teachers are like “kids are so glommy” and not “we’re concerned,” I would encourage you not to get overly worked up about it. But those are all important considerations.

Dear Care and Feeding,

It’s OK to just relentlessly lie to my kid’s pushy grandma, right? I always feel a little guilty about it, but I’m pretty sure my options are: Obey a bunch of rules I don’t believe in, lie, or have 100 percent of our interaction be fighting about not doing things her way.

—Exhausted Mom

Dear EM,

Lying is fine, but putting her on an information diet is better. Cut way back on the amount she knows about your business! Here’s a list of phrases that are your friends:

• “Thanks for that! I’ll keep it in mind/give it some thought.”
• “That won’t be possible.”
• “This is the best decision for our family.”
• “Don’t worry about it.”
• “Why do you ask?”
• “I have to dash, but we’ll talk soon!”

Your child is yours. Raise them the best you know how, keep an open mind in case her advice is good, and if you do feel the need to lie, you have my permission to do so. I am not sure why she has “rules” for you or your child, and I am concerned that she may be providing the infamous Free Babysitting that so often interferes with effectively setting civil boundaries. If so, you have bigger problems that politely batting away her questions will not solve.

Dear Care and Feeding,

What’s your opinion of sick days? My 6-year-old claims he is sick but does not have a fever. I’m a SAHM so can be with him but hate the precedent of letting him stay home.

—Get Up, You’re Fine

Dear GUYF,

Let’s start with an important question: Does your 6-year-old generally have a good attitude towards school? If he does, and you don’t need to take time off work, as is the case for you, I’m inclined to wink at his scam this one time. If he dislikes school, or there is an emergent stressor there (a bully, a subject he’s struggling with, etc.), I’d rather see you probe the issue a bit.

(You can also be sick and not have a fever, as I am sure you know, but he’s your kid and if you think he’s malingering, I’ll take your word for it.)

Looking into your future, I think that bailing your kid out of school once or twice a year for no good reason in order to go do fun nonsense together is one of the great things about being a stay-at-home parent. There’s something absolutely delicious about going to a matinee with a kid playing hooky. We spend so much time following the rules—that time feels particularly endless when you’re little—and so nothing bonds two people like getting away with something vaguely forbidden. Those memories last a lifetime.