This Mannersmith Monthly's guest columnist is our very own Marianne Cohen. Ms. Cohen is Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting's Vice President for our Manners for Minors Division.
The kids are whining, the dog is barking, the cat is climbing the drapes. The dulcet tones of "I'mmmm boooorrreddd!" ring through the house. Yes, the winter doldrums are here. So you do what lots of parents have done before you. You figure out what you can do to get the kids out of the house. You look outside and outdoor play is not an option. You turn to indoor playgrounds, movies and play-dates. Although these may not been your idea of fun, they make your children happy. Your arrival at these locations is not the end of your parental duties. You are not off the hook. Your children may run loose, but they may not run wild. Here are some guidelines everyone should follow.
Sickies Stay Home ~ If your kids are sick, have a runny nose, cough, running a fever or just not feeling well - keep them home. Polite people know germs are one of the things we should not share. It is just not fair to get everyone else sick. We sympathize, it is hard to keep them home because you have cabin fever, but wait until they feel better and everyone can really enjoy being out and about.
Checking Out ~ For many of these indoor play spaces, you pay an admission charge. However that does not mean you can sit back with your grande latte from Starbucks and read "Eat, Pray, Love." You must still keep one eye on your charges. Yes, there may be staff working, but they are probably earning minimum wage, which does not guarantee the safety of your child.
Small Fry Stampede ~ Obviously you need to watch your younger children, but it is equally important to monitor your older children. They may be old enough to run loose, but they could be bullying or knocking over the little ones who are not big enough to get through some of the play mazes by themselves.
Feeding Frenzy ~ Popcorn, Raisinettes, and Gummy Bears are movie favorites, but be sure to keep the food within your personal space. Snacks should not be thrown, worn, or shared with those around you. When the movie is over, do take a moment to collect your wrappers and deposit them in a waste barrel. Not only is this the right thing to do, but you are also setting a good example for your children about how to act outside of the house.
Safety at the Screens ~ As a parent, you need to be hyper aware of everyone's comfort level when leaving your child unsupervised, even with a group, at a movie. Theaters are not daycare centers and most are not monitored the entire time. Leaving your child in the dark with strangers is not the best idea. Feel free to sit a few rows back when escorting those tweens, but stay alert for their safety. They may get annoyed that you are there and watching you, but you will feel more comfortable in the long run.
Age Appropriate ~ The critics rave about the latest family flick, but upon arrival it is clear your children are not reacting well to the movie. If they fidget for more than a few moments, then leave. It is not fair to bother those around you just so you can see "Alvin and The Chipmunks." If you have time, go see the manager, many will refund your money if you did not make it until the ending credits.
Should I Stay or Should I Go ~ Only you as the parent can determine if you child is ready or prepared for a drop off play date. If they are not comfortable, do not drop and leave. They may not know the other parents, the house, or the siblings of their friends. If, however, your child is comfortable, feel free to trade time with the other parent especially if you both have children the same age. All parents agree that sometimes it is easier to be cooped up if your children have playmates other than you!
No More Vacation Time ~ Please be sympathetic with your friends that are stay-at-home moms or dads especially during vacation days, snow days, and school professional development days. They should not be considered a personal day care center for your children when you cannot take another day off. They may feel guilty about saying no, so if they graciously help you out more than once, do something nice for them - a gift certificate for a spa or nice restaurant (while you watch their children), babysitting time on a weekend, or a home-baked meal.
The Golden Rule ~ After either a drop off play date or one where you stay and enjoy some catch up time with your friend, ensure your child helps clean up before you leave so that they will be welcome next time. And, it is always nice to bring something to a play date to help out the other parent - goodies, fruit, or craft supplies.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow; this means 6 more weeks of winter! So be prepared when it comes to entertaining your children and make the best of it. After all, just like Groundhog Day, winter vacation week does descend every year!