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Play Date With a Stranger

March 4, 2015
By Shasta Clark - Mommy Moments , OVParent

A few months ago on a typical weekday, I had just put my sons on the school bus and remembered the wet clothes I'd left in the washer all night. I opened the washer and sniffed the clothes to decide if I could get away with tossing them in the dryer without anyone noticing the sour smell of their T-shirts. Unfortunately, it's a recurring scene in my laundry room. What happened next is becoming one, too.

The phone rang, and it was a number I didn't recognize. I answered to hear a sweet voice on the other end that I didn't recognize either. The caller introduced herself as the mother of one of my son's classmates. I immediately knew she was calling for a play date.

The mom on the other end of the line asked if she could pick up my son from school, take him to her house, feed him dinner, and said I could pick him up around 9 o'clock. Instantly, my head swarmed with how to answer this stranger. This is a woman whom I couldn't pick out of a lineup, who wants to drive my 6-year-old in a car I don't recognize and who wants to take him to her home, yet I have no idea where it's located, who else is there or what goes on inside. Something instantly smelled wrong, and it wasn't the sour laundry.

Unfortunately, something else was swarming in my head. Days before, another mother told me about a play date her sixth-grade daughter had with a new friend, a girl. This friend wanted to watch pornography on her iPad. She also suggested that her little brother, a third-grader, watch, too. When my friend's daughter declined, she replied: "I don't know what the big deal is. I watch it all the time and touch myself while I'm watching it."

And so, as I stood with a phone in one hand and a stinky Super Mario Bros. T-shirt in the other, I had about two seconds to discern between right and wrong for my child, pray for wisdom and formulate the right words that would not offend the well-meaning mom on the other end nor compromise my feelings. That's a whole lot to do in two seconds.

Thankfully, I've learned some lessons in the past nine years of parenting that helped me in those few seconds. First, pray. Second, I tend to be over-protective and I need to constantly check myself against whether my protection is healthy or fear-based. Third, it's OK to go against the parenting grain. The old adage, "If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" still applies. As much as I wanted the other mom to think I'm not a kook and spare her feelings, my first job as a mom is not to be liked by other moms. It's to discern what is right and wrong for my child and keep him safe.

Looking back, my response to the mom wasn't as smooth or gentle as I would have liked. Fumbling through my words, I told her I'm probably the most protective mom in our community, but I still like to be there for the first play date.

I hung up feeling certain that declining her invitation was the right decision but wondering if my delivery could have been smoother. Since then, I've had similar requests for my other son too, who is 9 years old. The older they get, the tougher it is to say no. Yet, I've massaged my response to make it gentler, but the answer is still the same. I want to know a family before I send my child off with them.

~ Shasta Clark is a St. Clairsville native who lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, with her husband, two sons and daughter. Her email address is



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