Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Open Door Policy

My carpooling buddy, who lives two doors away from me on a little path of apartments, is, among other things, a genuine sweetheart. She's got a very distinct way of framing things in a positive, constructive tone, with her own two boys as well as with my kids.

Her apartment's front door is situated immediately behind the stairway leading from the sidewalk up to our own door. Thus, this isn't a carpool where I need to drive anywhere. In essence, I cannot get to and from the car without passing her place. It's been a great arrangement for this year and last, but there is one caveat.

The Raggedy kids, though they can be shy in certain settings, are generally quite friendly. As in, they make themselves right at home in lots of places. As in, they try to barge in on my neighbor whenever she opens the door to let her son in. And as she is so sweet, she'll graciously invite us all in for what turns into an improptu playdate.

Andy loves it there, because it's boy-land, with a fire-truck bed and testosterone-toys. Ann loves it because she and my neighbor's son are in different classes this year, and they don't get much chance to play together anymore.

There are a number of times when I've been able to quash the playdate idea before it got started, and a few occasions when I've allowed the kids to stay for a couple of minutes before rustling them up and getting them back home.

But yesterday proved to be a real challenge. A few minutes turned into a half hour (we moms got to talking about the elementary school dilemmas we're imminently facing), which turned into nearly an hour.

At that point, Little Rag was hungry and crying, and there was not much hope of getting to make the dinner I had wanted to quickly prepare while the big kids played. Ann and Andy tag-teamed to give me a really hard time about getting out of there, and my neighbor's son kept bringing out more enticing toys, which had them totally hooked.

After an agonizing 15 minute battle involving my neighbor holding my wailing baby, and me basically wrestling Ann and Andy into putting their shoes and coats back on, we finally did the walk of shame back to our apartment. Whereupon I told Ann that I'd made a decision:

I asked my neighbor to open her door while I would bring out her son alone, and then to let him in and close her door. Only afterward would I bring my own kids out and lead us all home. She understood where I was coming from, and agreed to it, with the added stipulation that we should still see each other and set up occasional playdates in advance.

She's expecting another baby in late spring, and hasn't been feeling too great herself, so I can imagine that she's not always up for the intrusion. And it's been disproportionate in that we live upstairs and further down the path, so somehow it never winds up being here.

Would anyone have handled this any differently?


Ezzie said...

Hehe. Start parking on the 'other' end. :) (Plus, by the time they finish climbing that hill, they won't WANT to go play!)

In all seriousness, I can totally see how that could happen; I see the said neighbor walking both of your kids to the car some mornings on that path (I tried to wave to Ann today as I got on the bus, but she didn't see), and of course, whichever house goes by first on the way out will often be the one all the kids try to pack into.

What about making a rule for Ann & Andy that they always have to come home first, before thinking of going to go play anywhere? By the time they settle in, they likely won't always want to go back out... and if they really do, you can call and see if it's a good time to come over. Or, just have them over. [Perhaps this is easier said than done, no idea. Elianna isn't close to this point!]

LittleBirdies said...

If you're up to it, you can offer to bring her son directly to your house and have her pick him up 1/2 hour later.

Abbi said...

I just did that wrestling dance a few days ago to get my daughter to leave a playdate! Sounds like it's contagious.

I would just clearly explain the situation to your kids, that your friend is just not up to a playdate everyday, that they can have their friend over occasionally and that you will plan for playdate by their friends occasionally as well.

We had that situation in our old apt. only it was that the friend lived directly next door. When my daughter was very little, she thought every time the neighbor's door was open, it was an automatic invite.

mother in israel said...

It sounds like you found a solution to a problem. Sometimes you have to try a few things before you find something that works for your family. Once you do things are likely to change again! You're lucky to have such good friends close by.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you handled it really well!

PsychoToddler said...

My kids NEVER want to go to other people's houses. They prefer to play at home. But you probably figured that out from Fudge!

RaggedyMom said...

Ezzie - Truth is, I often do have to park at the 'other' end due to sheer lack of parking spots. Ann calls those big huge stairs the "monkey stairs." I call them "Boy, am I out of shape!"

LB - That's a good suggestion too. I'm working on getting her son here sometimes. Although, the truth is, I feel like after being in school from 9-3:30 at 4 years old, they don't even need a playdate!

Abbi - Glad to know I'm not alone here! Our downstairs neighbors have twin girls and a baby girl, and that's another "trap" where the Raggedy kids like to linger.

MiI, Anon - Thanks! I do think it's working out for now! But of course, time will tell whether it's a long-term solution.

PT - I tend toward the homebody-antisocial side myself, so I totally get it. And Andy really looks forward to playing with Ann in the afternoons, so I like for them to have some sibling time before the supper-bath-bed rush. They definitely inherited their social tendencies from my husband.

Miriam said...

Hi RaggedyMom. I think you handled it quite nicely!

re: Walk of Shame. LOLOLOL well put!

PsychoToddler -what's your secret??!!