My dear husband is out of town this week, leaving me to hold down the fort with four small children. This would be hard enough, even if the baby didn't catch the stomach bug the day before he left. You see, we met their youngest cousin over the weekend, and unbeknownst to us, she was going through a bout of The Tummy Bug. Her parents are brand new to this whole parenting gig, so I suppose they just didn't know they should have informed me of their baby's condition.
This left me wondering what else new parents don't know in regards to their little darlings being around other little darlings. Ladies, please feel free to add to this list!
When in Doubt, Spell it Out
"We think the reason the kids all have runny noses, is because it is spring and they have seasonal allergies.." "Hey, we're pretty sure that she's just sensitive to the formula switch, but just in case it's something else, she's been puking.." Simple sentences like that give the other parents an "out" for saying "Oh, well, let's keep Junior away from your sweet sicko's toys!" Other mothers are going to appreciate you informing them so that they can make the best decision for their little ones. Some moms aren't phased by tummy bugs and will shrug it off. Others will go to the extreme of an about face and a "See ya when everyone feels better!" bit. Give them that option!
Not Sure? Stay Home!
I can't tell you just how much it drives me crazy to drop my kid off at the church nursery, and look in to see half the kids with snotty noses or buggery eyes. Seriously! Gathering with other believers is important, but sharing your child's cold with the rest of the children just isn't okay. There are other options (such as staying home and listening to sermons online or on the telly), and they should be exercised. Having four young children, it is very important to me that I try to keep them ALL healthy, because once one gets sick, it is bound to make its rounds through the whole house. Not fun.
Oops! Call Immediately!
Anytime within the first 48 hours, it is good form to call the other mothers if your child comes down with any sort of bug. "She was feeling fine when we visited, but now she's puking everywhere. Just giving you a heads up, hope your child doesn't get sick!" Or if you disregarded the second point, and bring a child you think "just has allergies" but it turns out to be strep throat or some such, call and apologize, letting them know to be on the look out. We're parents, we know the possibility of picking up germs is just part of the game. An apology (acknowledging that you messed up!!) really does go a long ways to mend irritated bridges, ya know? It happens, but when it could have been prevented... that is irksome.
Step IN or Step OUT!
Perhaps your children are the most docile and obedient children out there. They will still have "off days" where they are less than obedient and more likely to snatch a toy than share. Before getting into a group situation (whether that be going somewhere or all the kids converging in YOUR domicile), remind them of the rules and how you expect them to behave. It is amazing how many MANY times you will have to repeat these rules over the course of your Mommyhood. When you see little John or Jane beginning to wig out or lose their grip on Accepted Behavior, step in! Pull them aside and gently (but firmly) remind them again. Encourage them to try to solve their problems politely, but if they can't, come to an adult. If it continues to be a problem, have them sit right next to you, out of the fray. Once they compose themselves, they can go back and play... but if it STILL a problem, leave. Or if the kids are at your house, send your kid to a room where no other children are... or thoroughly embarrass yourself by asking your company to leave. Your kids have got to know that how they behave affects those around them, and if they can't play nice, they're not going to be able to have company over, or be company themselves. Whatever you do, do NOT just blithely sit by and do nothing, leaving the other mothers silently fuming that John or Jane are being little b-r-a-t-s!
Clean Up, Clean Up...
...everybody, everywhere! Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share!
Parents of small children are sure to be familiar with that song. When children get together, messes are bound to happen. And that's okay! Messes are part of the fun! That being said, when it is time to get ready to go, have your children help clean up. Leaving the hostess's house destroyed is NOT good form. Get down there yourself and make sure to help out as well. If your hostess insists not to worry about it, don't impose your will on her, though insist that the kids pick up a few things before they leave.
When in Rome...
Be respectful of the customs in other people's homes. When you arrive, do you notice shoes lined up by the door and the hostess is bare foot? Take your shoes off and help your kids take theirs off as well. If they have a piano, but don't like for the kids to play on it, then shoo the kids away. Follow your host's lead.
Playdates and family get togethers can be stressful. Or they can run smoothly and be a joyous occasion. Be considerate, responsible parents. Have good form!