"It's not fair!" whined The Girl to me last week. I had asked her to put away the toys, clothes, books and art supplies that she and a friend had dragged--and left--out after that day's playdate. Although this plaint is commonly issued from The Girl's lips, as I helped her to put away these things, I realized: she's right.
It's not fair. But how did we get here? When The Boy, The Girl and The Tot were younger, I preferred to pick up the detritus of play myself. In our tiny Chicago foursquare, doing it myself was expeditious. But now that my children are bigger, and their toys are smaller, space efficiency is less important to me. And after three kids, the concept of "a place for everything and everything has its place" is considerably less important to me. But, I'm still working out how -- or whether -- to broach this subject with my friends and my children's friends. The subject has never really come up.
And it's an interesting question for which there is no one answer. Like common sense, the only thing common about it is the diversity of approaches. When I was a child, my parents and most of their friends were firmly in the "clean up before you go home" camp. But their attitude was not universally shared, even by neighbors or friends. To wit: as a child, I remember becoming incensed with a neighbor child who suddenly had to go home every time it came time to clean up. It seemed so patently unfair that I once physically blocked the doors until she agreed to clean up. (She didn't. My mother intervened. She wasn't allowed to come over to my house anymore. In full disclosure, she was two years older than me.) OK, so blocking her from leaving was wrong, but even as an adult, I don't understand why didn't she have to follow the rules?
Admittedly, the rules of engagement are different for my children than they were when I was a child. The only time my mother accompanied me to a playdate was when it was outside the neighborhood. While drop-off playdates are now the norm for The Tot, The Boy and The Girl, the rules for clean-up have not yet been established. Maybe now is the time to start laying the groundwork for play. House rules, if you will.
What do you think? What have you done? Do you have established rules for clean-up and playdates at your house? Do your children follow a certain protocol?