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The Parental Pick-Up Bandits

It seems that when a parent picks up their child from a friend's house, the formality of parking, coming to the door, making introductions and saying “thank you” is a thing of the past.

Just as the vernacular has changed, it seems that something else has too. When a parent picks up their child from a friend's house, the formalities of parking, coming to the door, making introductions and saying “thank you” are all things of the past.

Over the years, my kids have had all types of friends as guests. I’ve been repetitively reminded that it’s no longer referred to as a “play date” but as “hanging out.” 

While most youthful guests have been welcomed visitors, some parents have forgotten the basic rules of acknowledgment and appreciation when it comes to picking up their child. Most don’t even get out of the car. They’ll text or call their child when they arrive, then wait in the car with beaming headlights and running motor.

There’s no issue with established friends running out the door with a goodbye wave and a friendly honk from mom or dad. However, child retrieval performed by parents I’ve never met, with no acknowledgment, can be disconcerting. Do they not want to know where and with who said child has been staying all day? It just seems odd, almost bothersome, how this practice has become the norm and I’m starting to wonder just how to address it.

If this normalcy happened during my temperamental adolescent years, my mother would easily repeat the embarrassing lecture on etiquette and what’s proper. Now that I’m a parent myself, I understand the basics of validation and appreciation when someone takes the time and effort to be responsible for your child. (My mother loves hearing how right she is.)

At my home, an environment to “hang out” with adult supervision is graciously given. Adolescent guests bounce around the house anywhere from 6 to 24 hours. Rides to parks, practices and movies have also been provided. Dinner invitations are usually offered for the extended-stay guests. Even the Whirlpool has been commissioned off to wash muddy clothes from outside adventures. After all this, there are times I’ve yet to meet Mama Bear. 

I understand we’re all busy and working hard, surviving on limited sleep and hot, caffeinated beverages. I’ve been exhausted countless times while picking up children. I don’t always want to socialize with an unknown mother, filling the room with mindless chitchat while junior slowly rounds up his belongings. But as a parent it’s important to know where your kids are and who they’re “hanging out” with. It’s just as important to thank the parents who take responsibility for your kids.  

I’m not looking for a drawn-out powwow in my family room every single time my kids’ friends are picked up. I would be happy with a quick exchange so that, if nothing else, I can link a name with a face. If I know you, then next time you really can honk in the driveway to call your children home. I’ll toss your kid out the door with a full stomach and wave through the window.

Are you a pickup bandit? Tell us what you think in the comment section below or register your vote on this Patch poll: http://patch.com/A-rSgh.

Jan Porri March 26, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Hmmm..know where your kids are??? I had a neighbor in the old neighborhood - he came up the street...drove into my driveway and started honking the horn...when I went to the door..he yelled out the window...was his kid there.....hmmm...he had a young son, my girls were much older....no play date here!! - He was at the wrong house!! Had no clue where his kid was at all!!
john a March 26, 2012 at 02:53 PM
welcome to the 21st century its dog,e dog world you text me i,ll text you chow
Saul Freedman March 26, 2012 at 03:13 PM
A good commentary on the general loss of manners and respect in society today. And to some parents, kids are merely a fashion accessory, produced to join the rest of their friends who have kids so they have something to talk about and simply an annoyance in the self-centered furtherance of the parental interests.
jeannette March 26, 2012 at 03:15 PM
LOL....love the last line! I just emailed this article to my 17 year old after my mom emailed it to me...she's use to hearing my complaints about my son being annoyed when I want to talk to a mom when he want's to visit a friend...he hates that I do it and says that it's not necessary....and I beg to differ and always will! I turned 40 a few months ago and long for the "old days" when everyone knew everyone else...where you knew your neighbors and their kids...certainly the honk of a car horn doesn't suffice...sadly I don't see things getting any better :(
Susi March 26, 2012 at 03:34 PM
This article came just in time! Our play dates, I mean "hang out" dates are just ramping up. Its so good to be reminded of the social graces in the face to face thank you, and the responsibility to know where our kids are and who they are with. I loved your sass and the last line made me tear up laughing. So so true all the way around. Thanks again Cami!!
Philip Co March 26, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Cami, in this article, you come across to me as judgmental, paranoid or both. If you would like to believe that you're a better parent than I because you choose to hover over your kids more than I, well, knock yourself out. You're welcome to come to my door when you drop off or pick up your kids but, please, don't expect the same from me. And if you think that you can gauge the character of a parent by simply coming to their door, you're deluding yourself. I believe that you can better gauge the character of a parent by simply talking with their kids. I have no problem with the parents of my kids' friends dropping off or swooping in to pick up their kids at my house. My wife and I regularly talk with our children about their activities and their friends. We talk about the choices they make and how they make them. And we also talk with their friends when we see them. Give it a try. It might make you feel more comfortable with the friends that your kids have chosen and their parents, too.
Cornelius (Neil) Lynch March 26, 2012 at 04:01 PM
A smarmy response to a valid issue, spelled out in a carefully thought out article, suggests another decline in civility.
amystery726 March 26, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Agree, Mr. Lynch. (The same one who taught at Sedgwick years ago?)
Kimberly congden March 26, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Introducing yourself and saying thank you to the family hosting your child is not being judgmental or paranoid! It is just common courtesy which has become sadly lacking in this generation of social media and cell phones. People today are more interested in talking and texting on their iphones than actually speaking to real people and the the lack of manners is proof of it!
Lou Rainaldi Jr. March 26, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I have not found this to be an issue yet. My wife and I must meet the parents and see the house, I think there are still some of us out here who go back old tried and true ways. Thanks for the thoughtful article.
Sue Bruce March 26, 2012 at 05:15 PM
A few weeks ago, I went to the door of a house to collect one of my kids - like many of you, I like to know where my kids are, who they are with, etc. After answering the door, the parent shut the door leaving me to wait 5 or 6 minutes on the doorstep until my child came out ! What has happened to the world !?
pat March 26, 2012 at 06:16 PM
we've had the opposite ends of this spectrum at our house - parents have actually stayed the entire time their daughter did, and other parents never even came to the door. I appreciate the former, and not the latter. what does it say to a child when their parent is not interested in who they spend time with? Not to mention the lack of civility/social manners to your fellow neighbor. Just as important, if not more, is the message parents send to their children which is A) I don't care about you or your friends B) I dont have to mind my manners because it's easier not to and who cares anyway? As a parent, I care who their friends are and who the friend's parents are and what kind of home my kids spend time in. I agree with the respondant that said you never know what your child may be entering into when they walk in the door. Call it hovering paranoid if you want, but I'd rather know my child is safe, than be sorry later. I call it responsible.
jeannette March 26, 2012 at 06:58 PM
ouch...sounds like someone hit a nerve
Lisa G March 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
My kids are used to me calling other parents first, and walking to the door to drop them off, sometimes meeting these families for the first time. I feel that it takes a village to raise a child, and actually enjoy meeting other parents! I have never had a parent be put off by this, and many have actually told me they were so glad to see that some parents still care enough to get to know their kids's friends. I feel that it is my job to be informed about my children's whereabouts, who they are with, and to teach them manners at the same time. When your children are dating, it takes on a whole new meaning and if you have a precedence in place, it can be helpful. By no means does this take the place of talking to your kids about making good choices, or talking to and getting to know their friends, but it can give a bigger picture. I have been told that both my children have wonderful manners, and relate quite well to adults. I will never apologize for being "old fashioned". And Olive3, we love "Leave it to Beaver"!! I watched it when I was young and now, my kids asked to dvr it so we can all watch it together! Great family values, however dated the roles may be!
LMH March 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM
You can gauge the character of a person by how respectfully or disrespectfully he responds to an article. It makes perfect sense to introduce yourself to the parents who are hosting your child at their house, if only to be polite. It's also a friendly gesture, not to mention a good example for your child.
njnic March 27, 2012 at 02:20 AM
My son is at an age where he does have cell phone but if I'm rushing to pick him up. I will always call the house and speak to the parentand let them know, I'm on my way and thank them, but ask that he's ready. Otherwise, I go to the door. Many of his friends'patents are now called my friends too.
SScott March 27, 2012 at 02:33 AM
I did it once and boy did it backfire on me. My son (14 yrs) was invited to pizza party and I knew the family for years. Thought it was fine. I dropped him off (he didn't want me to walk me to the door) and backed out, thinking he had entered (it was hard to see) ran a couple of errands, went home only to find son had been un-invited by the rude host (I believe no parents at home, only older brother) and was waiting at the end of the road for me to pick him back up. My cell was at home. Felt so awful, didn't want to be the hovering mom but you can bet I never did that again!
Heidi Hand March 27, 2012 at 02:00 PM
This article reminds me a little of a scenario in the movie "Friends With Money". Frances McDormand's character, "Jane", confronts another parent who doesn't recognize her, even though the woman's son had spent the day at her house, where he was fed, and, Jane says, "...I cleaned up his pee, he broke a cup..." She is enraged that the other parent doesn't even know who she is, after she cared for her son all day. It's a very funny scene, yet depressing at the same time. My children are still young, so I go to the door always, for safety's sake as well as courtesy. Even when they are older, I will still go to the door until I am well-acquainted with the family. I think that this article is great. It does point out one if the flaws in our society--we are so used to drive-throughs and automated tellers, etc., that we begin to expect that type of efficiency and impersonal experience in every aspect of our lives. And I think we are worse off because of it. Manners are declining. I agree--take a minute to say hi.
Cornelius (Neil) Lynch March 27, 2012 at 02:08 PM
When did a "hovering parent" become a synonym for a responsible one?
Shawn March 27, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Thanks Cami for a great article exposing the truth about where kids’ bad manners and lack of communication are really coming from. If you found this article offensive it’s probably because you’re an offender. My kids are young so I don’t have experience with “hanging out” yet but from what I’ve seen in the playdate and birthday party arenas I am scared. It’s sad to read about parents’ lack of concern over their children. I think it sends to message to your own kid, their friend and parents that you’re not concerned about who they hang out with, where they are or what they do when you’re not around. That’s not the message I want to send.
amystery726 March 27, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Agreed!
Philip Co March 27, 2012 at 03:51 PM
@Kimberly - You missed my point. It's not the "Introducing yourself and saying thank you" that I find to be judgmental or paranoid but, rather, the demands that Cami appears to make on the parents of her kids' friends. In effect, she says, "Come to my door or I'll judge you to be rude." She also says, "How can I trust you if we never meet?" I welcome the friends of my kids to my house without placing any demands on their parents. I'm not doing it for them. I'm doing it for my kids and their friends. Their parents don't owe me anything. To me, that's more gracious than placing demands on their perfectly reasonable behavior. Like I said to Cami, if you would like to believe that you're a better parent than I, well, knock yourself out. @LMH - The same goes for you, too.
Philip Co March 27, 2012 at 03:57 PM
@Cornelius (Neil) Lynch - Yours is one of the most ironic comments that I've ever read. Thank you for adding substance and insight to the discussion.
LMH March 27, 2012 at 11:41 PM
"Like I said to Cami, if you would like to believe that you're a better parent than I, well, knock yourself out. @LMH - The same goes for you, too." You can disagree with the author without resorting to rudeness. I don't read this website very often, but each time that I do there's always at least one mean-spirited comment. It's uncalled for, as far as I'm concerned.
kristine March 28, 2012 at 01:33 AM
I could have written this it's so much like what happens with my son's friends (he is 16). I constantly have a house full of teenage boys that I feed, provide sleeping arrangements and stock their favorite snacks as they play videogames. I love it though since I would rather have my child here than anywhere else. But, if a new parent comes over, I make sure to walk to their vehicle to talk to them. I have noticed though that they are inconvenienced by this and you can just tell they want to drop and leave as soon as they can. I would NEVER allow one of my children to go to a new friends home without walking them to the door, meeting the parent and entering the home first. We are a dying breed, parents like you and I and that's just sad.
Philip Co March 28, 2012 at 02:01 PM
@LMH - While it's hard for me to accept lessons in politeness and civility from someone who hides behind anonymity, I accept that it's your prerogative to do so. In the end, that's the difference between us; I respect your perfectly reasonable choice, even though you're unwilling to respect mine. That said, I apologize for having offended you.
Ann C. Jett March 28, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Cami - love this article. I have experienced this as well. Not only have parents just "honked" when picking up but when I'm dropping off a child, a parent comes to the door, the child bolts for the door and before I can make it to the walkway, the door closes. These were short-lived relationships for my children to say the least. I agree that it is a definite statement on how some people choose to raise their children, the importance they place on good manners and common civility. I have never allowed my children to go to a friend's home without walking them to the door, meeting the parents and even chatting up parents whom I'm friendly with. I agree with the previous commentor who said "we are a dying breed." If we hope to produce adults who practice proper social etiquette, we need to start when our children are young. Good manners never go out of style.
LMH March 28, 2012 at 06:42 PM
I have no problem with your position on this issue. You stated yours; I stated mine. It's the overly aggressive tone of your response that's unnecessary.
Ann C. Jett March 28, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Totally agree Mr. Lynch.
Canton Resident May 06, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Kristine -I have made a mental note to do the same as my kids are young and we have always stayed for birthday party invites and have not broached the drop-off playdate arena! Thanks for the great Parenting tip!

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