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Child without bedtime interrupting adult evenings
January 18, 2009 12:52 PM   Subscribe

How can we get our friends to put their 4 year old to bed so we can have grown up evenings together?

We are a couple who are both in our late 20's without children and are friends with a couple who are in their late 30's with a 4 year old girl. We like to spend weekend evenings together but their lack of a bedtime routine with their 4 year old is interfering with our relationship as adults. We like to hang out on Friday and Saturday nights playing over 18 rated computer games and watching TV programs and films which are not suitable for a small girl. Due to our friends child being up with us sometimes until midnight we are not enjoying our evenings as our friends attention is being drawn to her as she interrupts conversations, she has tantrums as she is so tired from being up so late, and our behaviour is being moderated by our friends to create a suitable environment for a child.

We have been together as a couple for 2 years and my partner was friends with them first and spent time with them before I was around. He says that even when the daughter was a toddler she was allowed downstairs late at night as he believes the mother works full time and feels guilty about not spending enough time with her. When we go around to their house we feel we cannot say anything as it is their house, but when they come around to our house they bring their child and get her to sleep on a sofa which we allow but do not feel comfortable with. We would like to know how we can approach our friends about the lack of exclusive adult time we have with them. They do not have a baby sitter but do arrange for her parents to stay with them occassionally who can then babysit but are not around much. Our friends say that during the week they do have a bedtime routine but they seem to not bother with it when we are there at the weekend. We can see that as their child gets older and starts to perceive more of her surroundings she will pick up on adult content in our conversations and on the TV. We can forsee our friends will want to moderate our behaviour further so as not to expose their daughter to adult content.

How can we talk to our friends about this and have evenings with them as grown ups without a child in tow? We would appreciate comments from people who have experienced situations similar to this from either side.
posted by lilyflower to Human Relations (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
They need to get the kid on a regular sleeping schedule, get babysitters for their nights out and cope with the guilt that they have about not spending enough time with her.

I don't think it's healthy to raise children this way because it creates lots of instability, but that's my two cents.

You should just talk to them directly about - do what adults would do! :)

Also, my friend and client is in the same situation. Her kid's a monstrous pain in the *** because she has gotten so used to demanding attention and getting the run of the house.
posted by HolyWood at 12:58 PM on January 18, 2009


This is a good question, and tough to answer. I think you're right to think that when you are in their house, you've got to follow the rules of their house. When in Rome.

Do you ever go drinking together? Maybe you could suggest getting a drink somewhere in town at 9PM, then plan to head to either your house or their house afterwards. This would force them to get a babysitter for the evening. The babysitter will presumably not want to stay up until midnight with the four year old, and when you return home, the child will be asleep.

Ultimately, they're ten years older than you are and have a kid. You're not going to be able to hang out and play video games until 3 in the morning with them anymore. But if you want to have a "couples night only" once a month or something, then I would suggest a trip into town, maybe a movie, dinner, drinks, whatever would be innapropriate to bring a 4 year old along with, and hope they get the hint to the leave the little tyke at home. But don't expect them to be up for this every week.
posted by billysumday at 1:03 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Importance of their child > Importance of their friendship with you.

If you are hanging out with them most weekend evenings it is ridiculous to expect the child will not be around.

That said, talking to them about having a couple days a month to for adult activities is reasonable. Pitch it to them as a break, maybe as a gift find a babysitter and retain her services for 1 night/month. Maybe alternate your hanging out between their place and yours, and when it's at your house they get a babysitter.
posted by pseudonick at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


We raised two sons--one so fairly precocious to the point that some friends preferred not coming over because his "adult" level of the conversation was threatening to theirs.

But to your specific question, we did what HolyWood recommends: consistent bedtime, boundaries between adult occasions and family occasions (which included friends with & w/o kids), and getting a baby sitter for evenings at other folks houses when kiddy time was not part of the plans.

HolyWood ftw.
posted by beelzbubba at 1:06 PM on January 18, 2009


I'm sorry but how they rear their child is none of your business.

I've experienced this from both sides.
I've had friends turn from crazy-juvenile etc to "we have a kid now so this dictates our life." If the friends were important to me I adapted. Often I grew to like the kids and appreciate the "new way" we spent our evenings.
I also have a distinct memory of how my parents sometimes used to shove me into bed and have friends over, and how cheated I felt (but I also knew how selfish/brattish it would be to just go downstairs and scream "pay attention to meeee!").

If push comes to shove you will lose out to the kid (and rightly so!). And it doesn't really mattter whether you think these people are bringing their kid up right. So either you adapt to the new reality in their life, or you move on and find childless friends.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


Agreeing with ClarissaWAM. You never know what goes on in a family. The reasons they give you for anything you see are only what they want to tell you. There is a huge diversity in how families handle their business, and there is always someone (usually an in-law) who disagrees with how you handle your's. This is true about kids, money, anything.

If the kid being up is cramping your style to the point that you no longer want to come over, then don't come over. But, I can almost guarantee that this couple appreciates that you do. Accept their choices and be a friend.
posted by skypieces at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2009


We raised two sons--one so fairly precocious to the point that some friends preferred not coming over because his "adult" level of the conversation was threatening to theirs.

This is exactly what my friends would say, but in reality it's not that I'm threatened, it's that I'm sick of trying to compete with a kid who is never told not to interrupt, or to play in the other room, or to stop talking for a minute so the adults can talk. Then child runs every interaction in the house and it's exhausting.

Ahem. Anyway, I fear you might be out of luck getting them to put the kid to bed for you in their home. I think you need to follow bilolysumday's advice and propose nights OUT.
posted by tristeza at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2009 [19 favorites]


billysumday and pseudonick have about the best advice. This may work: "talking to them about having a couple days a month to for adult activities is reasonable. Pitch it to them as a break, maybe as a gift find a babysitter and retain her services for 1 night/month. Maybe alternate your hanging out between their place and yours, and when it's at your house they get a babysitter."
posted by gudrun at 1:29 PM on January 18, 2009


You can start saying that the reason you can't come over is that you want to play $violent_game, so you're going to go over to $made_up_friends_name to do it. If you do this enough times, they'll figure out that they need to get the kid out of the picture if they want to participate in these games in the future. That is, tell them you found another place to do the things you all used to do together. Maybe they'll step up, maybe they won't, but parenthood is full of these kinds of decisions.
posted by rhizome at 1:31 PM on January 18, 2009


I think how you frame your conversation with the friends is key to how this will go over. Making it clear you like the kid, and outlining other possible options.

Maybe along the lines of "As much as we love to see little Jane, I've been thinking how our coming over seems to be interrupting her sleep schedule and how that can't be good for her/must be hard for you because it breaks routine. (This indicates you presume they have a routine. And suggests they should without being critical.).

Would it be better if sometimes we come over earlier to see her and hang out as a family, and other nights we could either all hang out at our house if you have a sitter, or we could come over later after her bedtime, so you can get her to bed on time and she won't know we're there?"

As for us, we have two kids, 4 and 1. When friends come over, the kids are SO excited to see our friends that we indulge them a bit. However, part of being a parent is teaching our kids how to behave in company and what is and isn't appropriate for them to participate in.

So the kids are included and fussed over for a while, and then put to bed at their usual times so we can then have drinks or adult conversation. Our friends enjoy our kids, and we still have our normal "big people" relationships intact.

Good luck, because if they don't see this is a problem, it's going to be hard to point it out without making them feel that you don't like their kid. I totally get where you're coming from though.
posted by mazienh at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is exactly what my friends would say, but in reality it's not that I'm threatened, it's that I'm sick of trying to compete with a kid who is never told not to interrupt, or to play in the other room, or to stop talking for a minute so the adults can talk. Then child runs every interaction in the house and it's exhausting.

Oh no, I was totally that kid. And I'm still pretty much embarrassed when I think about how tolerant my parents' friends were back in the day (some of them still talk to me, though, which further illustrates how awesome they are.)

Anyway, I agree with those who are suggesting you two orchestrate grown-ups' nights out.
posted by Neofelis at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2009


Plan some events with them where it is appropriate to bring the child, showing that you are not child-haters. After a few of those, plan to go to a movie at a theater, and offer to help them find a sitter. Start suggesting that you get together at their house, so the child "can be in her own bed." Bring food and fun, so it's not a burden. On nights at your house, set up a computer or tv/dvd player with a few appropriate kid movies so the child will want to stay put, and may fall asleep.

Eventually, I think you'll have to accept seeing less of them, so you might want to expand your circle of friends.
posted by theora55 at 1:39 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Maybe along the lines of "As much as we love to see little Jane, I've been thinking how our coming over seems to be interrupting her sleep schedule and how that can't be good for her/must be hard for you because it breaks routine. (This indicates you presume they have a routine. And suggests they should without being critical.).

This is a brilliant approach.
posted by rhizome at 1:56 PM on January 18, 2009


Maybe along the lines of "As much as we love to see little Jane, I've been thinking how our coming over seems to be interrupting her sleep schedule and how that can't be good for her/must be hard for you because it breaks routine. (This indicates you presume they have a routine. And suggests they should without being critical.).

I think is really passive-aggressive and the couple will see right through it. The OP clearly stated that the no-bedtime rule is their choice. If you're going to tell other people what you think is best for their kids, at least be straightforward about it.
posted by anthropoid at 2:06 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


our behaviour is being moderated by our friends to create a suitable environment for a child.

Yes, providing a suitable environment for a child is called parenting. They have to do it one way or another.

Either pay for a babysitter, find a way to keep the child in bed (a "special movie" just for her in another room is a good idea) or find something else to do besides watch Saw IV and beat up virtual hookers.

As you are not parents, you may not know that weekends are tough for a lot of young children; their routine is, naturally, different on the weekend simply due to the fact that their parents are both home. Having people over doing exciting things often causes them to become overstimulated and anxious.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


How can we talk to our friends about this and have evenings with them as grown ups without a child in tow?

Other than saying "Oh hey, I heard so and so recommending their babysitter" or something along those lines, you can't.

I'm a nanny and I make a strong, STRONG policy of NEVER questioning anyone's parenting decisions. The absolute best way to make a mama bear (and that's what most mothers are) defensive and angry is to suggest that they're doing something wrong. ESPECIALLY if you don't have kids yourself, you are inviting more drama than this is really worth.

You may have to just suck it up. Kids interfere with everyone's relationships with adults and yeah, this is a pretty irritating and difficult thing to deal with if you don't have children of your own. It's really difficult to understand the ways that kids impact your life - suggesting a "bedtime routine" is tantamount to changing their entire universe. They probably have good reason for doing things the way that they are, and even if they don't, it's totally no one else's place (especially not yours, as you're not a member of their family - or their doctor) to tell them how to go about raising their child.

Maybe along the lines of "As much as we love to see little Jane, I've been thinking how our coming over seems to be interrupting her sleep schedule and how that can't be good for her/must be hard for you because it breaks routine. (This indicates you presume they have a routine. And suggests they should without being critical.).

PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.

Do not presume to have the child's best interest at heart when this is about what YOU want as adults. The parents WILL see through it and it is totally insulting to their intelligence that you would try to negotiate not seeing their kid and try to rationalize it being all about the kid.

Honestly, if you want to suggest that you meet without the kid, suggest a babysitter. Specifically. Call around. Get names. Talk to someone you know with kids, ask them who they use. Call that person, ask them if they're interested in a weekend gig with a four year old. Give the number and the hourly rate to the parents. If they don't take you up on it, drop it. You can't get any clearer than that.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:49 PM on January 18, 2009 [7 favorites]


Having friends over and watching TV and playing videogames doesn't scream "important formal adult socializing time" to me and if I happened to have a 4-year-old whose bedtime routine I didn't enforce on the weekends, I'd probably let her stay up. On the other hand, a nice dinner at home or in a restaurant and/or after-dinner drinks at home or in a bar do strike me as children-excluded activities. I'm not saying you need to stop doing the fun things you enjoy, but it may not occur to your friends that you expect a child-free atmosphere for these weekend get-togethers. Casual to you is getting to play videogames, casual to them is (now) getting to play videogames without having to hire a babysitter.

It sounds like what's going on is, at least partly, that they're in easy-parenting mode on these weekend nights: given the extra guests in the house, it would be harder to put the girl to bed at a regular hour and it's easier to just let her stay up. I think the solution isn't getting them to do anything. It's getting a babysitter to entertain the kid and distract her and put her to bed while you and your friends hang out.

If you don't like hanging out with the kid on weekends, just tell your friends you'll pay for a babysitter next time they host videogame or movie night. Something like "We love you, and we love your kid, but having to pick child-friendly videogames and movies is kind of a drag; not to mention how tired you get trying to entertain little Chloe all night--why don't we pay for a babysitter next time, you give us the name and phone number, we'll take care of the rest."
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let them know what it is you'd like to do with them, and then ask them if they've thought about going out / getting a sitter, whatever.

And be prepared that they may say no, they don't want to do what you've suggested. If this happens, find new activities that you can do with your friends.
posted by zippy at 3:05 PM on January 18, 2009


Thanks everyone for your answers, it has been very interesting to read all your different viewpoints.

I want to make it clear that my friends have never used babysitters and have on more then one occasion expressed their aversion to hiring someone to babysit - some specfic advice on how to approach this topic would also be appreciated.

I agree with people who recommend suggesting activities which sometimes involve their daughter and other outings which are adult only. This will hopefully create a better balance of us socialising with them.

Also, please remember that their daughter is only 4 years old and she is allowed to stay up to 11pm or 12 midnight. I understand that their daughter is more important than us as friends and we would always lose out, but is there not a time at night when children should actually stop being the main focus of attention and be in bed asleep?

Some comments I have read say that if we do not like some aspects of how they are then we should just stop being their friends, I would hope that any friendship would involve at least raising issues before giving up on people who are important to you?

Finally I must explain that we do have dinner and drinks whenever we see them, we do have adult conversations - but I should clarify that this is what we try to do. Games, TV and movies are part of our evenings, I like to think that we have not judged our friends in their parenting, if anything they judge themselves as they recognise it is bad that they do not put their girl to bed at an appropriate time and say so - perhaps we are enabling their behaviour by not agreeing with them?
posted by lilyflower at 3:26 PM on January 18, 2009


One thing to note is that, depending on birthday and school district, the kid may well be heading off to kindergarten as early as this fall -- bed times get earlier and more structured when they have to fit around the school day (there tends to be carry over even on non school nights). So there may be light at the end of the tunnel on that front.

Another observation: people who hang out regularly tend to get treated almost as part of the extended family who are willing to fit in with family routines rather than as the honored guests whose desires are paramount. This is actually flattering in its way, though, as you have discovered, there can be downsides.

But those above who tell you that you can't tell people how they should raise their kids (at least if you are interested in remaining friends) are right. You are either going to have to go over less, arrange to go out without the kid in tow, or learn to fit in.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:33 PM on January 18, 2009


one of the best way to lose these people as friends is to give them parenting advice, especially since you don't have kids yourself.

you CAN put limitations on if they bring the kid to your house, but that's about it. maybe try going OUT somewhere, to a place they'd be really crazy/dumb to bring a kid to?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 3:41 PM on January 18, 2009


Growing up, I knew lots of families who imposed no bedtime for their kids. Made me REALLY REALLY jealous knowing that my 7 yr old cousin doesn't have a bedtime, but I still had one at 13. Sucked.

BUT, all those kids turned out to be successful students in school, then adults, and now they are perfectly normal...or even better. So as much as I think having a bedtime for a child is a good idea...anecdotal evidence tells me that it doesn't really matter.

BUT...the reason you are requesting it is because you want more time with your friends. Ummm...sounds kinda presumptuous.

Are you really asking them to alter their parenting so they can spend more time with you? Seriously? That sounds kinda selfish.

Also...you should understand that most parents HATE it when an outsider (especially one without kids) gives them unsolicited parenting advice.

My advice:
Find some friends your own age who do not have kids if you can't get beyond this. Or...invite them over to your place so they have to get a baby sitter.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:43 PM on January 18, 2009


but is there not a time at night when children should actually stop being the main focus of attention and be in bed asleep?

This "time" is designated by that child's parent. There is no line in the sand that exists, other than that.

If your friends have specifically objected to babysitters, you're totally SOL on trying to bring it up. You can try recommending someone based on "Hey, so-and-so recommended their babysitter, they say she's really good, I was thinking we should go out Friday night - why don't you call her and we'll pay for it?" If they say no, drop it.

You're going to have to accept the fact that kids rule. Literally. When you're a parent, the kids ARE your life. Adult friendships come second. If you want to stay friends with these people, suck it up. Otherwise, just spend more time with your friends who DON'T have kids.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:48 PM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some people are just annoying about their kids. Other people are annoying about their SO's. If you had a friend you wanted to hang out with from time to time, and he always assumed that meant it was ok to bring his partner even though you, personally, wanted some one-on-one time with your friend, it would be appropriate to gently suggest a one-on-one coffee/movie/whatever; it would not be appropriate to comment on what is or isn't a healthy amount of time for a person to spend with his partner.

It sounds like you need to separate two things in your head: 1) you disagree with their parenting choices; 2) you want to spend time with them but not their daughter. It's inappropriate to tell them how to handle their child's sleep schedule, but it is appropriate to politely suggest an adults-only dinner or movie night (i.e., "We'd love to watch the new Bloody Horror Bloodfest movie with you, but we should make sure your kid is with a sitter/grandparent/whoever that night"). It's entirely ok to opt out of staying up until midnight with a 4-year-old. If they won't hire a babysitter, ask them when their parents are visiting next and arrange something for that time. If they want to hang out with you, they'll work with you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:17 PM on January 18, 2009


Yeah. Personally, as a parent, I think that their lack of bedtime structure and the late night for the kid sucks. Even if they don't get to see her much. We miss out on spending a bit of time with our kid because we think that sleep is really, really important.

That said, you don't have a say. At all. You just have to suck it up or stop spending as much time with them, I'm afraid.
posted by gaspode at 5:00 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


What I thought was odd about your post was where you pointed out that you don't think the things you do and talk about are suitable, but I maybe missed where you wrote the parents thought the activities were not suitable. If I were inviting them to my home, I would make it clear that "We are going to watch B movie rated R for violent killing of badgers" and discuss "all of Ron Jeremy's films" and if they still bring the kid then it is on them. It is not your job to screen their kid's stuff while they are present in your home.

I was one of the no bed time kids, and while I just sat quiet, and probably heard things I shouldn't have, my mom got me through it by having stuff there for me to do. Is there another room the kid can watch kid movies on? Are any activities brought to entertain the kid at all? I mean, if I was in a room with people talking years above me, and I was a bit tired, and had nothing to do for hours while I watched others enjoy themselves, I would be throwing a fit as well.

Maybe you could get a cheap tv, a used dvd player and rent the child some movies. At the very least invest in some coloring books and crayons at the dollar store. If you turn your house into the idea that when the child comes over, they know they will be able to do x, y, and z, instead of being bored to tears, it will change the dynamic, and the parents might pick up on that if they are going to let kiddo stay up late, she might require some entertainment as well.
posted by haplesschild at 5:09 PM on January 18, 2009


OP: ...if anything they judge themselves as they recognise it is bad that they do not put their girl to bed at an appropriate time and say so - perhaps we are enabling their behaviour by not agreeing with them?

As several people note, it would be rude to criticize their parenting or to offer unsolicited advice. However, if they themselves are saying that they need to get her to bed earlier, it isn't rude to agree with them.

"Oh, is it bed time already? Should we go? Or how about if we do some dishes while you get Griselda settled, and then we'll have another go at that video game?"
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:29 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


What some people seem to be missing is that the video games themselves are adult in nature, possibly shoot-em-ups. It's not that the poster thinks the kid shouldn't be around for "video game time," it's that the kid shouldn't (presumably) be around for "tearing people limb from limb" time.
posted by rhizome at 5:41 PM on January 18, 2009


The only option I can conceivably think of is to set up a tv in a separate room where there is a bed or a couch, buy whatever the awesome new dvd is for 4 year olds and put her in front of it. Chances are she will fall asleep if left in front of the tv without too much outside distraction. Maybe buy a few toys that are just for her when she comes over, so she is encouraged to play quietly by herself. This is hardly a foolproof plan, but might help the situation.

While I totally agree a 4 year old should not be up until 11 or 12 on a regular basis, you simply can't start correcting their parenting. There is just no way it can end well.
posted by whoaali at 7:28 PM on January 18, 2009


but is there not a time at night when children should actually stop being the main focus of attention and be in bed asleep?

No so much on the weekends. Much like how regular people take it easy on the weekends, parents might relax or bend the rules.

The parents sound stressed and kinda overwhelmed. Suggest adult only nights or take a more active interest in the child and have stuff for her to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 PM on January 18, 2009


How can you toddler-break your adult friends? Chances are, you can't. Parents don't want to be told what to do with their kid, doubly so by people who don't have kids themselves. They will love you unconditionally for being there, being their friends, and being the couple who's willing to grin and bear their child's behavior. The lekvar family has a couple who do this for us, and they could spend their free time eating kittens and they'd still be our favorite people.

tl;dr version: keep quiet and be the couple they remember in their prayers each night, or critique their child-rearing and never be invited over again.
posted by lekvar at 9:18 PM on January 18, 2009


If they refuse to have sitters, hang it up. You get nowhere with those people. Kid will be coming and staying up all night. You may get lucky if you can park her in another room with the TV, but otherwise, these folks don't seem to have logic or reason operating. They are a package deal and will NOT be coming to adult events until the kid is old enough to want to go to a friend's house. Sorry.

I'm surprised to hear about this one. My parents put me to bed at 11 from the time I was two (to some degree, because of "we didn't see her all day) , but (a) it was the only way to get me to sleep through the night and (b) I'm a born night owl. I had no idea anyone else's parents were that weird.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:00 PM on January 18, 2009


Buy the kid a nice storybook. After dinner, one of you (probably better if it's the female one of you) offers to put her to bed & read it to her. Make sure to pick a soothing story, dim the room, and read it to her soothingly and calmly, whispering it to quiet her down, until she falls asleep. Gently shut the door, go back downstairs & let the party begin. You can repeat with library books to keep the costs down. In short, you become the babysitter.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:15 PM on January 18, 2009


Then child runs every interaction in the house and it's exhausting.

Welcome to life with small children - you and your partner may find this a very effective form of birth-control.

It's the weekend. I have 2 precocious children (10, 6) who do not have set bedtimes Friday/Saturday nights, this is somewhat normal for older children. For 4, we would put them to bed at about 9pm on weekend nights. There would be a few "sneaking" downstairs moments, some laughs, some giggles, but back up the stairs they'd go.

We have found that having an extra TV/DVD player helps keep them occupied elsewhere, while we enjoy conversation, movies, etc.

You are aware that DVD's, games and even conversations may be 'paused'?

You are aware that a family is a unit, essentially indivisible and that you are intruding?

Children learn through interacting with people and having conversations - taking that away is fairly self-centered and selfish.
posted by jkaczor at 12:00 AM on January 19, 2009


If you value their friendship, and it seems like you really do, you need to just hang in there and adjust for the time being. These years are really very short in the big picture, and soon your friends' daughter will be in school (which will probably mean that even weekend bedtimes will naturally come earlier), will be having or attending sleepovers with her own friends, will be bored by your grownup hijinx and more interested in spending time on her own. Kid routines change. In the meantime, the simplest and kindest thing to do would be to accommodate them by choosing different movies to watch or games to play. You don't have to start watching Disney films, but making some adjustments for now doesn't seem like a huge sacrifice.

Realize, too, that they are probably adjusting for you, as well - though it may not seem like it. It would be a lot easier for them to hang out with people who have kids around their daughter's age, because then everybody's on the same page, the kids can play together, and the adults can talk about a lot of child-related things that you don't care about. Since it seems like everyone wants this to remain a close, long-term friendship, you need to take this period in your stride and be willing to incorporate new ways of spending friendly time together.

(On the question of children and bedtimes... it seems like none of my friends with children have enforced strict bedtimes on weekends, during the summer, whatever - though I'm in Greece and this may be more of a cultural thing. In the case of our nephew, he used to regularly be up past 11 or 12, until he began going to preschool - at which point he started wanting to go to sleep much earlier. Anyway, they've all turned out great, so I'm inclined to say that it's not a big deal.)
posted by taz at 12:27 AM on January 19, 2009


Thank you everyone for your feedback. There are a lot of posts saying that we should not criticise their parenting - I must stress that we may think differently about parenting to them but we never verbalise it, the only tell tell signs from us is when we sit quietly when they make a statement about their parenting or there is an upset with their child.

I must clarify that this question comes from England, both are friends work full time and their daughter is already attending and has been attending pre-school and now primary school (equivalent to Kindergarten) for the past year which includes additional child care from 8am to 5pm. It does not seem as if schooling has affected their bedtime routine at the weekend even though their daughter does seem very tired late at night. The mum does actually fall asleep on the sofa herself most nights when it gets late – perhaps this precedent means that they see their girl falling asleep on the sofa instead of her bed as okay? I guess we would also like to have their girl in bed sooner as the mum is likely to fall asleep around midnight, and it would have been nice to have hung out with her more before that time.

Some have suggested that I (F) could offer to put her to bed and read her a story, would parents appreciate this? I thought this would be crossing some line so have never offered to do it.

Others have written that we are the outsiders coming into the family unit, yes we are but we are hoping for a couple of hour’s uninterrupted time with our friends once a week or fortnight. I do understand that things can be paused but it does break the flow and degrade the experience if a personal conversation is broken up repeatedly.

Our friends do have a portable DVD player and once they set it up in her bedroom, before we knew it she had fallen asleep. Hopefully this is something that we can encourage without seeming controlling, if they do not want to do it that weekend, then we accept that their child might be up longer.

I definitely do not agree with people who are telling us to just give up on these friends and get new childless ones (effectively delaying the issue), we are probably about 5-10 years away from having our own children and in the grand scheme of things that is not long. On the other hand this does not mean we are prepared to grin and bear not having the occasional adult quality time with them without at least having tried to suggest something.

I understand that this is a tricky question, but I never imagined the breadth of the various viewpoints posted – I must admit that I am surprised at the number of people who seem to suggest that once you have children even a few hours of quality adult time a week or month are unimportant.
posted by lilyflower at 1:12 AM on January 19, 2009


I definitely do not agree with people who are telling us to just give up on these friends and get new childless ones (effectively delaying the issue), we are probably about 5-10 years away from having our own children and in the grand scheme of things that is not long.

I don't think you should give up on these friends, but I do think you need to start hanging out with other people sometimes/more often, so that you can get the uninterrupted adult contact you need. It'll take some of the pressure off this situation as well. You might also find that if there are fun things going on without them, this couple may reconsider their position on babysitters. Right now it seems like they are kidding themselves that they are not missing anything. Another kind of obvious suggestion along the same lines: next time their parents are in town, really make an effort to plan something special.

I do see the babysitter issue as really key here because their unwillingness to hire one means that they probably aren't ever spending evenings with other couples that have children. If they were to actually see what a structured evening looks like, with the kids going to bed at a set time and adult conversation following, they might appreciate the benefits more and be willing to try it for themselves.
posted by tomcooke at 3:04 AM on January 19, 2009


I must admit that I am surprised at the number of people who seem to suggest that once you have children even a few hours of quality adult time a week or month are unimportant.

Once you have a child, EVERYTHING else is unimportant. Or at least, way way less important than it was to you pre-child. It's very hard to understand how parents can and do feel this way without having children of your own.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:05 AM on January 19, 2009


I must stress that we may think differently about parenting to them but we never verbalise it, the only tell tell signs from us is when we sit quietly when they make a statement about their parenting or there is an upset with their child.

Believe the parents have a hit about what you're thinking. Don't fool yourself.

Some have suggested that I (F) could offer to put her to bed and read her a story, would parents appreciate this? I thought this would be crossing some line so have never offered to do it.

I'm surprised and slightly disturbed that you haven't offered. For better or worst, you're part of the extended family, so the offer to do small things like almost a default. If you want some influence over this, offering to help is good, positive way to do. Just realize that they're the parents and what they say goes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:57 AM on January 19, 2009


Maybe your friends would like to get the kid to bed but have no idea how?

Sometimes when you're a parent you find yourself influencing bad habits because of exhaustion and other factors. It seems logical to you, as a non-parent, to just get the kid to bed earlier.

Parenting, especially young children, is like having a completely irrational psycho in your house... and I say that as the parent of a really wonderful child!

Perhaps the bad bedtime ritual started as the result of a combination of exhaustion and guilt, and they've just let it slide... because sometimes as a parent you get into this loop of exhaustion where you know on some level you need to fix it (get the kid to bed on a routine) but you're so tired and run ragged with everything else that goes with parenting that you just let it slide. Good parents seek out those "letting it slide" moments and stomp them out, but I'd never fault a parent for having them.

There are some great books on the topic like the No Cry Sleep Solution and Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I can't imagine that if you gave it to them in the context of seeing that they wanted to get her to bed earlier but it just wasn't working well for them... they'd complain. I've passed my copies of the two books around to tons of parents.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 8:08 AM on January 19, 2009


When it comes to raising kids, it is often far easier to say what should not be done, than have a good idea of what to do. But the Victorians had life lots easier! Laudanum was popular, and so were nannies.

What not to do: Send kid to bed while having a happy good time. When kid doesn't stay in bed, send drunk* father up to behave in a scary, menacing manner. It is very frightening to a kid to have a parent go from having fun to acting mean, just because you showed your face--Especially so when the sound of good times is what draws the kid out in the first place.

* Kids are sensitive to subtle changes from alcohol, without knowing it is the effect of alcohol that they see. So 'drunk' can be a very low value of alcohol.
posted by Goofyy at 9:18 AM on January 19, 2009


Late to this, but just wanted to say for the record that this:

You're going to have to accept the fact that kids rule. Literally. When you're a parent, the kids ARE your life. Adult friendships come second.

is not universally true, or even true, I believe, in the majority of families. Certainly not so for me (I have four kids) or any of my many friends with kids. Or I should say, it may be true in an ultimate sense, but not an every-minute-of-every-day sense.

We most definitely socialize with adults-only after the kids go to bed. And have happy hour on occasion, when we tell the kids it's "grownup time" and provide something for them to do elsewhere. They are perfectly able to comprehend this, even at the age of four (though interruptions can be frequent with a child that age).

lilyflower: I must admit that I am surprised at the number of people who seem to suggest that once you have children even a few hours of quality adult time a week or month are unimportant.

...I am surprised by this too, as adult time is in fact quite important, if not essential to your sanity!

I've been somewhat annoyed myself, in the past, by parents who blur adult and child-time, or don't seem to see a distinction. It's by no means selfish of you to want time with just the adults. And I think many parents would agree with you that it's odd for parents of a four-year-old to a) let her stay up until midnight on weekends, b) let her watch videos rated over 18 and c) never get a babysitter! However, that's their call, so whatever.

As to your question, the best advice above IMO is about setting up a place for the child to watch videos or sleep in another room, if you have one. Just say, specifically, the kid can sleep on your bed (not your sofa) since the games/movie might be disturbing to her, or so that you can have adult conversation, or whatever. If the parents brush this off and say it doesn't matter, then there is probably nothing more you can do. In any case, your concerns and desires in this matter are perfectly understandable.
posted by torticat at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


p.s. I also think you'd be perfectly within your bounds to say something along the lines of "I know you guys are really easy-going parents, and that's cool, but I have been feeling self-conscious about some of the stuff we watch when she's around, so would you mind if we made a bed for her in the other room?"

(This would be at your house--I agree with others that you don't have much hope of changing what they do in their own home. Though maybe setting a new precedent in your own place for how things can work when you hang out together could help.)
posted by torticat at 10:14 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I must admit that I am surprised at the number of people who seem to suggest that once you have children even a few hours of quality adult time a week or month are unimportant.

I'm not trying to suggest that; I am suggesting that there is no way, as a parent, to ever completely remove your obligation to a child.

Important as your interactions may be, they can't remove your friends' obligation to parent their child in the best way they know how.

I think a great thing would be for you or your partner to take the child on a weekend during the day. Perhaps that wouldn't count as a "babysitter" and they'd allow it. That would give them adult time with at least one of you.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:20 AM on January 19, 2009


Hi All, Thanks for the feedback, some really great ideas that we had not considered. We will be following the advice of setting their child up in another room at our house, that's if the parents agree to this before hand - they may chose to not come around as a result but that's fine!

And although we may not have liked the idea at first it is true that we should probably find some more friends our own age without children, not because we do not like children but because it would be easier in the shortrun. I can imagine in a few years people our own age would be having their own children and then child care would not be such an issue if we did spend evenings together!

Thanks ever so much everyone, this is the first time I asked a question and you've been brilliant, two+ minds are definitely better then one!
posted by lilyflower at 4:35 AM on January 22, 2009


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