When I was a kid, one of my best friends lived down the street from me. Her parents were free-thinking hippies, and one night at the beginning of our friendship my mom let me spend the night there. The house was full of incense and, ahem, some other smokey smells. The dad spent the evening in a daze, painting a picture of a topless woman under a rainbow. The mom let us watch an adult romantic comedy with a racy shower scene. My friend’s teenage sister arrived home drunk out of her mind, and the mom cursed her out in front of me. I ended up going home and relaying the whole story to my mom, who promptly decided I would never be allowed back at this girl’s house. She could play at our house, but I was not to play at hers. I was devastated, and it created a very awkward dynamic with this other family.

Now, as I parent, I find myself facing the same dilemma. We have a street full of young children, and fortunately many of them have parents who are great people and even close friends. But then there are some other kids, whose homes seem a bit more questionable, whose parents seem a bit too lenient, whose supervision of my own children I might question just a bit. I’m not really ready to let Jafta play at a house where I have no idea what goes on. But the invitations have started coming, and he’s asking more and more. “Why can’t I go to his house, mom?”

So, what do you do? How do you handle this as a parent? What do you say to your child when they ask why they can play at one friend’s house, but not another? How do you respond when a parent invites your child over to a playdate, but you don’t want them to go? What to you say to a child who plays frequently at your own house, who asks why your child can’t play at theirs?