Playdate Politics: To Spend Or Not To Spend

parentingIt wasn’t the cheapest day, that’s for sure. I had invited one of my fiance’s daughters to have a sleepover at my place with a friend, combined with a day of shopping downtown. This friend of my fiance’s daughter had never really left the suburbs and I wanted to show her a good time downtown, while also showing my fiance’s daughter that she’s more than welcome to have friends sleep over at my house any time she wants. After all, it will soon be her house, too.

My fiance’s daughter and her friend, at age 12, love to shop for clothes, so we planned to go for lunch and a little bit of a shopping spree afterwards. I’ve been very lucky with my own daughter and her friends. Meaning, when it comes to spending money on our kids, it all seems to equal out. For example, I’ll pay for tickets to a play and invite one or two of my daughter’s friends to come along. In return, my daughter’s friends’ mothers will take my daughter to the movies. Though money is offered, I don’t take money from my daughter’s friends, nor do they take money from me. No money is ever exchanged.

I’ve taken my daughter’s friends for manicures and lunch. My daughter’s friends’ mothers take my daughter to theme parks. Whenever other parents offer to pay, we always turn down the money saying, ”It’s our pleasure!” which it is, because we all know that they’ll pay for my daughter eventually and I’ll pay for theirs. But my fiance’s daughter’s friend was a bit of an anomaly. She had asked her father for a few dollars to go shopping and her father’s response was, ”If you’re just going downtown to spend money, then you don’t have to go at all!”

I honestly felt bad for this girl, so I told my fiance’s daughter to tell her friend not to worry about money and that we’re going to have a good time. Her father did send her with $20, which, quite frankly, in downtown Toronto will get you lunch at McDonalds. We all headed out to lunch first, at a cheap but cheerful diner, because we were all hungry. That bill, for five, at the cheap diner, came to almost a hundred dollars. And then we went shopping.

Luckily, the girls wanted to go to a fairly cheap store. Since this day had been planned two weeks in advance, the girls were super excited. They tried on clothes. But how could I let my fiance’s daughter buy clothes and not her friend? I grew up with many friends who had way more money than I did and it was an awful feeling to know that they could go out and pay for meals while I had to order a side salad and a glass of water. So what happened? I paid for all their clothes, which came out to a couple hundred dollars (it helped that I had a 30% off discount card for the store).

I didn’t feel bad about this at all. Seeing the joy on their faces really made it priceless and they had a great time. But when it comes to play dates, with older children, what is the etiquette in who pays. Even though this girl’s parents sent her with some money, I did not feel comfortable at all taking her money. Who feels comfortable taking money from a 12-year-old, one that you are hosting for the day and night?

A friend of mine was appalled when she sent her daughter to a movie with a friend and her dad, money in hand. My friend’s daughter didn’t pay for the tickets but she did buy her friend and herself popcorn and drinks (which, at the movie theater, we all know, costs just as much, if not more than the ticket). On the way home, the father asked my friend’s daughter for 10 more dollars for the ticket, even though she had paid for the popcorn. This to me just seemed boorish and over the top.

Another friend of mine took her child and her child’s friend to the museum. She took them for lunch. She paid for the museum tickets. She even paid for a little gift for each child at the gift shop. But when she sent her daughter to this friend’s house, the parents didn’t even feed her. Of course I understand that not everyone (or even most people) can afford to take their children and their children’s friends out for lunch and shopping or to the movies. But if this is the case, then don’t take them to the movies. Instead, rent one at home. To ask an 11-year old for 10 dollars, after she had paid for popcorn for her friend and herself, I think, is pushing it.

Sometimes, when I send my daughter to a friend’s house and the mother is planning to take them to a pottery place where they design and make their own bowls, I’ll send my daughter with money. Sometimes, I’ll even give her more money and tell her to treat her friend (this is because I really think it’s nice that the mother will take my daughter along with them so the least I can do is treat for the pottery making).

Make no mistake: when my fiance’s daughters have friends come over in the future, it’s not going to become a routine that I pay for them to buy clothes. However, it makes it more fun, especially at their age, if at least they can go out for frozen yogurt or something. I’m more than happy to pay for that.

When it comes to your children going on outings with friends, do you send them with money? Should you be expected to?

(Photo: Wavebreak Media)

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