True mama confession: I hate playdates. The thought of standing around with another mama that I don't know that well, trying to make small talk while our kids play totally stresses me out. Which is why I usually try to arrange for my kids to play with the children of my friends. Though lately, even these arrangements have become increasingly fraught with the parenting land mines.
Case in point. My two boys are 4.5 and 2. They play together a lot and generally have a really good relationship, aside from the normal bickering over toys, etc. But lately we've been having trouble when my older son's friends come over for playdates. In most cases, the older kid doesn't want my younger son to join them, and tries to actively exclude him. Then we have to intervene, explain about sharing and including people, etc. Strangely enough, none of the other parents ever seem aware that this is happening, or else they do nothing about it.
One friend in particular is posing the most significant problem. Admittedly, this kid is dealing with a lot right now - a new sibling and a very stressful financial situation that's putting a huge strain on his parents. So he's kind of acting out because he's craving attention. But every time he comes over, he waits until someone's not looking, then does something really mean/dangerous to my little guy. He has pushed him down a hill, dumped gravel on his head, turned on the hose full in his face, repeatedly knocked him down and ripped toys out of his hands. All of this while his parents are supposedly watching him, and they do absolutely nothing. He does this stuff right in front of their faces, and they just ignore it. In fact, they are constantly going on about how well-behaved and kind their child is. Meanwhile their kid watches you, follows you around and waits for you to do something like go to the bathroom, then he acts.
I don't want to make my older son responsible for the bully, and I try to keep an eagle eye on him whenever I can. I was hosting a party the last time they came over, and enlisted another pal specifically to watch this kid...and he still managed to rip binkies out of little kids' mouths and dunk a baby underwater. These friends live close by and come over a lot. They don't deal well with any sort of criticism. But this behavior is getting worse, and I'm tired of my little son taking a beating at the hands of someone 20 pounds heavier.
I am thinking that I should enlist their help the next time something happens, and say, "How should we handle this?" Or I could just lay it out in the context of: "We've been having some issues with D's friends not wanting to play nicely with T." But I'm not sure if that's strong enough to get the point across.