Play Dates and the Law

by Samantha on February 12, 2012


Some time back, I wrote about the pressures that parents face in coordinating play dates for their kids. I’m definitely one of those moms that doesn’t have her act together enough to deliver the reciprocity to other parents for their hosting my child for an afternoon of fun and games. And I know that I’m not alone in this. The unwritten but completely expected rule is that of give and take: I take your kid, you take mine. It’s supposed to be a mutually-beneficial dance that results in a few hours of peace for the parent whose child is out for a few hours. 

Nonetheless, it’s difficult to keep up the pace, especially when you have other kids to tend to, groceries to buy and houses to clean. And let’s not forget the dreaded laundry.

Anyway, there is now yet another stress that has been put upon parents in relation to the whole play date thing.

Waivers.

That’s right – legal waivers that parents must sign in order for the play date to go on.

What on earth is this world coming to?

I read this post on one of my favourite sites, Free Range Kids and couldn’t believe what I was reading, quite frankly. Now, with some parents, if you even think about coordinating a play date, you had better be prepared to sign a legal waiver that absolves the hosting parent of any liability.

Unbelievable.

Like we don’t have enough to worry about with the day-to-day chores and responsibilities inherent in parenting, now we must worry about

a) Injury and possibly worse for our children, as they visit another child’s home, and

b) The spectre of legal action – or not – following said injury

This is crazy.

For the record, I think that this is an example of parenting gone awry. 
What should be a pleasant date between young children has been elevated to the level of potential criminality and culpability.

What exactly are the said dangers to which the visiting child would be subjected? If they are so perilous, then perhaps the parent should reconsider the play date altogether. But that’s just my opinion.

Image courtesy of http://divorcelawsinohio.com/

We have become an increasingly litigious society and as a result, this trait is now encompassing all areas of our lives, even parenting. While on one hand, I can completely understand the need to protect our little ones as best we can, isn’t it going a bit too far in providing a four-page document in what is likely undeterminable legalese for a tired mom who is just looking for some engaging activity for their kid on a Saturday afternoon? Have we devolved to a level where we now look at each and every transaction, be it with our kids, fellow parents or otherwise, as a potential event where lawyers may be involved and money may be exchanged? What has happened to us as parents, and on a larger plane, as a society at large?

I long for the good old days where legalities, political correctness and parental neurosis took a backseat to good old-fashioned fun. It’s far too complicated to be a mom or dad in this day and age, and in light of this waiver and similar parenting imperatives, we’re stressed and worried like never before.

We’ve been having kids for millennia and similarly coordinating play dates in one way or another for an equally long period of time. Surprisingly, we’ve survived as a species, for the most part, further proof in my estimation that these waivers and similar documents are unnecessary and downright ridiculous.

What do you think? Should parents provide and sign waivers in advance of play dates for their children? Would you sign one or provide one to other parents?



VIDEO: How to Deal With Playdates

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Meryl Neiman February 13, 2012 at 12:56 am

I'm a lawyer and I think this is absolutely crazy. If you lay a gun out on your kitchen table and your child's playdate gets shot, no liability waiver is going to help you. On the other hand, if a child slips and falls in your house and breaks her hand, her parent would probably never even think about suing unless you gave them the idea of a lawsuit by making that parent sign a stupid waiver! Accidents happen and as a nation we need to understand that. It's this same fear of litigation that has stripped playground equipment from schools. We cannot keep our children in a bubble; and, even if we could, that would do more harm to them than good. Our kids have lost 8 hours of weekly playtime in the last two decades alone. They need to play for emotional, social, and physical development. Let them play!

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Samantha February 13, 2012 at 3:03 am

So well said, Meryl! I'm in total agreement. This is insanity at its worst. What's next, one has to wonder: waivers to be signed before stepping out of the house onto the sidewalk? The desire to place the blame on someone or something has run rampant and now this. I'm surprised on one level and not at all surprised on another, sadly. Can we just get back to basics and let kids be kids? One has to wonder…
Thanks for commenting.

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vinobaby February 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Anyone handing me a waiver would immediately be crossed off the playdate list. Permanently. I like the parents who just hand me over their kid to drive to a park to be returned later — and when their kid is returned with a few scrapes (from boys being boys) they laugh and thank me.

These people are insane.

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Samantha February 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

You and me both! A four-page waiver in legalese does not bode well for a healthy freindship between the parents OR the kids. I would not be signing anything of this nature and would question any future dealings with these parents as well. Thanks for your comment :)

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LeFemmeMonkita February 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

That is, hands down, one of the craziest things I'd ever heard. Next thing you know, people will be asking to run background checks on you before a playdate can be scheduled.

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Samantha February 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm

It's unbelievable, really. I would never sign anything as ridiculous as this!

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Holly Ann February 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I think Meryl said it best! The waiver is ridiculous! It's bad enough that my students are constantly being pressured to spend more time at a desk and less time on the playground – and I'm not talking about older kids; I've only taught as high as 2nd grade!

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Samantha February 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

It's a sad day when you have to worry about liability when it comes to play dates with your kids. I long for the days that childhood was less complicated…sigh…

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Rick February 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm

If I was presented with one of these I would say "Are you serious?", gather my kid and walk out, never to return. What's next? Waiver's not to break someones heart that you have to sign on the second date? When you take a child into your house you have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to protect them, I believe. Any lawyers out there correct me if I'm wrong. So now you are expected to hire a lawyer so you can understand the waiver and your kid can have a playdate? So when Johnny across the street comes over to see if Samir can come out and play, he needs to have his parents sign a document? I'm hoping this is just a pathetic attempt to generate more business for the legal profession, but I'm afraid it merely exposes a delusion about children and responsibility, as well as the idea that the only way one can have any trust is when you have course to "legal action". This is as stupid as stupid gets.

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Samantha February 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

I think it's a way of parents feeling that they are absolved of any responsibility when they take on the care of another's child, even for a short period, like a play date. Unfortunately the waiver would not be a fail-safe in this situation, depending on what occurred, in the event of an accident. I may be wrong (any lawyers reading, please chime in), but this is just a feeble attempt at avoiding responsibility. For this reason alone, I too would decline the play date altogether if I was confronted with such a document.

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Allison March 9, 2012 at 3:18 am

I'm in school to be a paralegal, and I'm pretty sure that waivers (or covenants not to sue) are kinda BS. You can't be released of your tort liability, and that includes negligence. I wouldn't take my word as gold, but I'm pretty sure if your kid broke his/her arm jumping off a slide and you decided to sue (for whatever reason) a printed out waiver isn't going to hold.

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Samantha March 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I agree, Allison. I'm not a lawyer and have no legal training, but common sense would dictate that negligence is negligence, and one would be on the hook if it was proven that one did not take reasonable grounds to assure the safety of a young visitor. Regardless, the waiver is ridiculous in my opinion, and I would absolutely turn and walk out the door if I were presented with such a document.
Thanks for commenting!

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