The dilemma of ‘drop and go’ at children’s parties

To drop, or not to drop?
To drop, or not to drop? Photo: Getty Images

Since starting school this year, my son has been fortunate enough to be invited to lots of birthday parties on the weekends.  

There have been trampoline parties, football parties, house parties and even park parties.  

In fact, one particular friend put on such an amazingly organized Star Wars party that it put any of my previous party attempts totally to shame. 

And how do I know this?  Because I stayed at that party - just like I've stayed at every other.  

To be honest since the invites to parties started, I never knew there was an option other than to accompany him.

Being new to this scene, I assumed this was the norm and expected by the party host, if nothing else.

But, a few parties in, I realised that it wasn't necessarily the norm.  

Many invites openly welcome parents to 'drop and leave'.  And standing amongst only a handful of mums at a recent party, I realised that perhaps I am an exception to the rule.

As far as my son's concerned, he doesn't really notice if I'm there or not – at least not until he wants to dispose of some unwanted food in my hand that is. 

But on the few occasions that I have broached the subject, he's been quick to ask me to stay.  But perhaps this is because, he too, is yet to embrace or be comfortable with the idea of my leaving.

So am I being overly protective or paranoid?  Or is five still too little to be left in the sole responsibility of another parent?

I asked a few of my friends their opinions and asked what they personally do.

Naturally, the responses were varied.

Rashida thinks that children under 12 should be accompanied by at least one parent.  Her opinion is backed up by a recent incident she witnessed.

"I went to a party where one of the kids who was about 7 got trapped in a jungle gym and his parents were not there," she says. 

"He managed to extricate himself, but no one knew of course until I caught him crying at the table. He was so scared because it had been a box like thing and it was dark inside."

Leisa echoes Rashida's sentiments. 

"I very rarely leave my daughter as I think that kindy kids are still too young to understand and manage risk," she says.  "Someone has to be watching them and be aware of what's going on."

Other parents said that whilst they wouldn't feel comfortable leaving their children under the age of 6, they would consider it if the host encouraged it.

"I've only ever left my son when the host has said it's ok and it's been at a venue with a party organizer," says Katie. 

Despite this, Katie adds that her decision is also dependent on how many kids are at the party and how many parents have already left.

"Unless it was a home party where the kids were older, I would personally go into a panic if I was hosting and every parent left," she says. 

Yet, on the flipside to this, another friend told me that she only accepts invites to parties where she can drop and go.

"I'm over kids birthday parties, so if I have to go and stay then I make an excuse," she confides.

But what about when it comes to being the party host yourself?

Once again, the response I received was mixed.  Some parents told me they were happy to take full responsibility for all children attending as it was less stressful.  But others felt the opposite.

A particular case for one friend was understandably so.

"One of the dads turned up, said he was going to leave his 5 year old, and then proceeded to show me how to use the epipen if his son had an anaphylaxis attack," she says.

"I said I wasn't comfortable as I had 15 kids to supervise, so he explained how to use it to another mum and promptly left!"

At the end of the day, there's no right or wrong answer to this dilemma, and I certainly don't judge other parents either way. 

After all, common sense, gut instinct and safety prevails for us all.

But, personally, I'm not quite ready to let go of those reigns just yet.  Perhaps that will happen next year when my son turns six. 

Until then I will be that mum that always stays.  It's not always enjoyable I admit, but at least I can console myself with a big piece of birthday cake!

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