I'm the mom of a 4-year-old preschooler who has been very happy at preschool. He's very social and well-liked and gets many playdate invitations. Here's my problem: Today he came home from playing at a classmate's -- the mom offered to drop him off at home because she had an errand. Maybe that should have been my red flag. Anyway, he was already out of the car when I went out to greet him/them. I bent down to hug him and he smelled from cigarette smoke. His clothes smelled, his hair smelled. It was awful! I was very upset, although the mom was already back in the car and waving as she pulled away. I tried not to show my upset to him, but I made an excuse why he needed to change clothes and I popped him in the tub as soon as I could come up with an excuse.
So the problem is: how do I tell him I don't want him to play at that house anymore? He likes the boy. And what do I tell the mom when/if another invitation comes. The boy is nice; I don't mind if plays here. But I don't want my son exposed to all that second hand smoke!!
From: In a daze, er, haze, Detroit
Dear In a d/haze,
I vote for telling everyone the truth.
When the mom calls again, tell her you're sorry, but your son came home smelling from cigarette smoke. You're happy to have her son come to your house but you don't want your son exposed to second-hand smoke in her house. You hope she understands. Sooner or later, she will discover that you aren't the only mom to feel this way, but you may be among only a few to be honest with her. Hopefully, she will appreciate that. Maybe it will even be a wake-up call for her.
When your son wants to play there again, ask him, "Did you notice that J's mom smokes cigarettes? In our family, we think cigarettes are not healthy, so I don't want you to play there anymore. But J can play here whenever you want." I would word it that way -- "in our family" -- because it's the least judgmental way to say it. Plus, anything else ("His mom smokes and it's not good to breath air with cigarette smoke.") is apt to make him worry about his friend breathing bad air. This way, you are just establishing that families do things differently.
Readers, I'd love to hear what suggestions you might have.