DEAR ABBY: My son "Timmy" has a playmate from down the street I'll call "Bobby." I'm happy that Timmy has someone to play with, but Bobby's parents haven't taught him good manners. Even though Bobby is only 6, he does not have a curfew. He has stayed at our house as late as 10:30 at night without his parents coming after him or calling to ask me to send him home.
Also, Abby, I did not invite Bobby to my 4-year-old daughter's birthday party because it was for her and her little friends. Well, Bobby, his older sister and a friend of hers showed up anyway! I didn't have enough favors for the extra children. I was able to stretch the food, but I was aggravated that his parents didn't have enough respect for me to stop their children from crashing my daughter's birthday.
I was brought up to leave my friends' homes when it was dinnertime, but these children don't want to go home even when I ask them to leave so we can have our dinner. They beg to stay and eat with us.
How can parents be so inconsiderate as to allow their children to come over anytime and stay as long as they like? I want it to stop, but I don't want to cause hard feelings. How do I handle this? -- IMPOSED UPON IN OKLAHOMA
DEAR IMPOSED UPON: There is usually a good reason why children don't want to go home. Has it occurred to you that Bobby's parent(s) may be drunk, stoned or absent?
If a parent is reachable, explain to him or her that at your house you have a regular dinner hour and that it is family time. Guests must go home then, unless they have been specifically invited to stay. Also, after-dinner playtime is over at 8:30 p.m. and guests must go home by then -- but not walk alone after dark.
It may turn out that your son's playmate is a latchkey kid or being neglected. If the latter is true, then Child Protective Services should be notified.