Before My Child Goes Over To Your House, Please Sign This Contract

Dear Nancy,

I appreciate your offer to have my son, Holden, come over for a playdate tomorrow afternoon with your son, Johnny. Before I have our nanny drop him off, please reply to this email to certify that you and your family agree to conduct yourselves appropriately in our child’s presence. If you can’t comply with any of these stipulations, we will have to cancel the playdate.

  1. Our family follows the path of non-denominational spiritualism, so please refrain from any discussion of any deities or religious activities, including as a part of casual speech, such as “God bless you” after a sneeze.
  2. All foods Holden is served should be organic, non-GMO, and locally sourced. We do make an exception for sushi, though we only eat species listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch “Best Choices” list.
  3. As a special treat, Holden may eat rainbow Goldfish, because we feel they send a message of inclusivity. However, all purple fish MUST be removed as purple is a trigger color for him. Likewise, there should be no purple cauliflower if you decide to serve him a vegan stir-fry (recipe attached).
  4. Since our family believes in a non-violent lifestyle, Holden is not allowed to play with any toy weapons, action figures holding weapons, or anything that might be transformed into a weapon (sticks, swimming pool noodles, spatulas, et cetera). If you see him engaged with any such items, please give him a 15 minute Contemplation Break in the closest corner.
  5. It is our intention that Holden be trilingual by the age of six. Therefore, we ask that you only speak to him in Mandarin or Spanish. I have attached a sheet of commonly used phrases in both languages, in the off-chance you aren’t fluent.
  6. From his time in utero onward, we have carefully curated the music Holden hears. To ensure peak brain development, we focus on classical music. He is a big fan of Mozart’s String Quintet in D Major if you’re looking for something specific. No Top 40 music, please.
  7. For an hour every afternoon, Holden writes in his Feelings Journal. Please provide him with a quiet space so he can properly transform his emotions into words.
  8. Holden is not allowed any screen time of any kind, unless he must FaceTime with me. That is the only reason he should be using his iPhone. If you see him using it to play a game, check the prices of the stocks in his college fund portfolio, or snoop my Facebook page, you may confiscate it.
  9. We actively encourage Holden to engage in imaginative play. However, we prefer his scenarios be based on fictional realms, rather than the real world, so please redirect play sessions if the children pretend they are working in a supermarket, cleaning a house, going to school, etcetera.
  10. A temperature of 76 degrees is optimal for Holden’s mental and physical growth, so the thermostat must be set accordingly.

Parenting writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food, and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Saveur, Men’s Journal, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, Runner’s World, and many other publications. He is author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Gold-Standard Recipes from America’s Favorite Rural Bakery, and the small-press smash Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip. When he isn’t working, he loves spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than he does.