There’s something about him.
I’m sure he’s really nice. He seems really nice. But there’s just something about my daughter’s friend’s Dad that makes me uncomfortable. It’s hard to put my finger on, but I can’t shake it, either.
“She’s a bit young for that,” I said. “And her little sister would miss her too much.”
And we left it at that.
But since then, my daughter and this man’s daughter have become almost inseparable friends at school. And they want to play every spare moment they get at the weekend.
We live in a social neighbourhood. It’s always the same people we see at the park, at the cafe, at the local beer garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The girls play together, us parents chat. Community, it’s lovely.
Anna and her new best friend were both invited to a sleepover birthday party last month. They both went. I forgot my white lie about her age. I knew the parents and the house she was going to really well. I knew they’d be completely fine there.
But now that sleepover has opened a can of worms.
My daughter asks me all the time, “Can Alice (not her real name) come and stay? Can I go and stay at her house?”
And the invites from Alice's parents have started up again, too. Her mum asked me last week, "We'd love to have Anna over for a sleepover, the girls would have a ball. Let's lock a date in."
I nodded and smiled and mumbled something about our crazy calendar. But there he was, in the background, making me itch.
I feel like a judgemental monster. I am not usually a person who thinks the worst of anyone, who jumps to the worst case scenario, or panics if my daughter (she's 8) leaves my sight for five minutes. That's not me.
But Alice's dad, there's just something about him. If I had to explain it I'd say that he likes a beer a little too much. That there's something about the way he won't quite keep your eye when you talk to him. The way he plays with the kids with such gusto.
See, there I am again. Surely a man can enjoy playing with children without inviting suspicion. And surely if I thought he was actually, genuinely dangerous, I would have a bigger responsibility here than just stopping my daughter from going over to his house. I would have to tell someone.
LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud answer a listener's teenage sleepover dilemma (post continues after audio...)
But it's only my daughter I can do anything about and it's getting uncomfortable to keep avoiding this invitation. I don't want to tell Anna why I really don't want her to go over there, because I think if that got back to Alice, it would be devastating for a little girl. Imagine: "My mum thinks your dad is weird".
So what do I do? Do I keep making excuses? Create a change of heart on the sleepover front? Let her go but insist on hourly phone calls?
I don't want to ruin the lovely community feel of our little suburb and I know this is going to get awkward, one way or another.
What do you think this mum should do? Is she overreacting?