Losing The Third Wheel

Q: Whenever my first grader has the next door neighbor (another first grader) over, that girl’s little sister always tags along. Always. She’s four and annoys my daughter with her whining and inability to share or play nicely, but her mom seems to think it’s fine to send both kids over. Help!


The Tag-along. The third wheel. The Shadow. The Cling-on… When you invite the neighbor kid over and a convoy arrives, you better hide the Goldfish crackers and pull out your rocks glasses, because this play date is likely to be anything but.

We always called them “escorts” (my husband and I) because it was true and also kinda nasty, which is our way. Especially if we have been inconvenienced and extra juice boxes are involved.  As a rule, if I didn’t invite your offspring, do not send over your offspring. Period. I make one exception to this rule: If you have conjoined twins, then the sibling can come too. Because honestly, how else is it going to work? A cardboard box separator? Let’s be real here.

Maybe every once-in-a-year it would not be so bad, like when you have had several Mai Tais, a massage and you are in the Bahamas with multiple nannies. But on just an average-Joe Saturday? No thank you. I only ordered one extra kid, and it was freakin Mother Theresa-ish of me to go THAT far. Sending a second one over as well is a sure-fire way to find your mailbox on fire. I’m pretty sure that Judge Judy would agree with me on this.

I would call that woman. Call her and tell her that happy hour is over and that you are sending her toddler back via Canal Street. You are not running a Chuck E Cheese, for heaven’s sake. Also at this time, you can share with her the numbers to a baby-sitting service and your attorney (just to mess with her.)

If the mom is totally unapproachable, then when you send her kids back home, have them carry your ironing to her as well. See how she likes doing extra work.

If you are a total weeny (like me) then you might just send the little Cling-on home with a few ‘souvenirs.’ Like some freshly cut bangs or a shoebox with a live iguana for her room. Might be mom needs a refresher course in not being a mooch-canoe.

Or? Avoid them at all costs. There are other kids in the sea. Just tell that mom next time she calls to set up a play date that ya’ll have cholera and you’ll call her next time the kids have a fever below 105. (But she’s welcome to drop off the ironing.)

And if all else fails, take a lesson from my (dearly departed) mom. The story goes that when we were little and woke up in the middle of the night she would clean out our ears. When I asked why she would do such a thing, in the middle of the night no less, she didn’t even look up from her Soduko puzzle and said, “Because ya’ll hated to have your ears cleaned. Who would keep getting up every night only to have their ears cleaned?”


So to apply this method to your situation, do a little ear cleaning of your own. In other words, make it un-fun. You know, run a sweatshop or something. Have them assemble tiny plastic trinkets with rice and a glue-gun. Smack their little hands with a ruler if it’s not perfect. Speak in loud German (or really any of the Slavic languages). Chores. Work. Misery. Think Bella Karolyi. I’m pretty sure those Russian gymnasts aren’t much older than four and they look terrified. You won’t win a gold medal, but you might earn yourself a nice, quiet play date … or wind up on Judge Judy.

See? Win-win.

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