Q&A: when you don't want your kids at a friend's house

Coco writes:

"My daughter made a new friend in Kindergarten and asked for a playdate.  Her new friend's mom called and we arranged for her to pick up my daughter from school for the playdate.  After speaking with her, I became concerned that I didn't really know these people at all.  I had introduced myself to her mom one day after school, but that was it.  Should I allow my daughter to visit the home of almost-complete strangers?  I decided I wasn't comfortable with this, so I called back and offered to have the playdate at my house. 

After making the change-of-plans, out of curiosity, I googled the parents.  Turns out, they are involved in some things that I am not comfortable with [Ed: Coco described specifically what it was that she found, but I took it out because I don't think the actual thing is relevant to the question and didn't want to get into a discusion of the thing she found, but rather keep it on topic with what to do when you don't approve. It is something that isn't an immediate physical danger to a child, like unsecured handguns or other weapons, and it's definitely a hobby and choice of activities, NOT something innate to a person that they can't change.]  I'm pretty clear on my position on this.  (And, fortunately, my husband and I are in agreement.)  I am fine with my daughter being friends with their daughter, but I am not okay with allowing my daughter to visit their home.

So, here's where I'm struggling:  (1) If they invite my daughter over in the future, do I tell the parents directly and honestly that I am uncomfortable with their values and not comfortable with allowing my daughter to visit their home?  Or do I just make up an excuse?  and then another excuse the next time?  and the next?  (2) What, if anything, do I tell my daughter?  She's clearly not old enough to discuss the whole [topic] thing.  Should I tell her we're not comfortable with their family values?  Or, should I say nothing? and (3) Should I mention this to any of the other parents?  I mean, I'm glad I found out BEFORE I unwittingly allowed my daughter to visit their home.  I would want someone to tell me.  OTOH, (a) beyond my own daughter, their personal life is none of my business, and (b) all of my information is based on a google search.

I'm really conflicted on this.  I really don't mean to start a debate over [topic].  So, setting aside the source of the concern, the broader question is how to handle a situation where you are uncomfortable with your child visiting a particular friend's home, due to differences in family values."

This is a tough one. I don't know if I have an answer. On the one hand, it make me think that if you're into something that other parents could see as so objectionable that they don't want their kids to go to your house, you should probably take pains to keep it off the internet. This child is going to be ostracized because of something her parents do that she has nothing to do with. Essentially, her parents are limiting her social life and development by engaging in certain hobbies and being very public about it.

On the other hand, I feel like the parents have a right to be themselves, and maybe by being so open they're trying to weed out who their daughter becomes friends with because parents who aren't comfortable with their hobby will not let their kids go to their house.

On the invisible hand (bad Adam Smith joke for the econ majors out there), what about all the people you and your kids interact with every day who do all sorts of things you wouldn't approve of, but who just have the sense to keep it off the internets? How can you worry about every objectionable hobby out there?

But then, since you do know about it, you can't just ignore it.

Ah, this is all making my head hurt. You obviously have to trust your instincts about where you allow your daughter to go. I guess you could just tell the other parents you really want to be That House where all the kids hang out. But I think that if the other mom asks you directly why you don't want your daughter to go to her house you need to tell the truth. She needs to know that her decision to be public about a hobby some people could see as objectionable is having ramifications she maybe didn't anticipate. If she decides you're a horrible person you haven't lost a friendship, so there's nothing to lose by telling her the truth, and you could help her and her daughter out.

The other thing to do is clarify whether you don't want your daughter around the parents who have that hobby, or if you just don't want her in the house? Would it be OK for her to go on a playdate to the playground with the friend's mother? Or is it the parents themselves you want to avoid? That's going to affect how you handle this, too. If it's the parents, then I don't know what you can do. But if it's the house, then maybe you could suggest alternate locations.

I don't think you should tell the other parents. They can Google the class list themselves. (What, you people don't Google the class list of parents?) And they might not be as bothered by that particular hobby as you are.

What do you all think?