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Kids 8+ sitting in on adult conversations....


Meadowlark
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So my husband and I are baffled about this seemingly new thing among our group of homeschooling families. When adults are at the park, pool, etc...and conversing...the kids plop down and listen to every word spoken. I definitely did not grow up with this. I was to leave the adults alone unless I needed to interrupt, in which case it had better be important and I had better do it politely.

 

But there are 2-3 families that seem to not mind when their kids sit/stand next to them when the adults are talking and soak it all in. It drives me nuts because 1) this happens during playdates and there are tons of other kids around for them to play with and 2) it really limits what the conversation can be about. My husband feels the same way. There are also a few girls ages 9 and 13 who feel like they can just interrupt their mom anytime they want and chime in on the adult topic. The moms respectfully listen to them and even encourage their feedback. I personally would say "go play, the adults are talking" if my kids did that consistently. 

 

But I have to wonder, are we the weird ones or is this a common thing? Just not how I grew up.

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I would be annoyed at a 9-yr-old listening in and interrupting, but I would understand about the 13-yr-old. Does anyone really send their 13-yr-old daughter to "go play"? 

 

If a gathering includes teens then I wouldn't be surprised if some of the teens chose to stay with the grown-ups instead of playing with the little kids.

Edited by MinivanMom
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There's a time and a place for children/young people to sit in on adult conversations - and there's a time and a place for adults to converse without children!! I certainly did not grow up listening in on adult conversations unless invited - and I had no interest in doing so, either!

 

Anne

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I was rarely excluded from a conversation when I was growing up. I'm 45 and my parents were born in 1931, having kids around for conversations is not a new thing.

 

I treat my children the same way. If dh and I want to have an adult conversation we go to our room or do it while the kids are sleeping or in another part of the house.

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I grew up with Children Seen But Not Heard and since I wasn't much for playing with other kids when the games got rowdy, I sat quietly and listened to adults talking.  I wasn't the only kid doing this, so it must have been common.  Occasionally my grandma would shoo me away if it wasn't something I shouldn't hear, but hanging out quietly was fine.  And I remember shooting my mouth off when I got to be a teen and thought I knew everything.

 

My kids tended to do the same thing, so I would not be surprised to see kids hanging around when adults were talking.  I have definitely sent my kids off to play when the conversation turned to topics that were less appropriate (politics usually brings out the worst). 

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I am fine with my kids, or other kids being near me and listening when I'm speaking to other adults. If it needed to be private, I would send them on their way. I especially like my DD 12 to have plenty of opportunities to observe how people converse in social situations. I definitely don't go to the park or on a play date with the expectation that I'll be having private adult conversations. I even allow my kids to participate in conversation outside of their peer group.

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It is totally fine with us. Dh had a young, unmarried coworker over for a piece of pie. My kids sat at the dining room table and talked to him for about 5 hours.

 

When he left, he said that he has never been around many kids and had no idea how much he enjoyed them.

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I would be annoyed with the interrupting regardless of age but not at the presence of children. If I want an adults only conversation, I'll be attending moms' night out or parents night out or an IKEA Smaland play date so adults can chat at the cafe.

 

If I am having a private discussion with one or two adults, we are likely to tell our kids to play somewhere within sight while we talk.

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That's how it was when I was growing up. I don't think it's a big deal if that's the norm for a park day, though. Interrupting is not polite no matter how old you are, but I don't think it's inherently impolite for kids to be with other kids or with their parents if they prefer at a family-friendly event. I think  the "children should be seen and not heard" idea is rather archaic.

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For me it depends a lot on the situation.

 

For many years I was so starved for adult conversation that it would annoy the heck out of me if a kid was hanging around at, for example, a park day.  I wanted to talk to the moms, not the kids.  I didn't want to have the conversation at a kid-friendly level. Not that we would be talking about anything a kid couldn't hear, or using language, but... I just wanted adult conversation.  

 

On the other hand, sometimes there is a kid who has no one to play with.  My daughter was one of those for a period of time. So she would stay by me, quietly.  

 

If there was a guest over, kids and adults would eat together, and kids would go off or not, depending on their level of interest.  I wouldn't make them stay.  My husband and some of his colleagues can get into some very specialized topics that are a snoozer for me, forget about the kids listening in. 

 

This doesn't fit exactly, but I really dislike seeing kids at events for grownups.  I don't mean "21 and over" or anything like that.  For example, an 8 year old at a women's Bible study I used to attend.  Some people felt very constrained in their discussions and certainly in their prayer requests.  For example a woman who had a teen daughter with some emotional difficulties would have liked to talk about it in the group, and ask for prayer in a specific way, but didn't feel she could do it with a kid sitting there. 

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I grew up being able to listen/participate in adult conversations much of the time.  There were certainly times when they wanted to talk without kids around, and they just told us to go play. We knew that meant to leave them alone and there were no hurt feelings. There were plenty of times we didn't want our folks to listen in on our conversations so we understood. 

 

Years ago a friend and I would take the kids to McDonald's after co-op and we'd talk while the kids played. My 13 year old daughter sat with us and my friend called me once and told me how inappropriate it was to let my 13 year old sit at the table and listen to our conversation.  She knew dd was too old to play on the equipment but wanted her to sit by herself far enough away so she couldn't hear us.  Yeah, that was a fun conversation. 

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I grew up with a mix of approaches, but I am uncomfortable with this practice when adults are having an adult conversation. There is no reason for a child to sit and listen. I think it shows how child centered we have become. Some of that is not bad, but it has gone too far. For example, in church groups children are included in prayer time with adults, therefore I can never ask for specific prayer for my children or private matters. I'm fine with children being a part of every faith activity in order to teach them that they are an important part of the community, but not when it gets to the point of impeding the actual practice they are participating in. I hope that makes sense.

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I grew up this way and treated my kids this way.  I was never a fan of the "children should be seen and not heard" mind set.  It's not like I never have private adult conversations and there have been a few times where I've had to ask my kids to move on for a bit.  But for the most part at a family meet up, I would expect kids in and out of the conversations happening.  That also doesn't mean letting my kid change the conversation or talk over other people (of any age).   I also allow my kids to have private conversations.

Edited by WoolySocks
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I always hung around my parents when they were talking with other adults. It was way more interesting than what other kids might have been doing. Although most of us sat in on the adult convos. Nobody batted an eye. I'm rather flabbergasted that anyone would find it to be a problem. I think it's one of the best ways for kids to learn how to adult.

 

ETA: But of course the kids should demonstrate proper manners (not interrupting someone else who is speaking, etc.). Learning what adults talk about, how they talk as well as rules of conversation - all part of learning to adult. ;)

Edited by Pawz4me
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We don't differentiate "adult" conversation from "kid" conversation. Why do that?

 

I can't fathom why one would think an engaged, interested kid shouldn't participate in conversations with adults. Nor can I imagine telling my kid to go away when he'd rather be socializing with the people of his choosing.

 

"Go away and play" sounds rude and dismissive to my ears. I just can't.

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I was rarely excluded from a conversation when I was growing up. I'm 45 and my parents were born in 1931, having kids around for conversations is not a new thing.

I treat my children the same way. If dh and I want to have an adult conversation we go to our room or do it while the kids are sleeping or in another part of the house.

:iagree:

 

Same here, and I'm 53. My parents were born in the 1920's. :)

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I grew up being able to listen/participate in adult conversations much of the time.  There were certainly times when they wanted to talk without kids around, and they just told us to go play. We knew that meant to leave them alone and there were no hurt feelings. There were plenty of times we didn't want our folks to listen in on our conversations so we understood. 

 

Years ago a friend and I would take the kids to McDonald's after co-op and we'd talk while the kids played. My 13 year old daughter sat with us and my friend called me once and told me how inappropriate it was to let my 13 year old sit at the table and listen to our conversation.  She knew dd was too old to play on the equipment but wanted her to sit by herself far enough away so she couldn't hear us.  Yeah, that was a fun conversation. 

 

That was rude of your friend!    But it reminded me of something.

 

A few years ago, when my daughter was about 15 I think, she and a friend wanted to get together away from the friend's younger siblings. They asked me to drive them to a cafe.  Well, I had nothing to do while they chatted, and it was too far to go home, so I sat at a table on the other side of the place and drank coffee and read.  And since then my daughter has done the same a few times when I've met up with friends at a cafe and she wanted to get out of the house but didn't want to sit with me and my friends.  :-)

 

Not related to the quoted post:  I think there is a vast middle ground between "children should be seen and not heard" and children being welcome to hang out with the adults all the time.  

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My kids have always been included in group conversations.  My neighbors who have public schooled kids are the same way.  It was never uncommon raising our kids for us to sit around drinking a beer and the kids join in or just listen to the conversation.  Now they are all teenagers and young adults and they still want to sit around and chat with us.  Most people are shocked that my teens can sit around and discuss economic, political, and social issues but they are intelligent teenagers who have been taught to form and express their own opinions (even if they greatly differ from our own).  I think it devalues children and especially teens to treat them as a nuisance who couldn't contribute to a conversation just because they are young.

 

If someone needs to have a private conversation with another adult, you can easily explain to the bystander to please excuse you for a few minutes while you discuss something privately.

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I grew up like this as well. I was an only child and remember clearly sitting with the adults (or under the table or whatever) when I was three,four, five and listening to every word. Obviously, I didn't understand everything but probably most. Don't think I interrupted that much or chimed in - after all I didn't want to get kicked out.

 

That being said, I kind of prefer the kids to go off and play if I meet other adults but that is mostly because I hardly ever have a chance to talk to another adult (maybe once every two or three weeks). I don't really mind if kids stay and participate a bit but don't want them taking over the conversation/changing the topic. Anyway, it hasn't been a problem as my kids have little interest in listening to adult conversation if they don't have to.

Edited by Twolittleboys
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If the conversation is adult in the sense of being about current events, politics etc. then any child of mine was allowed to listen or even participate if they were polite.  If the conversation was over their head then they were bored and went away on their own.  A child interrupting a conversation is rude just like an adult would be if they interrupted.  If a child tried to enter a conversation that was over their head (ie. their contributions weren't really contributing to the conversation) then I would gently ask them to listen and not talk.  If at all possible, I would ask them to do this in private so as not to embarrass them.  If the conversation is adult gossip then I'm not interested whether my kids are there or not.  If the conversation is private, then I would ask for privacy in the same way that I would ask for privacy from another adult that doesn't need to hear a private conversation.  (I usually knew ahead of time if someone was coming over to discuss something privately because they would ask for counsel and I would ask my children ahead of time to give us privacy but that had nothing to do with them being kids as such.)

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In our family culture, unless the kids wanted to go off and play - sometimes we did - we were around the adults. Adults thought that was a great way for kids to learn about the world, learn to make conversation, etc. If they wanted privacy for a "no little ears" conversation, then they deliberately went where the kids weren't. For my parents, that meant to their bedroom with the door shut, and we knew enough to knock. As a larger group, my parents, aunts, and uncles all went out once a month for Saturday brunch, and the older cousins baby sat the younger cousins or sitters were hired. 

 

We grew up in and about adult conversations, and were also welcome to try to participate. It was part of our training and education. 

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I was born in 1986 and I was allowed to join in on adult conversation if I was around. Sometimes I wanted to, sometimes I didn't. I let my children sit in on conversations if they want. They are human beings and part of society and I see no reason to exclude them from casual conversation. If I want to have private conversations with adults I go out without my kids.

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I wouldn't be bothered unless the kids were interrupting to the point that the conversation was halted. I don't consider participating in the conversation an interruption. I save kid-free conversation for kid-free times. This is not a park day expectation of mine. Now, if someone brings their 8 year old to moms' night out I'm gonna be bitter.

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I was raised this way too - both my mom's hpity toity family and dad's working class family were like this.  Though, in my dad's family, kids who entered adult conversations were fair game in very loud, aggressive debates on politics, religion, or whatever.

 

It always seemed like kids spent more and more time with the adults as they got older, until they were just adults themselves.  Some kid joined in earlier, some later.

 

Occasionally kids were sent off to age peer groups for certain topics.  But as someone above said, we sometimes didn't want the elders or little kids, so everyone understood.

 

ETA - my dad's family had some issues, but one thing I always appreciated is that they were prepared to accept anyone's conversational contributions as if they were worthwhile.

Edited by Bluegoat
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When I grew up, it was common and accepted for kids to sit and quietly listen to adult conversation. It wasn't so much "adult-only" adult conversation, but conversation mostly *by* adults. But it was open to anyone interested, adult or otherwise - it wasn't private conversation. I do the same thing - I don't consider a conversation open to any interested adult to be *limited* to adults so much as *aimed* at adults - so if my kids want to quietly listen, they can. I only send them to go play if they are getting antsy, and it's usually more of an invitation - you are *free* to go play - than a "you *must* go play" order. It never occurred to me that open-to-all-comers adult conversation was private in any meaningful sense.

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I definitely send my kids to go play so that I can talk to my friends!

 

 

One likes hang out for a while and chat with the adults, but after a certain point I send his off to be with the other kids.

 

There's a lot of reasons. First of all,HELLO I don't get to chat with my friends irl all the time and since circumstances dictated that when I do, it's often when all out kids are there, tough nuts, I get to have some time to myself and my friends too!! DH sees his friends, kid free, all. The. Time, and I don't bother my kids when they are with THEIR friends.

There's a balance because it is important I think that kids sit in on adults sometimes, to get a feel for it. But it 100% doesn't need to be every single time I sit down with my friends. Balance.

 

Also, my kids NEED to go play free play type play with other kids besides the two of them. There's a "social muscle" there that needs to be developed and maintained.

 

It's not about kids being seen and not heard. It's about all of us being human, with social needs. I absolutely reserve the right to carve out teeny tiny slivers of time (geesh) where a friend can talk in Confidence about her pending divorce or whatever. Or just... Day to day stuff without everything being sanitized for kids.

 

If m talking with someone else and they don't choose to scoot their kids off to play, then so be it. But it's HIGHLY impractical to say any given individual who is with her kids 24 freaking 7 should never tell them to go play so she can have a private conversation.

 

Shoot. For that matter, I've had friends over before and I've asked my husband to let us chat. He (who, again, gets to spend time with adults who are his friends just for the joy of it whenever his work schedule allows) understands completely why that's important.

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For many years I was so starved for adult conversation that it would annoy the heck out of me if a kid was hanging around at, for example, a park day.  I wanted to talk to the moms, not the kids.  I didn't want to have the conversation at a kid-friendly level. Not that we would be talking about anything a kid couldn't hear, or using language, but... I just wanted adult conversation.  

 

This is the stage I am currently in.

 

My kids have mental health issues - they take everything I have all day, every day.  About twice a month I manage to set up a time to skype with my mom during rest time.  This is pretty much the only adult contact I have outside of DH.  I certainly don't expect to be uninterrupted, with my kids that is a pipe dream, but I simply do not allow any of the kids to hang out nearby.  

 

Those skype dates are my lifeline.  My mom is the one talking me down off the ledge when the 6 year has smeared feces all over the couch for the third day in a row.  She is the one validating that yes, what we are going through isn't normal, that it is in fact unendurable, and yet endure we must.  She is the one helping me troubleshoot how to simply survive day to day.

 

I have no problem telling my children that I am having an adult conversation that they are not welcome to participate in or eavesdrop on.  It is my turn to talk to Nana and it is their turn to go play.  Period.

 

Wendy

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This is the stage I am currently in.

 

<snip>

 

I have no problem telling my children that I am having an adult conversation that they are not welcome to participate in or eavesdrop on.  It is my turn to talk to Nana and it is their turn to go play.  Period.

 

:grouphug:  :grouphug:

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So my husband and I are baffled about this seemingly new thing among our group of homeschooling families. When adults are at the park, pool, etc...and conversing...the kids plop down and listen to every word spoken. I definitely did not grow up with this. I was to leave the adults alone unless I needed to interrupt, in which case it had better be important and I had better do it politely.

 

But there are 2-3 families that seem to not mind when their kids sit/stand next to them when the adults are talking and soak it all in. It drives me nuts because 1) this happens during playdates and there are tons of other kids around for them to play with and 2) it really limits what the conversation can be about. My husband feels the same way. There are also a few girls ages 9 and 13 who feel like they can just interrupt their mom anytime they want and chime in on the adult topic. The moms respectfully listen to them and even encourage their feedback. I personally would say "go play, the adults are talking" if my kids did that consistently.

 

But I have to wonder, are we the weird ones or is this a common thing? Just not how I grew up.

The kids are silly...they need to learn to lurk out of sight bc they could hear so much more juicy stuff if they didn't make it obvious they were listening.

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That was rude of your friend! But it reminded me of something.

 

A few years ago, when my daughter was about 15 I think, she and a friend wanted to get together away from the friend's younger siblings. They asked me to drive them to a cafe. Well, I had nothing to do while they chatted, and it was too far to go home, so I sat at a table on the other side of the place and drank coffee and read. And since then my daughter has done the same a few times when I've met up with friends at a cafe and she wanted to get out of the house but didn't want to sit with me and my friends. :-)

 

Not related to the quoted post: I think there is a vast middle ground between "children should be seen and not heard" and children being welcome to hang out with the adults all the time.

This. I think I should be able to have a conversation without it being about my kids and they don't seem to appreciate me butting into all their conversations either. Sometimes they join in, sometime I tell them to go play, sometimes they just stay out of it somewhere nearby.

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<snip>

 

There's a lot of reasons. First of all,HELLO I don't get to chat with my friends irl all the time and since circumstances dictated that when I do, it's often when all out kids are there, tough nuts, I get to have some time to myself and my friends too!! DH sees his friends, kid free, all. The. Time, and I don't bother my kids when they are with THEIR friends.

There's a balance because it is important I think that kids sit in on adults sometimes, to get a feel for it. But it 100% doesn't need to be every single time I sit down with my friends. Balance.

 

Also, my kids NEED to go play free play type play with other kids besides the two of them. There's a "social muscle" there that needs to be developed and maintained.

 

It's not about kids being seen and not heard. It's about all of us being human, with social needs. I absolutely reserve the right to carve out teeny tiny slivers of time (geesh) where a friend can talk in Confidence about her pending divorce or whatever. Or just... Day to day stuff without everything being sanitized for kids.

 

<snip>

 

Right on. 

 

I wonder about people who say the kids are welcome in (pretty much) all their conversations with friends... when a group of tweens/teens is over, are you as an adult welcome to join them?   Sit in and listen quietly, or contribute to the conversation?   Does your kid have to specifically say "Mom, Joe and I have something private we need to talk about; can you excuse us for a minute?"  Or do you let your teens alone to be with their friends, and allow them to invite you to join them if you are needed/wanted for some reason?  

 

Not being snarky.  Someone mentioned that respect goes both ways.  I respect my teens' desire to talk to their friends without my involvement. I expect the same respect from them.  

 

At a gathering where there are multiple generations, there might be some of each going on, with people floating in and out of groups.  If a group of teens gathered out in my backyard to talk, I wouldn't presume to join them.   

 

Also I would say teens of say 13/14 and up are not the same as kids of 8 - 12ish.  Of course kids have to learn the skills of adult conversation; they don't have to be in every conversation, though. 

Edited by marbel
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I grew up in a house where children were expected to conform to adults, not the other way around.

 

If the adults were to have company or whatever, we were expected to behave and stay out of it. The concept of changing their conversation or what they watched on tv or anything else they did because of children was just not done.

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This is interesting. I was never sent away from adult conversations as a child, although if there were other kids to play with, it is likely that we were out playing. However, I can also remember sitting n groups of my parents friends and just listening. As long as I was respectful and not disruptive, I was always allowed. That would have been in the 70's.

 

As far as when I was raising my kids, I never expected adult conversation when I went somewhere with children. One of my kids is autistic spectrum and he required fairly constant oversight. If he chose to sit quietly while I was with the mom group and we were chatting, I would have considered that heavenly - the best break I could have hoped for! I certainly wouldn't have sent him away. My kids were always welcome wherever I was. Someone else mentioned homeschool kids being good with adults and my former campus minister came to visit us and was shocked at our kids sitting in the living room listening politely to the conversation and contributing when appropriate. He commented on it every time we saw him for years and how it made him think homeschooling was a good thing (something he hadn't thought before). In our home it was just the norm. 

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I grew up in a house where children were expected to conform to adults, not the other way around.

 

If the adults were to have company or whatever, we were expected to behave and stay out of it. The concept of changing their conversation or what they watched on tv or anything else they did because of children was just not done.

 

But why would kids mean these things were necessary?

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My teens and young adults often talk to their friends within earshot of me and ask me questions inviting me to join the conversation.  I think that is a result, at least to some degree with including them in my conversations. 

 

I consider a conversation about someone's pending divorce as private.  I doubt that they would discuss it with any passing adult. 

 

If I want to spend time alone with my friends, I go out with them for coffee etc. without anyone else.  If I want to talk to them on the phone alone then I go out onto the deck and shut the door.  I don't see larger casual social gatherings like park days as being particularly conducive to in depth conversation. 

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It doesn't bother me when kids are around. Frequent interrupting bothers me, just like it would bug me if an adult kept interrupting a conversation. I don't mind if a kid interrupts for a quick question if they are polite, similarly I don't mind if my husband interrupts me and a friend if he wants something. "Hey, honey, excuse me but where is the ketchup?" 

 

I find most of the time my kids find adult conversations boring after a bit and wander off again. Occasionally they will become part of the conversation and that's fine. If we are talking about something that needs to be private, I'm ok with telling the kid that. "Hey, can you let Mrs. X and I talk alone? We're having a private conversation." 

 

My oldest had a habit for awhile of just coming up and kind of lurking. I found it rude because it was kind of like eavesdropping in an uncomfortable way. I talked to him about how it was ok to come and join the conversation but not ok to just kind of lurk in the background listening. I pointed out how he would think it was weird if his friends were over and I just sort of stood over to the side listening to everything they said but not being part of it. 

 

I go out with friends fairly frequently though so I feel like I have plenty of time for private adult conversation. I just do it when we aren't in a big group setting or when kids are around. 

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