Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just Loving Them Isn't Enough

The following is a quote from Family Circle:
"As kids get older, it becomes harder and harder to spend time with them. Consider inviting their friends to join you....just hanging out at home.  You'll strengthen your relationship with your own children and also get a sense of the company they keep."

This happened to us completely by accident.  The boy across the street, just a little younger than Stubble, took to arriving at the house on Friday just after we arrived home.  He would head back across the street on Sunday evening (or when his Mom called him to do chores).  His problem wasn't his parents who are wonderful, but the fact that he was home schooled.  Stubble was his brother of another mother (his mother returned the favor for us).  Stubble's school friends were his "school" friends of another school (if that makes sense).

And that is how it started.  We would generally have 2-3 teenaged boy guests on the weekends.  All weekend.

Here is how to go about this in your own home (should you want to):
  1. Say, "Yes".  When your son/daughter calls or texts to say "Can so and so come over for dinner and the evening." Don't say, "No, your Dad and I have plans."  At least not all the time - down that path lie unsupervised parties and trouble.  If you need the company of your friends, invite them over and spend time in the living room while their offspring and yours (assuming that they get along) take over another room.  If you are going out to the theater, INVITE THEM TO GO WITH YOU.  For dinner and the theater, concert, whatever.  It broadens their perspectives, teaches them what a quality evening (without "clubbing") is all about and they invariably rise to the occasion, holding their own with other adult guests.
  2. Feed Them.  And not just pizza and soda.  When Stubble had guests we set the table for company and insisted that they join us.  We served real food (it is surprising that London Broil is cheaper than pizza or hamburger and if you serve it with tater tots and steamed fresh broccoli the guests think that you are serving steak dinner and comment that they wished their parents cooked like that).
  3. Talk to them. We had "real" dinner conversations and wound up sitting around the table conversing for as much as 45 minutes to an hour after the meal.  There is a trick here - treat your child and their friends with respect as thinking adults.  Respect their opinions and don't "pronounce" and you'll be just fine.  Assure them that their opinions are valid at your table as long as they resepect other points of view and you will be amazed at what the next generation has to offer. I will admit to being much relieved that they will be in charge of my "declining years".
  4. Give them space.  We regretfully gave up the family room to sleeping bags, pillows and gaming consoles.  Many of the boys would arrive with an X-Box or Nintendo (or whatever) and controllers - we provided the sleeping bags and pillows.  We always knew where they were and as long as they weren't making noise, let them stay awake.
  5. Expect them to help out.  If they were staying the weekend, when we needed "crew" to help weed the garden, move construction supplies, or lay a floor - they would put down their gaming controllers and help - willingly - for free.  Of course we were feeding them "steak dinners" - so it was quid pro quo.
I have never been Mrs. Bearded One to any of them.  At best I was Ms. Christie and was really ready for becoming just plain Christie as they got older.  I took my cue from "Fran", the wife of a professor at college.  When I was but a wee scruffy college student, Christmas shopping after a particularly awful exam week, she introduced me to one of her country club - type friends by name with the description: "the girlfriend of one of my husband's colleagues" - that boyfriend was The Bearded One when he was also just a wee scruffy college student and a student worker in her husband's lab.
I have never forgotten that courtesy.  She could have just walked by and nodded rather than stopping to greet me just as though I was someone who mattered.
Your kids (and their friends) are going to grow up.  It has been a privilege being a part of it and watching it happen (and maybe even contributing to it - just a little).

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh! So that is how you 'get' my family! :) this made me smile.