By contributing writer, Erin Long
When you come over to my house for dinner or a cuppa, it’s going to be a bit chaotic. My kids will be running around and probably yelling with excitement that you’re here. The house will be generally clean but there will be a stack of papers on the side table and a pile of toys in the corner. And the floors will be sticky.
If my kids know you my husband will be pulling them off so you can actually get in the door and if they’re meeting you for the first time he will be gently coaxing them out of their shy selves to say ‘hello’.
I’ll probably take you to the kitchen if it’s dinner and I might put you to work. If it’s a cuppa I’ll push some toys and/or children off the couch so you can sit down. By this time you’re my kids’ new BFF and they’ll want to show you their latest projects and cool new things they can do.
At some point in our time together we’ll eat goodies my kids helped me bake and I’ll hope I’ve asked you the right questions to really get a glimpse into your heart and that I’ve shared mine with you.
I’ll be hoping that you felt like you’re a part of our family and that you are loved.
Hospitality is an amazing thing. It allows us to open our homes and our hearts to people and get to know each other in ways that can’t happen in public places. There’s an intimacy in opening your home or being welcomed into someone else’s.
My husband and I have made it a point to have people into our home since we were newlyweds and we’ve both been surprised at how much having kids has positively impacted our hospitality.
We first saw how we, as a family, could bless others when we worked and lived with university students. Our daughter was a baby and toddler at the time and she gave us so many opportunities for us to connect with the students and they loved getting to hang out with a baby and be a part of our family. Our daughter helped to make our home more welcoming and she brought joy and laughter to every gathering.
She made our home a place people wanted to be.
Now we have three kids and we love making them part of our hospitality team. They do make things more chaotic and messy, but they help to show our guests what our life is really like and who we really are. Though our home may look far from perfect because of our kids, they make our home a place we love to welcome people into.
They infuse our home environment with their energy, happiness, and open hearts. But they do more than just create a great vibe. They actively participate in hosting, which not only lightens the load for my husband and I, it also gets us working together and we have fun preparing for our friends to come over.
Here are 5 ways our kids get involved in hospitality:
1. Cleaning and other prep
Letting kids help in this way comes more naturally for some people than it does for me. I prefer our home to be very clean, especially when we have guests over. But I’m learning that it takes a load off of me when I delegate cleaning tasks to my kids and they get excited because they’re doing it for someone special, not just because mom told them to do it. Yes, it’s true that my kids don’t clean as well as I do but I’m learning to let that messy reality of our family life show and not be bothered by an unswept corner or a basket of toys spilled on the floor.
My kids also love tasks like setting the table and plating food. They get to show their creativity and take ownership and the pride they take in their workmanship is visible.
2. Making our guests feel welcome
To show our kids they play an important role in making our guests feel welcome we give them simple tasks to do, like taking guest’s coats, offering drinks when guests first arrive, and giving our guests leftovers to take home, and saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’.
We want our kids to know they are hosts, too, not just mom and dad.
3. Help in the kitchen
We had a last-minute guest over for dinner and in the midst of the change of plans I overcooked the scrambled eggs. I apologized as I put them on the table and our daughter said, ‘Mom, I could have cooked them for you’. And she was right.
So now I get the kids in the kitchen. They like to share how they helped bake the cookies or stir the soup. I’m making it a point to find simple dishes they can prepare themselves so they can play an important role in serving our guests.
4. Sit at the grown-up table
Whenever we can, we like to have our kids sit at the table with us. When there are other kids over we do a ‘kid table’ but otherwise we want them to be a part of the conversation happening between us and our guests. They get to offer their insight into whatever we’re talking about and it’s a great opportunity for them to learn how to engage in conversation.
It’s a life-skill they can start learning now and it gives them confidence in talking with adults. And our guests who don’t have kids seem to enjoy the diversity kids bring.
5. Show who we really are
While part of me still wants to host a Martha Stewart-style event every time we have someone over, I’m thankful my kids make that impossible. While formal entertaining has it’s own benefits, the low-key, easy going, relaxed style of entertaining we typically do allows us to just put ourselves out there and it says to our guests that we are regular people doing our best to live this life well. We’re not perfect and they don’t have to be either.
Since having kids I’ve had to simplify all aspects of entertaining because I just don’t have the time or energy to do anything fancy. I keep things simple now and let the unimportant details slide. Combine that with my kids just being themselves, laughter, tantrums, bad attitudes and all, and we have an environment that fosters vulnerability and genuine interaction.
And that’s what we really want: to connect with others in a meaningful way. And for us, the best way to do that is as a family.
“There is nothing that makes me happier than sitting around the dinner table and talking until the candles are burned down.” ― Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
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Hitting the road has definitely made our kids more adventurous! There is something to be said about being comfortable in your own home , your own town, your own family. But how liberating if you can also feel comfortable in unfamiliar situations!
I feel just this way! Our kids keep us real, and lovingly think our guests are jungle gyms 🙂
Great essay 🙂
Ha! My kids love to treat people like jungle gyms. Including me. When I’m feeling touched-out, I am often heard telling them: “I am NOT a jungle gym!” 🙂