4/15/07

Own Biographers (and sticky-fingered kids!)

Our children are our own biographers!

Paul and I often wonder what will they pen about us when we are gone?

Will they write of our open hearts and love for others? Or will they write about our small-minded ways and self-centeredness?

Are they learning to trust that our reaching out to others is not a waste of effort or time? That throwing ourselves into loving people and God is most important?

I love this quote:

“Life is an exciting business, and most exciting when lived for others. I am a pencil in the hand of God.” -Mother Teresa of Calcutta
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Here’s a recent question that a reader asked me about hosting children:

We just came home from a potluck tonight and we had such a great time. There were many families and about 20 kids. This is what I realized. I'm just not sure I could do it. Her house was destroyed....food everywhere...sticky hands and the mess! Oh my word. So I wanted to ask you if you have any rules for dinner parties in the house when there is that many kids involved?

My main concern of course is for my son, who has multiple food allergies. We don't allow our own kids to have food anywhere other than in the dining room in order to keep the house as safe for my son as possible. But with that many people the adults would have to eat in the living room, and then of course the kids would be eating off their parents’ plates. This plus the fact I have beige carpet makes me break out in a cold sweat.

How do you think I should address this issue, or should I just stick to smaller parties?

My answer?

First of all, I'd never have 20 kids running thru my house, eating food. I save "lotsa kid" events for the spring, summer or fall when we can go outside. Or, if it's raining,
I'll transform my garage into an area for the kids.

When guests arrive, I tell the kids and the parents at the same time that the food has to stay in the garage!

One year I used my ping-pong table in the garage as an Easter table. I've also set up tables and chairs in there for the kids. I put a small table with drinks, water, and cups. And if I see kids running through the kitchen with sticky fingers, I send them back out to the garage!

My friend does the same thing with her garage. She makes it very kid-friendly. She even has a TV and DVD player out there.

The garage idea works for about 3 year-old kids on up. Any younger than that, stick to a smaller party, or make it a party where everyone hangs out in the garage.

Parties can be stress-free, even with sticky-fingered kids!

Managing children well can help us keep an open, loving heart.
(Coughlin Family Nov. 2006 with family pets: Hobbes, Haggis McStitch, and Filly)

17 comments:

momrn2 said...

This is exactly why we do so many barbecue's and bonfire's. Everyone enjoys it and the mess can be left outside!

When we do entertaining in my home, I let the parents and children know the food stays in the kitchen. I've never had any parent not have their child respect that.

Letting them know up front also leaves me feeling able to ask the child to return to the kitchen if I find the food is elsewhere.

Even the best laid plans fail sometimes, and it's in those moments I try to remember that in 20 years... it will not really matter. But the changes and relationships made in hearts will.

I had never thought of the garage idea but I really like that one and may have to give it a try sometime!

As always, another thought provoking and wonderfully challenging post to not be afraid to entertain young families! :-)
Thanks!!

Sandy said...

MomRN2: Thank you for the wonderful comment and expertise! Be looking for a *FIRE MAGIC* post coming up! :)

momrn2 said...

HUH?? "expertise".... thanks for such a great laugh! Ha ha ha...
:-)

Eagerly awaiting the "FIRE MAGIC" post!! :-)

pedalpower said...

Our home is older and has a detached garage, so that one doesn't work so well for us...but we do as you and make many things outdoors. We also have a couple of things that help at indoor parties with kids:
-hardwood floors: easy to just wipe clean. And the rugs are patterened carpets-I can't imagine having solid biege or white rugs.
-The everyday rule is kids have to be at the table to eat, and positively no food or drinks other than water in the upstairs (bedrooms).
-For big parties where seating is a problem, we let teens and adults eat away from the table on trays or laps, but the little ones have to stay at the table.

People say it's relaxed at our house and I like that...but there still has to be some order in there!

Barb said...

I always let our kids have dry snack food around the house, being a snacker myself. Anything that can be vacuumed easily. When hosting children here, I always try to have activities/games/ideas available, and even planned. I figure children don't wanna break rules unknowingly, or be bored, anymore than adults do (hopefully!), so I always try to think of how they can spend their time in positive ways while their parents are interacting, and our kids have always been a part of the plannning and preparation.

Rhoda said...

hi, Sandy...just wanted to say hello on this Monday. I love all your advice on entertaining. I have the same concerns with having small kids over. My house is not kid friendly (since my DH's kids are all in college), so small kids could be a disaster for some of us. I do not mind a few around when we entertain, but I think you do have to manage it, as you said. We had our SS class over for homegroup on Sat. night (no one brought their kids) and we had a lovely time of eating & fellowship. I'm definitely going to do more!

Rhoda
Southern Hospitality

Nadine said...

I totally understand. There are times we have "adult only" dinners and it has been a nice break for the parents. At this time in our lives it's rare we "kid events" our kids are grown, but I love your advice.

kissesfromheaven said...

Great post. Thank you for all your encouragement to people to be hospitable. We love to entertain and have people in our home. But the kids can be a challenge. I like the responses here...keep the food in the kitchen. Many hostesses get frustrated because they don't set boundaries and have to pay a huge price after everyone goes home...spending hours cleaning and wiping. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! It's our home, we have the right to make our own rules for our guests.

Also, a comment about our children penning our biographies...our 4 children are grown. We hear comments now of things that we taught them. Our daughter made a comment recently that she dreams of a big enough house to have people come and stay for a few days and be refreshed. She said "cause I grew up with that. It's in my heart". I was amazed at how she "caught" that from our lives and it became a part of her. I was blessed.
Thank you for your wisdom here. This is a great place to be encouraged.
Blessings.

Elise said...

Thanks so much for these great tips - even we who have children are sometimes unaware of just how we can pull something together involving food+children!

Julie said...

You're absolutely right. You have to establish boundaries immediately or hordes of children will wreak havoc!

I love your family picture. Your cats are adorable (oh, and so are your kids!)

Blessings!

Dana said...

I love the quote. It is so true. I will be using it for this Sunday in my adult class on Everyday Inspiration.

Rachelle said...

Great ideas for entertaining with kids! It's great to know we can entertain and have fun with our family and friends, but not be overwhelmed with the mess and stress of it all.

And as for our kids being our biographers... I hope that the words they tell us today are similar to the words they'll use to describe us when they're grown. Right now, our girls are in a phase where they tell us every single day that we're the best parents in the world!

Sandy said...

I love everyones comments, and advice and ideas! Great stuff. We are currently in Ireland, enjoying alone time without kids, but missing our kids. I'd take a *sticky-fingered-kid* right now, for a big hug and kiss! :)
The hospitality in Ireland is ... amazing! More on that later.
Cheers to all!

Sandy said...

Hey everyone, since I'm in Ireland I just noticed that Joy got her Happy Coughlin Box .. so you can check it out on *injoyof.blogspot.com* if you wanna see her comments.
Oops! poor planning on my part with the mailing to Canada. Read more ...

Sandy said...

Oops, it's *thejoyof*blogspot.com

linda t said...

You are in my thoughts and prayers!!
Can't wait to hear all about your trip Sandy!
You and your sweety have been given this precious time together! Enjoy! and know that your kids will be just fine! Miss you!

Rhonda said...

Wonderful post. I agree 100% - boundaries certainly make your events more enjoyable.

Beautiful family picture.