Munchkins Part III: Time to Relax

The dinner is over. It’s time to relax. Can this really be done with a bunch of little kids running around? What do you do with guests, to make the “after dinner time” peaceful and relaxing? There were quite a few dinner parties where our guests would leave their children at home with a sitter, or as our kids got older, they’d watch the little ones. But for this series, entertaining involves the whole family showing up at your front door!

Looking back (I really enjoyed going through my photo albums to remember these days!) we’ve had some of the most relaxing times with friends after a big dinner. In my opinion, the most chaotic part of entertaining is right before and during the meal! Everyone is hungry, excited, and the intensity level is high. Then people begin to eat and settle in for the evening.

Keeping with my theme in parts I and II, I’ll give tips on what worked for us with babies, toddlers and tikes:

In my earlier years of entertaining I did dishes two ways. After dinner we moms would hop up and get the dishes done, and sometimes the dads even pitched in. But there were also times when I really wanted to visit, so I’d quickly get a load going in the dishwasher, and then would sit back down. I’d leave the rest of the dishes until after the guests were gone because I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the conversation. Each time I entertained, I got new ideas of things I could improve upon for my next time entertaining.

Babies were easy. Usually by the time the meal was over, the babies were either asleep or being held or passed around. We’d relax around the table, or head off to the living room to visit some more. Of course if we had colicky guests (our 3rd baby had colic, and I chose not to entertain during this brief period of life!), they’d often leave early. I didn’t let myself be too disappointed if the guests had to leave early. Going with the flow was essential!

We learned to enjoy ourselves through the “ups and downs” of dinner. Then we’d all hang out in the living room together and talk, with some adults sitting on the floor with the babies and the others lounging on the furniture. We’d have the baby paraphernalia and toys all over the room, and the toddlers would be playing, crawling, climbing, and hanging all over us. Usually the night ended early because of tired, crying kids. But that was okay, as we all learned to be flexible with the gift of parenting.

We had more freedom as the kids got to be a little bit older and more independent. I remember the adults heading into the living room to visit more, while the kids played on their own.

Paul and I would curl up together in our recliner, and our guests would sit around the room, and we’d all visit. At this age we’d even all watch a movie together (the original first three Wallace and Gromit movies were our favorites). At an outside dinner, we’d lounge around the table for hours. There were times when just the moms would relax in the hot tub. And many times all the kids would get into the hot tub, and the dads would sit outside and visit while supervising. If not the hot tub, then the kids would take a giant bubble bath together. Movies, games, making forts, legos – you name it – happened in our home. We parents just moved through the phases together, enjoying each other’s company along the way.

Bedtime Routines
It was a treat for our kids to stay up late when we entertained in our home. We were never rigid with the “bed time routine” on the occasions, or when we were invited to other friends’ homes. It was always a little annoying when guests would pop up and say, “It’s 8 pm, time for Billy’s bedtime!” and they’d pack up and leave. But again, we learned to be flexible. Most of our friends hung out with us into the late hours. We’d have kids crashing on couches, bed, in front of movies – and the dads would sling them over their shoulder and carry them to the car. I remember the same thing happening to me as a child. I’d always fall asleep at the homes where we were the guests.

Our memories are still vivid and sharp in our minds. But looking back, we’ve forgotten the tiny irritations and minute issues that might have seemed so big back then.

As our kids have grown into teenagers, life has changed drastically. For regular Reluctant Entertainer readers, you will recall how we now include the whole family in entertaining. By participating in preparation, mealtime conversation, and occasional after-dinner entertainment, it all comes together and creates wonderful memories. Our kids are also now well-prepared to have hospitable homes themselves when they have families some day.

At the end of the evening, when our guests leave our home, my husband always jokingly sends them off with this quote (used for 17 years):

Come back when you can’t stay as long.”

That would be the Coughlin Dinner trademark.

(I hope you have enjoyed this 3-part series. Above photos bring back many memories in the tub, hot tub, jammies, lounging in our old living room.)


A Woman Who is: said...

Hi Sandy
I am sending out invitations to come drop by my Blog Party. I am celebrating my one year blogging anniversary. I have mentioned you in my tribute about my first fun year in blogdom. Your blog is one I have enjoyed visiting over and over.
Everyone is invited to drop by and post a comment to sign up for my door prizes.

The practical step by step information you give with your heart shinning through it all, has made for some great blogging

Kirstin said...

Hi Sandy,
I just wanted to let you know this series has been great. I love developing a love for entertaining in my girls. Their favorite thing to do right now is make placecards for guests. I don't worry about how "pretty" or "well done" they are. I just let them go for it. They've been doing a lot more cooking lately too. Yesterday we made rolls and brought a bunch to the neighbors...I don't have good self control and didn't want all of them in the house.

Barb said...

Y'all can see and hear Miz Sandy at the 700 Club at: http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/Coughlins_030308.aspx She did a great job yesterday and looked terrific!
I often saved the dishes for the next day when we hosted company with our young kids. Rinse them off, then leave them in the sink to do in the morning. Now our adult-like kids automatically clear the table and start the dishwasher for me. I don't ever have to ask--they just learned well over the years!

Anonymous said...

Love these posts about Munchkins! Thank you so much. As always, you're inspiring. I think I'll be hosting something soon... ;)

Christine said...

LOVE this series! Just got around to catching up and it is so where I'm at right now. You addressed all of my excuses (no space, tight finances, kid troubles...) so I guess I'm in your debt!!


Dawn said...

I enjoyed this series very much and I'll probably come back to it as a reference from time to time. Thanks for sharing this. Have a great day.

Mommy Lynda said...

The kids in the bath is awesome! Love it in b&w. We entertain our friends and their kids this same way. I remember my childhood the exact same way. I loved that part of my childhood.

Nadine said...

Great post ... love the photos. I totally agree that being flexible is the key.

see you there! said...

The photo's are great, enjoyed seeing them. Kids who are brought up accepting entertaining as a way of life will be so well prepared to do it themselves when the time come. You've given (and continue to give) them a great gift.


Praise and Coffee said...

I love this and all the pictures!! Adorable, especially you and hubby on the chair- love it!

Did you get my email from yesterday?

linda t said...

I have always said that my favorite memories growing up, are falling asleep listening to my parents laughing and talking with guests. Nothing made me me feel more secure.
Really enjoyed these posts Sandy.

momrn2 said...

Sandy, this was a fantastic series! Thanks for putting this all together!!

Ornery's Wife said...

Loved your husband's ending remark. That is one I am sure Ornery would adopt if I let him in on it! :-)

Erin said...

I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about how I get disappointed when people leave early because they have a strict bedtime routine for their kids. When we have guests, we let the kids stay up a little later (if they are getting grumpy and our guests don't have children of similar ages, I put them to bed). I remember my parents putting us to bed in spare bedrooms or the master bedroom on the floor at our friends houses when we'd go visiting. Then we'd get carried to the car and it was never a problem. I have to remind my own husband that a late night here or there for our kids won't ruin them because fellowship with other people is so much more important than the rigid routine.

Great post! I've missed being here.

keeper of the chocolates said...

THANK YOU for this series!!! i am enjoying it so much. we rarely entertain because we have 4 ranging in age from 1 to 14. i am inspired! and i have so enjoyed peeking into your sweet life thru these wonderous years. i love that you and hubby have that romantic recliner to sit in together...every married couple should have one!


keeper of the chocolates said...

ps. forgot to mention that i have not one, but 2 awards for you my sweet friend...:)

Tammy said...

Such a good series, Sandy! :D

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Great series you have here! I remember wanting to do more entertaining way back when my girls were young, but my friends being so rigid about bedtimes and routines that they wouldn't come over much during their children's younger days. I think being flexible in order to have these great memories is wonderful! Kids love it.

Happy rest of the week!


Jen said...

I really did enjoy this series. Very clever. We entertain alot....so I will be using this so much.
Are you going to talk about gardening any? I'm doing my first garden this year...

G. said...

I have memories of when I was a kid, always going over to someone's house for dinner or someone coming to our house. We would always have so much fun and would fall asleep just about anywhere. My parents were never in a rush to get us home because they knew we were having fun and they were enjoying their friends too. My mom really set a good example for me when it comes to hospitality. I've really enjoyed and learned from reading your "munchkins" posts. Thanks alot.

Chris @ Come to the Table said...

I just finished reading all three posts in this series and you have provided excellent advice and encouragement for entertaining with little ones.

I love your heart and attitude in this whole area. My husband and I have entertained in the same way and love it.

And the best part is that our kids love it. They love having people over and all the preparations and chaos. My husband is also a wonderful help when we entertain and often times does some of the cooking.

Thanks for taking the time to share so much with us.


Amy said...

I've enjoyed reading your blogs....I am going to try and start to "entertain" alot more than I do..I am very good at baking/cooking for neighbours, new babies, sick people..etc.etc..but entertaining has always been slacked..We have a rec-room that is just being finished, and I always use that as an excuse (well, when the basements finished....)
I must say though, I don't know if I can do the "bedtime" thing...I get so antsy when my kids are whining and crying and the only reason for it is b/c it's 1/2-1 hour past bedtime..I would rather just have them in bed??!! I guess I'll have to work at this.
Thanks for the info!!

pbond said...

Thank you for opening my eyes!
I just read my Crosswalk Marriage
newsletter and I was so taken with your article on Good Will. I hadn't thought of good will having a place in marriage and family. I always help those in need to the best of my ability and now have a much broader scope to see by. Thanks to your article I have many things to impliment and some to stop right away. Thanks again for the eye opener!