In a world of constant segmentation, I want my home to be a place everyone feels welcome.
My front door is always open.
No, really, it’s like always open because someone didn’t take the extra two seconds to close it behind him or her or because I wandered in to grab “one quick thing” and got distracted, thus leaving it ajar. We live in a warm weather area, so instead of worrying about snow drifting across the threshold, we have to look out for geckos or an occasional curious neighborhood cat strolling in uninvited.
My kids go back and forth through that front door dozens of times collectively in a day and often, they are accompanied by friends. Neighborhood kids, school friends, kids they just met when the then-stranger children were walking their dog by our driveway. One time, two little girls, probably age 8 or so, knocked on my (closed!) front door. When I answered, they said they wanted to play with the little girls they saw in the yard when they drove by. Those girls lived about half a mile away, but their mom would ride her bike alongside them back and forth so they could play at our house.
I like having my kids at home – and I like getting to know their friends. I also don’t go out of my way to entertain play dates. When kids come over to play, I offer a healthy (ish) snack and water/juice and then shoo my kids away to play with their friends. Most days that means they go outside in our backyard or enclosed patio area and make up games until everyone is called home for an activity or meal. My good friends and neighbors know my door is always open (they can see it), but occasionally there is a parent who feels guilty about having a child stay for too long, or come over in the first place.
“I’m sorry. Was he good?”
“I’m sorry she ate your food. Just send her home next time.”
“She’s been in such a mood lately. I’m sorry if she misbehaved at your house.”
Another offshoot of this that baffles me is:
“I’m sorry I couldn’t come on the field trip because I was at work. That was nice of you to let my child be in your group.”
When did we start apologizing for allowing other parents to keep an extra eye on our precious little ones?
Friends, family members, neighbors, and future any-of-these-things: You have nothing to apologize for and I take great joy in providing safe care for your kiddos on occasion. I know that kids aren’t perfect angels all the time (my 5 are proof), I have plenty of food to go around, and I know that parents just can’t be everywhere at once. Sometimes we need our village to step in and fill the gap. I can’t always be that person — did I mention I have 5 kids? — but whenever I can, I am happy to play that role.
In fact, there doesn’t need to be any sort of emergency or excuse for your kids to come play with mine, or for me to add an extra dinner plate to the table. I know we are living the age of the “scheduled play date” but I dislike that method, very much. I don’t expect you to clear your kids’ arrival 3 months in advance. I don’t want you to feel like you have to reciprocate immediately, or ever. If you want to stop at the pharmacy on the way home from work and pick up your prescriptions in peace, send me a text and let me know it will be another 15 minutes. I don’t mind. Truly.
In a world that is more connected than ever, it seems that we are all dividing and subdividing our lives and keeping others at arm’s length. The “this is mine, this is yours” concept has never sat well with me. I tell my kids to pay attention to the people around them and to look for opportunities to be a light in someone’s life when they can. I tell them that all people are equal and that we are one human race. I say to approach situations with an open mind and lend a helping hand whenever possible. How can I say all of that and not welcome our friends and neighbors into our life with open arms (and doors)? Our family deserves our first loyalty and the best of us, but there are other people we are called to serve when we can.
My front door is always open – figuratively and literally – you and your kids are welcome here.
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