Gifts of Hospitality at Thanksgiving

“When are these people leaving?” the youngest asked with sincerity. My cousin, her mother, her husband and their two kids were staying at our house a few months ago. While the boys were still sleeping in their rooms (except Super Tall Guy who is an extreme introvert and “moved” to my sister’s house temporarily), clearly The Little Guy noticed some disruption and change in their routines. He wasn’t asking in a negative way. He probably genuinely wanted to know when his “fun” playmates were leaving. But his question struck me as an honest one that usually only kids can ask. And it struck me that this was the first time in his memory that we had a house large enough to “host” people and enough space for people to actually spend a few nights with us.

I love having enough room to “host” people. I grew up a missionary kid with parents who believed in a revolving door philosophy of “come on in, we’re here.” I want people to visit and to stop by whenever they can. I also want my boys to understand how to help people feel comfortable and how to treat guests with respect and kindness.

So, after the front room carpet was torn up the night I moved in; after the hardwood floors were stained on Christmas afternoon; and after the “wood room” served as Mr. Ornery’s crafting, building and storage room for months, I was thrilled to clean it up to get ready for the delivery of a dining room table a few days before Thanksgiving. My brother and his family of ten and my local family totaling ten would be gathering around the table. Mr. Ornery and I counted out who were the eldest of the grandkids who would make the cut and win seats at the new “adult” table whilst the others would be at the folding tables down the middle of the kitchen. I ordered a ten-foot Thanksgiving table cloth and my friend suggested an idea her family does of stenciling on a turkey every year with people signing their names around it. I was thrilled.

Until the delivery men said, “Did they call you to tell you that the base is broken? We can leave the table but can’t put it together until they deliver a new base.” I stared dumbstruck. You mean, you’ve arrived with my almost $2000 table but it’s broken?!? It took several phone calls and a good night sleep for me to get over my disappointment. It took days of hassle to realize I wouldn’t have a table up in time for Thanksgiving. (It’s taken even more phone calls and grumpiness once the table was set up but the seating bench didn’t have “hardware” in the box to put it together. Don’t buy Bob’s Discount Furniture is the moral of this saga…even if you really love the table!)

And yet, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving of folding tables and folding chairs and lots of people and plates tipping off the too-narrow tables and good food and okay wine and lots of noise and Nerf darts everywhere and high-stakes games of UNO and Bananagrams. Because it turns out that celebrating family and celebrating what we’re most thankful for didn’t require the perfect dining room table at all. The gift of welcoming people just involved opening the door.

May The Little Guy soon learn to ask, “How long can you stay?” and bound away with thankfulness that all are welcome in this house.

 

 

The Year of Gratitude

You always think that you’re doing a great job at parenting (like never), but sometimes it hits you that you’re just not getting it right. There are those moments…moments when you drive to your sister’s house three times before you get there.

Take 1: Mom suggests to her three boys that she plans to a) be more consistent with their weekly allowances (I tend to forget…so, this can be New Year’s Resolution #1) and b) increase their allowance. It sounds good until the silly mother continues with the expectation that each boy will Share, Save and Spend. They are expected to Share ten percent through tithing either to church or to others in another way (“like Mom gives to Jeremiah’s Place” I say). Save ten percent for their future. The rest they may Spend as desired. It was a matter of seconds before Super Tall Guy angrily commented that he wasn’t giving any away. He wasn’t responsible for other people and wasn’t going to be sharing (“Any time I share, someone breaks my toys,” he moans).

So, I dropped off the younger two, texted an apology to my mother (who was watching my sister’s three boys) for adding to her workload, and returned to our driveway to have a discussion about all our numerous blessings and our responsibility and opportunity to share with those who do not have as much as us. I will be honest, it was not a successful discussion. It involved a lot of harsh ungrateful words, kicking at the back of my chair, and deep scowls. It involved sadness and anger and me telling myself that the boy is only nine and has much to learn and that children don’t just develop empathy without assistance. So, New Year’s Resolution #2 is to help my sons become more grateful and giving young men.

Take 2: We arrive back at my sister’s house (fortunately just 3.5 minutes away) and I calmly suggest that Super Tall Guy might take Mitzy puppy inside and return to help me carry in some food items for our upcoming fondue feast for New Year’s Eve. This “suggestion” is met with “I will not” and I turn the car around again. Now we sit in the driveway and begin a discussion on how this really nice Mom is always “helping” her boys and that I don’t necessarily need to “help” this capable 9-year-old get over to Auntie’s house where he would like to play with his cousins. He could walk there himself, but Mom could also “help” him.

New Year’s Resolution #3 – make sure the boys are helping even more with all aspects of our daily life. Yes, they have daily and weekend chores. Yes, I ask them to help carry in bags and groceries. But, it would also be good to point out the times that they do help. Highlight the times that I’ve asked them to help. Find opportunities for them to help in many different circumstances. Increase their inclination to help others through volunteering. You see, I’ve done a lot of volunteer work and spent significant amount of time working on the crisis nursery project, but just “seeing” your mom do something doesn’t have the same impact. They need to get their hands in it too.

Take 3: We arrive at Auntie’s house again. Super Tall Guy jumps out with puppy in hand and takes her in. He returns to carry in a load and asks if he needs to do more. I give him a hug. We are going to have a busy year.

New Year’s Resolution #4 – hug each boy at least three times a day. They just need more hugging. We all just need more hugging. I’m not generally a “huggy” person, but if I seem to be more huggy this year, you’ll know why.

New Year’s Resolution #5 – drink more wine. Wait, less wine. More coffee? Less Starbucks. More exercise – yes, need that. Settle on a school district. Find a “real” house. Study for recertification Board exams. Cultivate current and new friendships. Spend more “real” time with people. House-train that puppy. Love on my family. Praise more and be more thankful (thinking of starting that gratefulness diary mentioned by a friend or paper slips in a jar). And finally, I resolve to accomplish the above Resolutions (I think)!

And if you live in the area and want to join my quest to accomplish Resolution #2 of helping our children be grateful and serve others, let me know. If you have suggestions for doing this, let me know. I’d love to find a monthly service activity that is kid-friendly for all ages  ;).