When I was growing up, I remember hearing stories about how our mom’s entire group of friends was constantly at her house, listening to 45’s and hanging out. Her house was the go-to house; she said it was always crawling with teenagers there. Although I’m sure my mom was a vivacious teenager and had great qualities that drew people to her, my grandparents must have made visitors to their home feel very, very welcome: teenagers typically don’t linger where they aren’t comfortable.
Mom really wanted the same sort of upbringing for Julesie and me, too, and she was always open for visitors. Our dad? Well, he felt the same. And, though he was really embarrassing sometimes, our friends LOVED him, because he was always good for a laugh or three, like the times he ate Milk Bone dog biscuits. (I mean, WHO DOES THAT??) I remember that when Julesie was in high school and college, she had friends over for brunch with our parents on the weekends all the time.
Jim and I have always tried to be really super-duper hosts when our boys have friends over, too. We smile and greet their friends, and converse with them if they stick around in whatever room we happen to be in (or over the dinner table), but we definitely don’t eat any dog biscuits. Though Dad was able to embarrass us very easily, he always had a great recovery: I’m not sure I would be that skillful, or lucky.
For the most part, our boys’ friends have responded to us really well, and I think we’ve done a really great job balancing being good hosts and pleasant company with not doing anything that would intentionally embarrass. We are also friendly to their friends’ parents, knowing we all need to look out for each other and keep each other in the loop; so often certain parents forget this and choose to gloss over the “getting to know you” phase with their kids’ friends and their parents. Some of our boys’ friends have been dropped off for an afternoon without the parent even getting out of the car to come and introduce themselves. It’s amazing to me when that happens, because I can’t understand why people would just leave their kids with strangers.
Last weekend, the younger boy was invited to a (female) friend’s house to watch a movie and spend the evening with her and a mutual (female) friend of theirs. I asked him if her parents (or at least one of them) would be home, and he said yes; I said that was good, because I was going to go to the door and meet him, her, or them.
We arrived at his friend’s home, an apartment building, where you have to go in the main door and then find the door of the family you’re looking for. The main door happened to be open and we went straight in to find her door not too far from the entrance. There was a bench outside the door, and on the bench there was a little St. Patrick’s Day display with three green candles. They looked new-ish, and were lit. The door had a “Welcome” sign hanging on it. The younger boy knocked on her door and, as her mom opened it, we were swept into the apartment by THE NICEST PEOPLE. His friend’s mom was saying, “Welcome, younger boy*! I’m so happy to finally meet you! Come in, come in! Oh, this is your mom? Hiiiii! It’s so nice to meet you! Come in!“
We stood in the entryway of the apartment and were surrounded: his two friends were there, two of the neighbor girls had stopped in for a minute and were standing there, and both the mom and the dad were standing there, all with big grins on their faces. The mom introduced us to everyone and practically hugged us as she talked about how happy they were that he could come over and spend some time with his friends.
She was lovely. SO very welcoming, without crossing over into the creepy. She was really warm and friendly; I was fond of her immediately.
I can’t remember the last time I felt so welcome in a stranger’s home, within the first ten seconds of our very first meeting, ever.
She asked me how long my son could stay, hoping that it could be for at least three hours because the kids had plans to watch a movie and hang out for a bit, and I said that was fine. I said goodbye to the younger boy, throwing in a (very unnecessary) “Be good, and make sure to use your manners!” and the mom nodded, smiled, and said, “I LIKE YOU!”
When I returned to pick him up three and a half hours later, the mom and dad were just as thrilled to see me as they were when I dropped him off. They welcomed me in, and as the kids were finishing up the movie, we chatted. I learned that they all played Pictionary together, and the three “kids” EACH ate an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and they had a blast. The younger boy gathered up his jacket when the movie was over and, as we walked out, the others all accompanied us out and told us they hoped they could get together soon.
That is how it should be. In this day and age of cell phones, e-mail, texting, and all of the other electronic tools that make our lives so much easier, I think parents (and kids) need to be more diligent about getting to know other people, and not only because of safety concerns. If you don’t open up a little bit, you may never know whose pleasant company you’re missing.
*Of course she used his real name. Don’t be silly.
©2010 Suburban Scrawl