Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Children Learn to Interact with Adults in Our Home

Leviticus 19:32
John 13:34
We only have guests over only once or twice a week these days, down quite a bit from our 3-per-week average a year ago. Although that's not counting playdates or babysitting, just the number of times one or more adults and their accompanying children join us for a meal. Hospitality is an important part of our family life and our kids need to know how to relate to everyone we invite into our home. We don't restrict our guest list to our daughters' friends and their families; we expect our daughters to interact with people of all ages and states of life.
We've let our children know from the beginning that we expect them to greet each person who walks through our door, usually with a hug but at a minimal with a "pinkie wave" (wiggle a pinkie finger towards the person). In conversations with them we've told our daughters that each and every person has been created by God and it is part of our job to show them God's love by welcoming them whenever we see them. This has never been difficult for our older extrovert, but our younger introvert would have preferred at times to hide behind me. When she has been uncomfortable I've tried to work with her to say a hug may be more than she's ready for with this particular person but a wave or a handshake or a verbal greeting is less intimidating and still welcomes the guest into our home.
Our table setting often puts our children sitting next to adult guests. My husband and I like to sit across from the other adults; it makes for better conversations. Depending on how many people are joining us and who they are, it often works out that children are on the end, between us and the guest, or are sitting across from us and next to the guest(s). What we don't ever do is send our children out to a kids table or feed them at a separate time or a separate meal. We are entertaining as a family and they are part of our family. We're not entertaining a big enough crowd that we can't all fit at one table and so we don't want our children sitting by themselves feeling excluded. A separate children's table is a good solution for certain circumstances but we're never in that situation in our own home.
Our conversation doesn't center around our children; it doesn't exclude them but it is mostly adult conversation. We include our children by finding common interests and inviting them to share. For example, our garden is visible from our dining room table and if a guest asks about it I might mention that our daughters each have a section they call their own, opening an opportunity for them to share about what they are growing in that section. If a guest works in the medical field I might ask my daughter if she is still hoping to be a nurse or doctor and whether she has any questions about the profession to ask our guest. By the end of the meal, both of our daughters are usually feeling comfortable interacting with our guest(s) and are inviting them to play with their toys or return another time for a playdate. :-) Yet the adults have been able to interact as adults and the children have not been the entire focus of our time together.
I'm not sure we always achieve the child-adult balance we're looking for but overall I think we've been successful at hosting a wide variety of people in our home. We've had families over, singles, older couples, and families whose kids' ages don't match our kids' ages. Our children are learning to interact with all of them instead of only those who are their peers or the parents of their peers. They are more comfortable in other situations where they encounter our guests outside of our home because they've interacted with them within our home. They know that life and family is not all about them but they are important participants and invited to make a difference.

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