Entertaining with children
I have read many a lovely blog posts about this topic and they are often inspiring and wonderful even if they feel out of reach. Before Phineas was born I told Christopher we ought to plan to have a meal in the crock pot every Sunday and have someone come home from church with us to eat lunch. He said that sounded great. I wasn’t sure just everyone would WANT to come eat at our house with our large brood but we could at least offer right?
I figured we’d have a few weeks off for getting settled with baby (our fifth, how hard could it be?) and then implement my new idea. Ha! Who knew we’d still be settling in after 10 weeks and that life had basically stood still since he was born, certainly not me. I kept trying to pull it together to just get dinner for my own family on the table until he was over 6 weeks old-and even then it wasn’t normal dinner fare. The mere thought of having people over didn’t even enter my mind.
Last weekend we hosted a birthday party with 20 people here, it went off without a hitch except for the pretty-close-to-bonafide panic attack I had the night prior. Couldn’t stop my head from shaking and twitching or find my breath when I needed it. The only way it came together was what I think is the pillar of hosting parties, dinners or anything when you have small children:
EVERYONE has to pitch in and help. EVERYONE has to be on board with having people over and wanting them to feel welcome and at home.
So, we all pulled up our bootstraps and doled out tasks for kids and did the hard work needed to get ready for a crazy gathering that would leave adults outnumbered by children once again. This can be fun or totally un-fun. It really is up to the mom and dad and their attitude toward the work. If we act like its a good time then somehow our kids are stumped into thinking the same, 90% of the time. Unless your name is Kyler and then you’d just really, really prefer not to work, ever. If you were Kyler you might offer to trade a stuffed animal for someone else to do your work. Or a pen. Or a coloring book. Or some money. But not chocolate, never chocolate.
Easy meals that kids actually like is also part of our scheme for successful dining with kids and company. If I’m going to try a new lentil stew recipe, when guests are here isn’t the time for it. Sticking with a favorite is always easier. Yesterday it was chicken tetrazzini. Not my healthiest meal by any means, but certainly one that everyone is pleased to devour.
While doing what you can to make things go smoothly, there is always the chance that your day will be a disaster and you’ll be left wanting to cancel 20 minutes before your friends are due to arrive. That was yesterday. By 10 AM, I’d been royally insulted and called a liar. By noon I was in tears in my room after correcting the same behavior for the thousandth time, just sure that no one listened to anything I said. By 3 PM I had decided my kids should just go to school because I obviously wasn’t doing any paramount job of raising and teaching them at home given the happenings of the previous 8 hours (every March or April I wind up thinking that at least once!).
By 5:30, dinner was made and cooking but everyone was fighting and I sat in my bed with the baby and cried. Ten minutes before our guests arrived, Daddy got home, found me in my falling apart state and said our friends were here (this was the first time we’d had them in our home for dinner).
I took deep breaths in the bathroom and tried to make my eyes look less red. I wished I could present perfectly behaved children, mopped floors and a gourmet meal.
If I was really honest, I just wished I had more control over everything.
But alas, I do not. I could not. All I could offer was my less than clean home, my children who’d had a crummy day, my slightly burnt dinner (can’t hear the timer going off in my bedroom!), floors covered with dog hair…
a heart that loves people, hands that love cooking for others and the desire to be the me that I am today instead of the me that I would like to be or think I ought to be. Even if that me is totally not put together. I’d prayed that we could be a blessing and encourage our friends, which is always my heart when we have people in our home. Being the imperfect, real people we are is the best way to do that. Even when it’s humbling and hard.
Loving others in the midst of mess, bad days and limitations is better than not loving at all.