Mom! Can I Have Some Friends Over?
With almost every group of childhood friends, there’s usually a favorite place where everyone likes to gather. For young kids, it’s most likely an area in the schoolyard at recess or in an after school club or activity. Here, teachers and parents can keep a close watch and give just the right amount of safe space for the kids to do, well, kid things.
From what I've seen, most older kids prefer to meet their friends at someone’s house and hopefully away from the adults.
For my kids, it was our house.
“Oh man, you were that house?”
...And you’re counting your blessings that it didn’t have to be your house or that it still isn’t.
Kids coming and going at all times. A clutter-y mountain of stinky shoes at the front door. Endless supplies of snacks being raided from the kitchen. Well, you know what? I say, bring it on!
I loved that my kids wanted to bring friends back to our home.
I loved that they felt comfortable doing so.
The funny thing was, the more they did it, the more I started to notice that it was the same type of kids. You know, the ones that had very few freedoms in their life because of super strict and controlling parents. Or just the opposite, kids that had parents that were absent from their lives. It wasn’t long before I realized that a lot of my kid’s friends were in our home because they didn’t really want to go back to their own.
At first, this made me feel sad for them. How crappy to not feel comfortable in your own home. But I didn’t pity them because my childhood home was similar and I remember feeling like a lot of my friend’s houses seemed so much more relaxed and fun.
So, when my kids brought their friend’s home, I simply respected the fact that they felt comfortable in our house and I embraced the title of
“hostess to the gang!”
I think they felt comfortable because just like our own kids, they knew that they could be themselves with little parental judgment. We gave them time alone, while still being close-by in the house. They could hang out and just be kids. Saying silly stuff and doing silly kid things without worrying if “the parents” were going to step in and shut it all down. No judgment. When my kid’s friends visited, my husband and I treated them like they were our own.
Of course we had some rules when my kids had friends over, but I like to think that they were fair and put in place mostly to set some safe boundaries. All kids need to feel like someone’s in charge and responsible (some adult, whether it's their parent or not) and they can be shown this, without actually saying it to them over and over again. Subtle reminders have always worked best for our family and my husband and I set straight forward rules that we usually only had to say once. Like, no smoking, don’t touch the booze, help yourself to food, but clean up after yourself, and treat our home and everything in it (including each other) with respect.
When I was a tween, my mom allowed my brother and me to have friends over, but it wasn’t always so comfortable. At least not as much as when I was at their house. There wasn't a lot of lenience at my house and instead of just hanging out like a kid, I always felt a little more worried about something getting broken or making too much of a mess.
In my kid’s house, there have been messes.
But, they always got cleaned up, mostly by my kids and with their friends helping them. There was loud playing and screechy laughter all the time. And there were also quiet, intimate moments where these same kids poured out their hearts to my husband and I. There was sadness and drama and all the pre-teenage hormonal states. And, there were plenty of hugs to go around, no questions asked.
Having consistent boundaries and restrictions is an essential thing for all kids-especially tweens and teens, who are just starting to push the limit. But kids also need to feel like kids in a safe space that allows them to test these boundaries.
Just like when they were younger and back in the schoolyard at recess or in after school activities when adults are standing right there to catch them, older kids need these same safe places too. Only away from someone to catch them if they fall. They need to catch themselves and each other or fall and get right back up again.
My daughter is now living in her own home. Which just happens to also be the favorite place to go with her friends. She has her own sets of rules and boundaries, and it’s nice to see that some of them seem very familiar.
My son is still at home with us and I’m savoring every last moment of his time here. I know it won’t be long until he finds a home of his own too to share with his friends. It will be too soon I’m sure.
Even though both of my kids have almost left home, I still feel lucky, cause my daughter visits regularly and both kids still ask to have friends come stay with us all the time. You might think it’s because we live in a warm climate by the beach. You might think it’s because we always have yummy foods and drinks stocked in the fridge.
I believe it’s because here
they feel comfortable and at home.
Here, they can fall.