Can I Get a Little Hospitality?

You’ve set the table in festive contrasting red and white for the holidays.  Candles are burning, setting the ambiance, while music from your Bose Wave Systems is pouring out in a soft blanket, creating a sense of warmth.  The food has almost finished in the oven.  The appetizers are chilling in the fridge.  Bottled adult beverages are sitting on ice.  The doorbell rings.  You enthusiastically greet your guests, remarking, “my it has been some time since we got together!”  To which they reply, “so great to see you!”  You reach over to hug and realize, there’s a funny red blobby stain on the side of your guests coat.  Oh, well I guess I won’t hug in too close there.  As you pull in to one another, you notice it seems treacherously sticky too.  And then their partner comes up behind with a caravan of their children, pint-sized copies of their parents.  One of which also appears to have the same red stain on their cheek.  The same one that is carrying on while lamenting a lost sucker.  Apparently, it fell on the floor on the ride over.

“Where is my sucker?  I want my sucker!”  Tears are eeked out intermittently in between greetings.  You rush off to see if there is something you can get to help this little human out of their heavy emotional attachment to a small, sugary, sticky object.  Nope, the bottle of Summit EPA won’t do that.  Perhaps some other type of food ought to do it? Hmm, what about this olive tapenade on some pita?  Nope – they won’t eat anything that is all mixed up.  What else, what else, you mumble beneath your breath as you search frantically to soothe the escalating pitch of their voice.  Then  you hear it.

“Oh no!”  Scream their parents from the other room.  It is followed by a crashing, crunching, shattering sound, and you realize.  They didn’t just bring their kids.  No.  You’ve just been invaded by a horde of pint-sized humans.  This night has already gotten off on a bad foot.

And it just spirals downhill from there as the parents are on guard all night, trying to prevent little hands, hands geared to follow commands from their brain that they must touch literally every object within a three-and-a-half food radius from the floor plane.  And I do mean, EVERY object.  No object will be left unmolested by those grubby little hands.

And you realize, right at that very moment, that while you consider yourself a great host, you even have that damn music playing to set the atmosphere just right, you misjudged one very important consideration.  These ______ (feel free to insert any one of following monikers into the blank:  friends/family members/coworkers/siblings) of yours require a whole ‘nuther set of operating instructions.  You realize, you really aren’t the ‘hostess with the mostess’.  You aren’t just entertaining for adults, you have that routine down pat by now.  You are entertaining a miniature wrecking crew.

What it all boils down to is expectations.  Parents of small children really can’t expect you, their hosts, to know the ins and outs of what it is like to have a herd of humans under three feet tall marauding through your house if you don’t already have your own personal set of home-invaders.  After all, you are, perhaps, the last of your set of friends who has yet to jump into the treacherous waters of raising children; or your children may be older, and onto better things, like playing Xbox, or texting friends ‘LOL’ or ‘ROTFLOL’ while they uncover the new latest craze off YouTube – these mysterious teenage creatures at least seem to know ‘what to’ and ‘what not to’ touch; or perhaps your kids are grown and out of the house – did you really forget what it was like when they were once a third or a fourth of their current size?

To really bring this example home, I must relay an unfortunate story that was repeated time and time again, like a horribly broken record, when my husband and I would take our son over to visit my husband’s Grandma and Aunt, who lived together in a one-level townhouse.  There was never any shortage of ‘traditional’ hospitality.  There was always coffee, an assortment of soda, hearty food, and tasty desserts.  What there was, though, was a Sahara Desert in terms of ‘little’ hospitality.  Blanketing the space were almost a hundred (trust me, I actually counted them one time…) highly breakable ‘collectible dolls’ intermixed within numerous other ‘these-should-be-looked-at-but-not-touched’ items and curiosities.  Almost nothing that little hands were welcome to touch.  And you wonder why I was always so uneasy about the visits.

I’m not saying this as a reflection on their, or any of my hosts, character(s).  What I am saying, is that when you have guests over at your house, try to put yourselves in their shoes.  It takes an enormous amount of work for us parents to even get these miniature humans out of the house some days.  Those of you who once had little children in your house – are you remembering this?  Or are you still blocking it out as a manifestation of your PTSD?  Dig deep into the memory chasm, I know those recollections are lurking there.

We don’t expect you to completely rearrange your home in order to accommodate us.  We don’t expect you to rent a $300 inflatable ball pit for your yard to entertain our children with.  What we are saying, as parents of small children, is at least give us a fighting chance.  If you have a fragile family heirloom proudly displayed within the aforementioned three-and-a-half foot floor plane (let’s just bump it up to four to be truly safe), that your long lost relative from Switzerland passed on many generations back, you may, for your, and our sake, just want to put it a little further out of reach.  Perhaps pick up a small, assorted collection of toys from a thrift store the next time you are out shopping that our kids can rifle through.  Or better yet, do you have some spare boxes our kids could play with?  You’d be amazed how long a kid can entertain themselves with a box.  As for food, nothing fancy.  They haven’t yet developed the taste buds to differentiate between local and imported food goods.  Then we all can relax (relatively speaking) and have a good time.

All we are asking for, for both of our collective sanities, hosts and guests alike, is a ‘little’ hospitality.  Is that too much to ask?  If it all seems just a bit too intimidating, suggest we meet at our place.  See how we live.  What do we keep out of harm’s way?  Or better yet, tell us how tired we look (we are always tired anyway so 99.999% of the time you will guess that right), that you think we really need a break from the kids, and suggest we get a babysitter for the night.  We can go out somewhere fun that is riddled with other child-free adults together.  I promise, you will have as much of our full attention as you will ever get.  And we will try not to talk about the kids too much over the course of dinner.

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~ by urbanwandernlust on December 18, 2011.

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