I have an open door policy for my children's friends at our house – and here is why
When I was growing up, my sister and I (who are only 18 months apart) were always not only allowed – but also encouraged – to bring friends home.
And so we did.
Our house became the house that we all just congregated to, and my parents, much as it was noisy and sometimes created both a bit of mess and chaos, loved it. In primary school there were playdates and rainy afternoons spent building Lego and my mum would make waffles or toast to feed us, and we knew that should we arrive home with a friend or two in tow from school, there would always be enough dinner and a place at the table for them too.
As we got older, up through high school and secondary school, our house was still the place we brought our friends to. From movie nights to school projects that went on into the night as they had to be handed in the next day, it so very often happened at our house. It was a house where everyone was welcome.
As we became teenagers, my mum and dad were still on such great terms with all my friends, that there pretty much was not a day that went by where we didn't have an extra child for dinner, or homework club, or even sleepovers sometimes. My parents would cook extra food for dinner, drop us to the local video shop to rent movies and if needed, drop our friends home to their respective homes when they needed to leave and if they didn't have a lift.
Famously, one of my friends once arrived at my house one morning after having been to a party the night before and was too worried to go home to his own house because he had been drinking. My mum, being the mum that she is, got up and made him a solid breakfast, so that he'd be a bit more together before he had to head home and face the music at his own house.
And such was life at our house. It was a safe, happy, welcoming and warm place, a place where nobody was excluded, but where we well knew, our friends included, that should anyone need a talking to or get up to something no good, my parents were fully OK with letting people hear it. But in turn, or maybe just because of this, all our friends had such a respect for and care for my parents. They were involved, be it in the local gymnastics club or school fund-raiser or anything we were involved in, they were too. So all our friends knew them. And their open-door policy, I think, was just an extension of this involvement.
And so when I became a mum, there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to recreate the same for my own children.
I wanted to be That House.
The one everyone feels welcome in. The one where everyone knows they will get fed and cared for and that it is allowed to play and make a mess and be silly – as long as you are kind and respectful.
I wanted my kids to know that our house has also an open door – to them and all their friends.
The house where everyone can come back to after hockey if they need or want to.
The house where they gather to play or do projects or bake muffins.
The house where we always have Pizza Fridays and whoever wants to come, can come.
The house that allows messy floors, shoes thrown about, toys everywhere and where there is always a bit of extra dinner.
The house that isn’t mad when something spills.
The house that can handle giggly girls and crazy boys. At the same time.
The house where there will be silly themed parties at Halloween or Valentine's – where everyone is invited and no one is left out.
I want my children to know that there is so much love in our house that there is enough to go around. And still, my children are quite young, and their friends are young too. But even when they get older, I want them to know that it is OK to bring home a friend who might just be having a hard time, who could do with a break, who is hungry, who just needs to be taken care of a little. They will all be welcome, for the fun times, and for rough times. For when my kids need their friends over, or for when their friends need to come to them, my house will be there for them.
Last weekend my little girl had her very first non-family sleepover, and we had three girls here for it. There were giggles and lots of trying to figure out how they would sleep and who would be next to who. There were extended bedtimes and movies and popcorn and middle-of-the-night chats. And much as I had to go in and be strict a couple of times (come on – your patience would have been a little stretched too at 04.35 am...) they still had a ball. And I hope there will be many more sleepovers in the years to come.
And so much as I am a mum who likes a tidy home and clean floors and things neatly put away, I am also a mum who want my kids to feel like I felt growing up – like their home is the house where everyone is welcome. And where memories are made and fun is had and tummies are fed and burdens, if any, lessened.
Ultimately; I hope that this will inspire my children to go out and do the same when they grow up and have their own kids and houses – create a home that is happy and safe and welcoming and filled with laughter and love.