Saturday, March 29, 2008

As Good as Guests

Yesterday we considered how we often tend to think about hospitality beginning with those outside our homes rather than starting with our own families. I was really challenged by this and as I began to read on, the authors of Practicing Hospitality have some good suggestions on how we can practice good hospitality with our families.

At this stage in our family life, my kids enjoy having people around to our house for lunch, dinner or just a general get-together on a weekend. However, this is something that I never want to take for granted with my kids. I recognise that there may come a day (and I remember those days when I was young and at home) when this might not be the case. One thing I want to work hard to prevent is any form of resentment, or feelings of "second best" in the lives of my children. This book offers some sound wisdom on this issue and encourages me to treat my family "as good as guests", if not better than.
Often we treat our guests better than our family. Establishing the habit of treating our family as we would a guest will assist us in communicating our love to our family. Extending hospitality to our family allows them to reap the same blessings our guests receive in our home. Also, we are modeling for our children how to honour guests - they learn from our example. Treating our family as guests also reinforces the concept of family first.
Ennis & Tatlock then go on to offer 6 ways in which we can achieve this:
1. Prepare their favourite foods.
2. Set the table.
3. Check your appearance!
4. Create a warm atmosphere
5. Screen your phone calls.
6. Plan special events.
These six things have become second nature for me when it comes to being hospitable with those outside my home. However, I must confess that I am far from making these a priority when it comes to my husband and children. I'm left humbled thinking about the last time I made my husband and son my home cooked lasagna (their favourite), or the last time we went beyond the mere knife & fork and kid plates at dinner time. Or what about taking time to brush my hair and change that top that the baby spat up on before my husband gets home?

I can't even remember the last time I bothered to light a candle when sitting down for a meal - and hey, the kids always think that's fun because they get to blow it out at the end! And how many times am I quick to jump up and answer the phone, and proceed to engage in a conversation with someone other than my family? I must confess, I'm alright at planning special events, yet even at that it's only limited to a birthday, anniversary or some holiday celebration. Wouldn't it be fun to plan a special fun dinner just for no other reason than to see the joy and excitement on the the faces of my kids?

If I love my family more than any other, I must treat them better, if not as good as any other.


Kim from Hiraeth said...

This is such an important post!

As a mom with grown kids, I can attest to the fact that taking time to treat your family like guests pays off big time as your children get older.

One benefit that I thought of as I read this post is this: when you take the time to make dinner a priority, set the table, use serving dishes, candles, etc., you create an atmosphere that lends itself to conversation. The setting of the table, the clearing of the plates for the next course, the bringing of the coffee to the table with dessert--all those things communicate something to children--"This is an important part of the day. We're here to enjoy a meal and each other."

It also trains them to be patient and attentive when guests are sitting at table with the family. They become used to slowing down instead of hopping up when they are finished eating and tearing off to play. This pays off at church dinners and restaurants as well.

Our married son and his wife were over for dinner just last night. We chatted our way through the various courses, and then sat at the table together for some time over coffee, catching up and enjoying each other. Their first baby is due in June and we actually discussed the benefits of training children to enjoy time at the table. Our daughter in law did not grow up with family meals and she wants to make it a priority in their home.

It truly is a blessing to "commune" over a meal together as a family.

Beth said...

There is a southern (US) saying where I'm from that goes like this, "Treat your company like family and your family like company." I heard that long ago and it has helped me to think about how I extend hospitality to strangers, making them feel warm and welcome just as if they are a member of the family, and how I treat my family, making them feel fussed over and special, just like an honored guest.

Edith Schaefer had some wonderful things to say about the home atmosphere in The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Have you read that book?