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Hospitality for the Rest of Us: Immediate Family


Have you ever realized that your home may be the only place that you can truly be yourself? So much of human interaction is based around rules, sometimes called etiquette, always created and learned. The way we behave at work, school, church, the playground are different and unique and it's very rarely something that is completely hospitable to our entire self. Today, I'm pondering on how we can create environments in our homes that allow the people inside them to be themselves, without hostile rules.

I said hostile rules, because some rules in the home are very helpful to hospitality, genuine interaction and rest. I'm not saying we do any of the things I'm about to discuss perfectly or even at all in our house, but I'm going to point out some things all the same. And they aren't rules so much as ideas. Like a pirates' code, which are more like guidelines per say.

When someone comes home, greet them. It lets them know two things right off the bat, you missed them and you're happy to see them. As an aside if the one being greeted is an introvert, after welcoming them, let them wander off as needed. Trust me, they'll come find you again when they're ready for interaction.

Share a meal together. This does NOT have to be dinner. It could be breakfast, lunch, or snack depending on your schedule. If you're not currently eating together as a household, then aim for once a month and ramp up from there. Put the devices aside, turn off the tv, don't answer anything that rings or buzzes, just be together. I could tell you what will come of this, but you'll find out soon enough if you give it a try. And if you're single, then have a meal with yourself with the nice plates you use for company. Light a candle, make yourself something special for dessert, be nice to yourself.
If you have young children, there are some table etiquettes that you'll eventually appreciate having put the work into, one is being excused from the table. Archaic! I know, but when the table becomes a gathering place and ideas are shared, you'll be thankful that your kids signal you that they're done as opposed to wandering off mid idea while you're busy focusing on another scoop of mashed potatoes. This isn't about control, it's about courtesy within a conversation. But when they're little, it's often learned through control of a habit or behavior. I know! Difficult stuff!

Take some time to study your family. Find out what gets them excited, figure out what they could talk about all day and into the night. Then learn a little something about that or better yet, have your family teach you about it! I see your eyes rolling. I know you could care less about direct injection engines, but you love your family and that one person loves them and so you show them that's valid by entering in to their world. In case you didn't know it, this is how a lot of introverts make friends. They either find people with common hobbies and interests or they learn the interests of someone to spend time with them. It's worth it! Trust me on this! You may go brain numb learning all the ins and outs of Transformers Rescue Bots, but you're telling your family that they're valuable.
I read once, probably on an Internet meme (can anyone pronounce this word for me?) that if you don't listen to your children when they're talking about small stuff they won't seek you out to talk about the big stuff later.

Have device free times and spaces. And it goes without saying that littles should not be allowed to sleep with their devices, but that's another post for another day. Take a day every now and then and do something classic. Put away your distractions and just be present. It might be really ugly the first couple of times, alright yes it will be really ugly. But you might discover that you like it anyway. It's similar to my phrase "I don't like cleaning, but love having cleaned." Your family may not like the feeling of device withdrawal, but playing Settlers of Catan together could help with that. Especially if a fight for longest road breaks out.

Be honest. Honest doesn't mean cruel or harsh even. Honest means that you don't fake it either. It's okay to say to your family that you'd rather be on a Caribbean island sucking down tequila shots than clean the kitchen. It doesn't mean that you'll get any help with the dishes, but expressing your inner desires is healthy. Try to be loving when you do it though. Wishing you never had kids so you could be traveling would fall in the unloving category, in case there was any doubt. When you make these honest statements, take a quick second to make sure they reveal something about you. When we're transparent, we stop being treated like superheroes that can conquer the world. Of course that might be the thing you're going for, but when you're pulled in 15 directions, generally no.

Say you're sorry when you screw up. And be quick to actually accept the apologies of others and extend forgiveness. I would say don't be easily offended, but that's almost a little too lofty. Also say thank you. The two are related one says I could have done differently, the other says you did well. Try them out, see if they change anything.

Did you notice that a lot of these are about you? Actually, they're all about you aren't they? You may not believe it right now, but one person can change the atmosphere of a home from distant to close. Take a few moments and think about what would be different in your life if people were glad to see you, knew your deepest joys, shared meals with you, played games, were honest with you, and had a culture of forgiveness. Wouldn't you want to be there?

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