Jul 20, 2012

Play Date Etiquette

It's a play date kind of day.  Grey, chance of rain/storms for the afternoon, and, I want to work on some organizing and sewing projects.  (These sorts of words, like "organizing", and "sewing projects" are words that would have thrown the younger Erin into a fit of laughter thinking of the domestication that has transpired over the years.)  Once, while I was still in high school, my mom left a note on my pillow.    It read something like this- "My dearest E,  This thing I placed this card on is your bed.  It is for sleeping.   The thing across the room is your desk.  If is for studying.  On the other wall, is your dresser.  THAT is where clothes belong.  The place you walk on is the floor.  That should be vacuumed, on the rare occasion that there is not clothes on that.  Love, Mom"  In my defense, it was always organized chaos.  *That is sorta' the way I live my life, but most of you know that I am too crazy to allow too much chaos in my daily life.  There are spontaneous moments throughout our day, but even those moments "have their place."  See, I don't allow much wiggle room in my rigid placements ;o)  I am the word "dichotomy."

My children love to share our home and their toys.  I enjoy sharing our life with those around us.  Although, not all children have been raised as my migits are being raised.  (That might be a good thing.)  If my migits play with their toys, they do so in the room they are stored.  That means, toys in Charlie's room stay in Charlie's room to be played with, and vice versa.  However, there are times when they ask, and I allow "mingling" of Charlie's dinosaurs and hex bugs with Shayna's American Girl toys.  I mean, come on, Julie and Sarah Ann need to walk the dinosaur around the block with Julie's dog, Pepper.  However, absolutely NO toys come downstairs, unless of course, it is a game night and we are headed to the patio area or just want to go bowling on the hardwoods.  Or it's hide the Easter Eggs scavenger hunt party, or we are playing flashlight tag/hide and seek, or.... Yeah, one needs to allow for allowances once in a while.

While they have a place for everything,  everything must be in its' place if it is not in use.  (You finish the board game, you put it away before getting the next one out.  You finish playing with the Dora Lego set, you put it away before starting in on the dress up bins.  You are done with the Walkie Talkies, you turn them off and put them away before pulling out the microphones and Paper Jamz guitar.)  That is the most difficult concept for our visitors.  I don't  mind the going from one thing to another.  The part that I struggle with, is the idea that children enter our home, and treat our belongings as their own-- without respect.  My children have SOOOO many amazing things, and all in great shape.  We rarely break or lose toys.  Although, I am convinced that the makers of hula hoops are purposely manufacturing crappy ones so that they break the moment a child touches it.  I truly believe that our children have learned to respect their own toys, and value them and understand that they are given these things to share with others, and take that responsibility seriously enough to care for them properly.  I would never have suggested iPods for a three and four year old a few years ago if I felt like they would not be properly cared for.  I would never have suggested purchasing REAL microphones and set up if I thought for a minute that my children would not take care of them.

I never considered our responsibility to sharing these things with friends who come over to play, until recently.  We have had many friends visit with us this summer.  Most have learned our "House Rules" of play, and most have been invited back.  There are some, that I invite back that didn't follow the rules, and I think they have much to learn from our home.  (Children do not help themselves to the pantry or walk into a closed door without knocking.)  However, by having these play dates, MY children have seen that when you have an accident in your pants, it is okay to clean up the mess and tell the adult without having to hide their underwear in their underwear drawer for Mommy to find a few days later and have to freak out since now it has messed up everything in the drawer.  Or that when you go potty, you should close the door, since modesty is something we ALL lack within our home.  And some of us, no names, chose to pull down their underwear prior to even reaching the bathroom door.  No, you know it's NOT me.  I don't usually have clothes on.  Just wanted to clear that up.  How awkward to think that you might think that would be me.  ;o)  (And to clarify, I would have clothing on once a guest was scheduled to come over..... therefore, I highly recommend the schedule portion of that process.  It makes a huge difference.  

So, for those children that don't know how to share?  They will know how to, because no body leaves kindergarten without learning that skill.  For those children who do whatever the dominate person tells them to do- they will be great worker bees in the work force, and generally appreciate not having the stress of decision making.  For those children who don't want to play whatever the rest of the group is playing- they will forever find a way to enjoy their own company.  For those children that show up assuming that a TV or video game is the only way to play- they will turn into the host that turns on the TV for company as an adult, and focuses only on the tube and not their company.  For those children that have to make all the rules and control every aspect of the game?  They will one day become a very independent, successful person that sets up play dates just so that she can finish sewing projects and organize things in her house on rainy days.  For these, and all the other types of play dates we have had, we are grateful.  If it weren't for the organized chaos that is a play date, we would not be allowed to learn and grow.

A note on when we visit other homes... NO, my migits do not usually put away the toys they played with during play.  That is because that is not the flow of the play at that home.  I do insist on cleaning up before we leave, but I would hope that maybe, one day, with prayer, and possibly, medication, that my children might allow some carry over in their at home play habits, outside of the home.  That meal time prayers would be remembered while I am not there to remind them, and that respect and manners are in their actions and tongues.  Lord, hear my prayer.

Ahrens house is open!  Come one, come all, but don't come, without a call!  Unless, of course, my nudity won't offend, frighten or blind you.  (You would have to have a pretty strong constitution or not have eaten a large meal prior to coming, or might I suggest blinders.)

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