Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Policy statement: kids at our house

This came up earlier today, so I thought I'd stick it in an lj post where I can point to it when we're having a party or whatever.

If you are welcome at our house, your children are welcome at our house.

I really can't think of any general exceptions to that rule. If you have horrible, horrible children who deliberately break everything they see and get into other people's bedrooms and otherwise misbehave, I'll probably be more than a little annoyed with you as their parents, too. (There are always extenuating circumstances. Medical conditions, children who have been living with other parents who have different standards for behavior, whatever.)

I recognize that there are parties and activities for which children are not particularly appropriate. We don't tend to host that kind of party here.

The big caveat: we do, however, drink alcohol. If you think that children should never see adults drinking alcohol apart from communion wine, you should probably keep yours away from our house. {Also, you will probably be happiest if you don't let them talk theology with Auntie Mrissa, if that's the case.) If you're old friends of ours, we can modify our behavior for the duration of your visit, if we are forewarned and asked nicely, but there will be beer in the fridge, and probably things like wine and hard cider and hard lemonade, too. We have at least one pair of old friends who are sensitive about alcohol consumption for personal reasons, and they've managed to stay friends with us this long, so we're not about to ditch them now. We're also not about to clear out the cupboards and fridge for them.

If I only want to see one member of your household, I'm very good at inviting only one person to do something. Really. (This came up this week, too.) I will use sentences like, "I was thinking we should go grab coffee sometime and catch up, just you and me" or "Unless you have plans with [household members] or someone else, would you like to [activity]?" I'm very good at making "you" singular on the occasions when that is warranted.

But if I want to see all the adults in your household, I will never exclude the children. Parents can choose to get a babysitter (although in some cases, I will greet them at the door with an indignant, "Where's my kid?"). I generally will not host activities that force people to get a babysitter.

We like kids here. By this I mean what people generally mean by this idiotic statement: we are not categorically uncomfortable with children, we're fairly used to dealing with them, and we have friends of all ages. We have some notion of what is and is not age-appropriate, so if your 18-month-old decides to test gravity and one of our dinner plates gets broken in the process, we will clean it up and laugh at ourselves for being so foolish as to give a regular plate to an 18-month-old without extremely close supervision. What we will not do is get mad at you or the toddler. That would be dumb.

We are willing to have children over without their parents, but that's generally babysitting and a different arrangement. If I'm babysitting your kids, I'm the temporary authority figure, and I will say no whenever necessary, in your name or in my own. If you're around, I'm not babysitting your kids: you are in charge of saying no, not me. If your kids ask for a cookie, a soda, a bowl of strawberries, anything readily available in my kitchen, my answer will generally be, "If your folks say it's all right." My requests to them will generally be phrased as politely as possible -- "Could you please not do that" sort of thing, unless I'm genuinely startled. "[Yourkid]! Do you need a time out? You know better than that!" is your job, not mine. Being an auntie or a grown-up friend is the fun job.

Our house is fairly child-safe but not child-proofed. We have books on low shelves. We have hearths with unpadded bricks. We have cleaning products in a kitchen cabinet. Generally we're happy to help wrangle toddlers and steer them away from the cabinet with the cleaning products etc.

For people who have no kids, we have a large number of toys, games, coloring books, and children's books. This is still a fairly small number total. You know your kids better than we do; if they're not going to be happy playing dominoes or reading one of our books or participating in adult conversation, please bring or encourage them to bring something to entertain themselves. We are not the flavor of adults who think that "participate in adult conversation" means "listen to adult conversation." If your kids are not too shy to talk to us, we will talk back. We will not try to pry conversation out of them with a crowbar if they appear shy, and hugs, while delightful, are neverevereverever mandatory. I refuse to be the horrid grown-up some hapless child is forced to hug against her will and better judgment. As I said above: this is supposed to be the fun job.

The management will not be held responsible for any ideological warping that occurs while your offspring are on the premises. Also, if they learn really lame jokes and repeat them over and over again, giggling maniacally, it's certainly not my fault. The lame-joker-repeater-and-giggler role is already spoken for here.

The upstairs is generally off limits unless we say so. Our private rooms are upstairs. We don't tend to keep guns, drugs, and porn scattered about the floor for children to find up there, but adults already have a sense for not going rummaging around people's bedrooms, and if your children are too young to have such a sense, please help them.

Children who ask nicely, have clean hands, and treat them gently may be allowed to play the pianos and the recorders. This is not encouraged at crowded parties. Also, the saxophone and the flute may be demonstrated by request but will not passed around to those who don't know how to play them.

Another note on the upstairs: timprov has sleep disorders. He may be sleeping at any hour of the day or night. If he is, we will tell you. Babies are babies and will screech when the spirit moves them, but older children, like adults, are to be encouraged to keep it down to the standard dull roar when Timprov is asleep. Requests to play the piano or recorders are also likely to be postponed if Timprov is asleep, since his bedroom is right above the music room.

I think that's it. Basically, we're pretty fond of a lot of kids, and that turns out to mean that we are ourselves around them. Mostly they end up having a good time here, I think. We have a good time having them here, so it all works out.
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