We have so many house guests every summer that I basically run a bed-and-breakfast inn. I actually enjoy this. We are lucky enough to spend our summers somewhere beautiful, and we have a big house with a big yard, so why not? Each summer, though, the numbers creep northward. A few weekends ago, we had fifteen people in our house for the weekend, and just today I have been informed out that this weekend, we will have sixteen plus a newborn, a new record.
I do not really mind this when I have the time to menu plan, and shop, and get everything ready. Sometimes I am frustrated when I don’t get out of the kitchen for an entire weekend, but that is what being a gracious hostess is all about. This summer, though, I happen to have a book manuscript due to my editor by September 1st, and so hosting this many people is more stressful than usual. I don’t have time to menu plan and cut fresh flowers. I only have time to feel bad that I do not have time to menu plan and cut fresh flowers. My husband is a litle frustrated with me for not setting better boundaries, and perhaps he should be, but being a mother, I always say “yes” and figure it will all get done somehow.
I was therefore very grateful when my friend Julie, she who is not a mother but understands mothering better than most people who are, enlightened me in this way:
Kids, Julie said offhandedly, don’t care if you make an effort or not. In fact, when you make no effort is sometimes when kids are MOST appreciative.
How the hell have I gotten through seven summers as a mother, five of them hosting my children’s numerous friends and cousins, without having figured this out? My God, she’s right. What’s my kids’ favorite dinner? Pizza delivered in a box. What’s my kids’ favorite way to spend a sunny afternoon? Inside watching Boomerang. I am not sure why I would ever put myself out again, now that I see how their hearts can be won so easily.
Of course, I still have these children’s parents wondering what’s for lunch. Even there, though, I have learned the hard way that I can spend all afternoon shopping at the farm stand and chopping bruschetta, only to have everyone eat the Tostitos with Hint of Lime instead. My insane planning and perfectionism is rarely rewarded with the reaction I would hope.
So I am going to try, this weekend, to take some time for my writing amidst the madness, to direct anyone to the farm stand who feels like going, and see just how low my standards can be. An all-frankfurter weekend, perhaps? Might be the best weekend any of us have had.