Kids are so adorably, impulsively, inconsiderately cute. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to pick Girl Child up from school or dance practice or church school or summer camp and watched her come barreling from afar with another little girl in tow, grinning and bustling along with that urgency that quickens the step of someone who’s about to put her mother in an awkward situation. And then, the inevitable question: “Mommy, can this-child-who’s-standing-right-here spend the night? Pleeeeease?” Punctuated with big, doey eyes and electrifying smiles.
I love having all of the girls over (and my godson, Arian, who also comes to DC from Philly to hang out with us throughout the year). But I’ve had to let parents know that once their kids are in my care, I’m going to treat them just like they’re mine. That includes a set of ground rules that apply to everyone, visitors and regulars alike:
Don’t take more than you’re going to finish. I hate, hate, hate when children waste food. Let it be known if you come to my house, Miss/Auntie/Mean Ol' Lady Janelle is going to make you eat whatever you take. I remember being on the other side of that—when I was a kid, I thought Cocoa Puffs looked like they were so good, so I begged for them. But alas, when I got home, I discovered they sucked. Too bad for me, because I was at that table sobbing into my cereal bowl every. darn. day. until those bad boys were gone. I thought my mom was the pits for enforcing that rule, but now I see why. She wasn’t working her rump off every day to watch the fruits of her labor be scraped off a plate into the garbage, and neither am I.
Mind your manners. I’m a stickler for politeness, so I expect everyone to act like they have home training. If they don’t, I bet they will by the time they leave. Our old neighbor downstairs had a daughter a few years younger than Girl Child who used to come up and play and hang out when she was there visiting with her dad. And as soon as that man closed the door to ease on back to his bachelor’s paradise, girlfriend would cut up like she’d never been taught right from wrong. She was a bit of wild child. As a result, she got parked on the sofa and put on time out just like she was another Harris kid. She must not have hated it that much because she kept coming back like clockwork and eventually, got the hang of having good manners, no prodding needed.