I will definitely be sharing a delicious meatball recipe at the end of this post but it's not exactly what I'm writing about today. Today I want to talk about parenting, and being nice to others and a lovely lady named Midge. She is the mother of one of my dearest friends. She is the real and true definition of hospitality.
When you think of hospitality, what comes to mind? Visions of dinner parties and hostess gifts? Martha Stewart? Taking a meal to a friend in need? I looked up the definition and according to Webster's dictionary, it means "the generous and friendly reception of guests without reward." I don't think many people are throwing dinner parties for guests and expecting something in return, but what about the generous and friendly reception of strangers? I think when someone is not just nice to a stranger but goes out of their way to make them feel welcome and important, that is the real definition of hospitality.
That is Midge.
Recently she was visiting from her home in New Hampshire and her daughter, Sue, threw her a birthday party. Sue had asked several people from her mother's past to write a letter to her mom and share some of their favorite memories. One that struck me was how when her kids were growing up, she kept extra pairs of gloves by the door for visitors (they lived in Chicago). She would send the kids on scavenger hunts in the snow and when they came back she'd sit with them and talk about important kid stuff. My daughter's music teacher is always pointing out that kids spell love T-I-M-E (who doesn't ADORE Mr. Healy?). My friend Sue grew up KNOWING she was loved because her mother gave her the gift of time.
When I showed up at the party, I went to give Midge a hug and say happy birthday. She grabbed me and pulled me into the living room and sat next to me on the couch and asked question after question about how I was and how my family was and what had I been up to? It had been years since we last saw each other but she immediately made me feel like an old close friend that she had been waiting to catch up with. I knew in a room of fifty other people, this was not true, but you would never have known it to see her reaction and how she welcomed me! Now granted, I'm not a stranger to her, but it takes special talent to make each person you are speaking with feel as if they are the only important person around. It feels pretty good.
Sue and I talk often of parenting and how difficult it is as our kids get older. Social media is the norm and trying to find a good balance and teach them that it’s OK to NOT always have a phone or to be posting on Instagram 24/7 is a challenge. Sue told me once that she told her mother how bored she was one day when she was in junior high. Midge handed her a basket of clean socks and told her to match them and put them away and then share about how bored she was. I've tried this and it works by the way. But only if they don’t have access to their phone.
Is parenting getting harder? Why? Do we just feel as if the challenges are becoming more difficult to deal with or are they? I know for all parents everywhere, combating the outside world and its influence over our kids is one of the innate challenges of being a parent. We do the best we can. I do feel, however, that parents who are dealing with issues that face middle school and high school kids in this time RIGHT NOW, face extra burdens that other generations have not. The burdens that make the moments of feeling good about yourself few and far between. Pressures to conform, succeed and compete in everything can often cloud the vision of who we really are. Especially for young teens that are just on the brink of discovering what that looks like. Social media can be a great thing! I love that I can see my little nieces every day even though they live hundreds of miles away. It can bring many blessings. It can also be a horrible reminder of all that is evil in this world. How do we combat that as parents?
It's easy to say, just don't let them have it (phones, Instagram, ask.fm, etc.) but does that solve the problem? Would a better solution be to teach them who they really are and how much they matter so when they are faced with the evils of social media they can have the tools they need to cope? I don't know what the answer is. I would CERTAINLY write a book about it if I did! I think the answer will be different for each child, and only YOU as the parent know that answer. One thing each one of us moms and dads have in common, no matter what we disagree on, is that we are WARRIORS for our kids. No one else can be a better advocate. We have to be INTENTIONAL about our parenting and what we are advocating for. Part of that intention should include teaching our kids to be kind and being kind to them in return. Grace can go a very long way when parenting, especially a teen. Giving them the gift of ourselves and our time will hopefully instill in them their importance and how much they are loved!
So how does all this tie in with hospitality? We are the example to our children of how to treat others, how to welcome others and how to develop relationships with others. Showing the trait of hospitality to others will teach our kids to be kind and generous to those around them. BEING that way towards our children will teach them that we believe that they are the most important person in the room. We are the first line of defense between our kids and the outside world. We will mess up. We will wish we made better decisions. They will probably need therapy of some kind. But if we can take a little note from Midge, and spend that time knowing our kids and being intentional about finding that time, the chances are good that they will grow up knowing they are loved.
3 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey or a 1/2 mix)
3 T garlic salt
2 cups Italian breadcrumbs (or a little less or more)
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
Mix all ingredients until mixture is thoroughly combined, should be moist but not stick to your hands (can adjust breadcrumbs). Roll into bite size balls. Heat large fry pan over medium heat and add butter and olive oil. Brown meatballs on all sides, in batches and let drain on paper towel. Add to tomato sauce or eat alone. Enjoy!