Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Having guests over for dinner part 3

It just goes to prove the necessity of having a blog before you write the book, not that I'm actually writing a book or anything.  But IF I were to ever write a book on hospitality, I'll be glad I had this blog and the feedback through comments ahead of time!  

For example, in my last post, I took a guess and suggested a list of guests from: easiest to hardest.  All I can say is: thank you my gracious and honest readers for telling me how you felt! 

What I misjudged was the perception of who is easy and who is hard.  I was thinking in terms of physical preparation and chaos as a "hard" things; whereas, my dear readers seem to think of making conversations with people who are not at the same stage of life as they are as a "hard" thing.  Correct?  

So, if you are a social animal, like me, you don't think twice about making a conversation with your pet rock, let alone a human being--of any stage of life.  But.. dealing with 3 extra high chairs or an extra baby gate is more difficult.

If you are an introvert, there's no amount of preparation and moving of chairs and such that can compare with the anxiety of trying to make conversation with someone new, correct?  

So, with that in mind, I'm not going to tell you who or what is difficult, I'm just going to come up with a list of various types of guests and what you might potentially expect, physically and socially.  

So, where shall we start?  

If I have this correct, the EASIEST guest are those with whom you share a lot in common with naturally--same age, same stage of life, and same beliefs.  

So, let's say you are 20-30ish, have a few children, are a Christian family and homeschool.  You want to have another family over with basically the same standards/ lifestyle.   (Now, I realize that many of my readers may not be in this exact category, but the rules are basically the same)


PHYSICAL CONCERNS: 

1)FOOD:  With anyone you have over, you should ask about food allergies and preferences.  It can cause a lot of anxiety for parents of allergic children to wonder if there's going to be a peanut in something.  Also, ask if there's anything that the children or adults do not like.  

I once had a family over and made a nice big turkey, only to find out they couldn't stand turkey.

2) SEATING: Some people are fine holding baby on their laps, but others would prefer a high chair or booster seat.  Basically, try to find out what they prefer for their children and do accordingly.  If you do not approve of their choices (letting them be picky eaters or sitting on laps or whatever), this is not the time to bring it up--just be accommodating.  

I have not so fond memories of being berated by a hostess for letting my children not finish every morsel of food on their plate.  It's not something we practice at home, how can I expect it to be done when we're out?  

3) ENTERTAINMENT: Make sure to ask the parents if movie or activity xyz is permissible. It's better to have a few activities planned than to wait until chaos erupts and THEN try to think of something.  Keep the kids out of the bedrooms. If they have to play there, keep a close eye on everyone and the door open at all times.   It's nice to have the kids in the general vicinity than to try "find them" later on.   If you are a real control freak (like me), you'll insist that the guest children help clean up the messy areas before a movie or dessert or whatever. 

I have rules about my piano.  We have a very expensive piano that sits openly in the livingvroom. I tell the children that they are not to just walk by and plunk it whenever they feel like it.  If they are going to sit properly and play a song, that is permissible.  But just don't hit a key every time you walk into the room.  Kids do obey the rules, but you have to give them out right away with the parents listening in. 

So, now that the kids are happy, let's talk about adult conversation.  If your purpose is to have people over for Christian hospitality, we should try to include the Lord a little bit, don't you think?  

CONVERSATION STARTERS: You may need to prep yourself and/or your husband with a hand full of good starters.  Basically, We try to keep the first visit with someone we don't know very well very light and upbeat.  Even if you do know someone pretty well, small talk is a nice way to start.

For the man to the man:  "So, where do you work?" or "What got you interested in becoming a..   xyz ?"  

For the woman to the woman: "So, tell me about your children.."  or "Do you enjoy.. cooking, crafting.. gardening.. home business.. etc.?"  

These conversations are nice to have while the dinner preparations are being finished over a beverage.  I usually serve water to guests when they arrive.  I might have some chips or other appetizers if I know the dinner preparations take a while.  If the children have cups with their names already on them, their parents can help them get some water also.  

If things are going well, you may want to exchange testimonies and things you enjoy in common.

So, how did you get saved?  or What made you decide to homeschool? or really anything that comes up except for a few things like these:

WHAT NOT TO TALK ABOUT:

1) how much money you make or do not make, and why would anyone think to ask??
2) your sex life and how great or not great it is.. duh..
3) your birth experience and all the gory details of your episiotomy 
4) your sales pitch to get them to join the latest MLM or business adventure
5) how lame someone else is (who is not there).. gossip
6) how lame your spouse is--when he or she is sitting right there!
7) anything negative or critical about their church or beliefs.. this is not the place or time!
8) anything at all that you see as a difference and hammer away at it until you've won the argument.. 

Why not talk about these things?  First of all, I am playing it safe and saying that the purpose of your visit is for mutual edifying, and I see all of these as very negative in their outcome.  Now, if you go to someone's house for the specific reason for counseling on a particular topic, then of course you can talk about it.  

I can still remember my dear husband looking slightly green after hearing the details of a graphic birth story from someone promoting natural childbirth at our dinner table.  Afterwards he asked me, "Does everyone talk about that stuff in mixed company??"  Then again, I'm probably guilty of the same thing--only I make it into a funny story, minus the blood and guts.  

In effect, know your audience.  I'm sure I've broken every rule up there, but you don't need to! 

Hope this helps you to feel more relaxed about having a hospitality adventure!  
For the list of my hospitality posts, look here: high brow thoughts
This works for Me! For more works for me: We are that family.

5 comments:

Holley said...

"If you are an introvert, there's no amount of preparation and moving of chairs and such that can compare with the anxiety of trying to make conversation with someone new, correct?" Yes, so true! I love people but entertaining makes me hyperventilate. Your post made me feel a bit calmer. great job--thank you!

Jerralea said...

Thanks for all the tips. This is an area I definitely need to work on.

Mrs. Parunak said...

Excellent advice! I have a child with a pretty significant dairy allergy, so I especially appreciate the note about asking about that sort of thing.

Lisa said...

Great tips, lots of areas covered in this post! I am one that hyperventilates while trying to "rehearse" possible conversations- even though I know it's better to just let it flow naturally. I do like to think of a few conversation starters, though.

MommaMindy said...

During our early marriage/poverty years furniture was something you scrounged around for, you didn't actually buy. When we had company, my husband and I sat on some extra tall stereo speakers we had and let the guests have the kitchen chairs. When we needed money, we sold the stereo and speakers. The next time we had company over, we couldn't figure out why we didn't have enough seating, until we remembered the speakers. The Lord provided three very nice chairs on a boulevard within days, so we soon had enough seating again. Hospitality is first and foremost about fellowship, encouragement, and friendship. Thanks for the tips!