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Growing up I can remember my house being the hot spot for practically anything. You name it–sleepovers, a place to pick up snacks, watch television and just take a breather from whatever may or may not have been going on in my friends’ house. Maybe this is why I thought for a long time money grew on trees because my mother (a divorced a new single mother) always seemed to hold things down.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves here; my mother is a pretty nice woman but does have her limits. It was already hard enough trying to raise two children on her own, but to take on an entire neighborhood? Even she had her moments of enough being enough. In fact, I can remember her putting her foot down when some kids outstayed their welcome. “I don’t mean to be rude, Tan,” she always started, “but they have to go home now.” I guess I would be a little frazzled, too if I came home almost every day and had to wonder why I had extra mouths to feed at the dinner table. Are we a small household or community soup kitchen?

As a future new mother waiting for the arrival of my child, I can only think about how I will handle a situation like this should my son’s friend not want to leave our house. Honestly speaking there are many of us who would be so frustrated that our first instinct would be “get out” without a second thought. Hey, we all have those stressful days whether working outside the home or trying to deal with holding things down on the inside. Sometimes certain reactions whether nice or not just come out. It’s my hope that I can try to get it together to focus not on the annoyance (them not going home) but why they chose to constantly spend time in my house.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors or how a parent decides to raise his child. I can remember hearing friends who lived down the block constantly getting screamed at by their parents with words I wouldn’t dare repeat back to my parents, and this is with their windows closed. This could be why those kids wanted to stay as long as they could at my house. Maybe there was no one there giving them positive reinforcement whether they were extra tough or just absent working multiple jobs? You just never know what makes folks tick.

I now realize that things aren’t always as black and white as we’d like to think, no matter how hard we try. Sure, it’s not our responsibility to raise someone else’s kid, but does that mean we instantly turn away children who have outstayed their time at our house? I am sure there will be times when I have to tell my child it’s time for his friends to go home, and others when I will want to spend a little more time with them to figure out why they are spending so much time with us. I’m not suggesting we turn into social workers but just that looking at the bigger picture could help to make things clearer. And should your limits really get pushed, set some ground rules like dinner being family only time or time limits on how frequent your child can have visitors.

Do all the neighborhood kids stay at your house?

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