“Whose cat is that?” asks my daughter’s friend’s mom as a cat darts through our open front door.
“That’s Thomas, our friend’s cat,” I reply.
“Wow, so not only do you take in everyone’s kids, but their pets, too?” she says.
I smile and reply that this cat is not the first cat to frequent our house. Charlie was before Thomas until he moved out of the neighbourhood with his family. Both of these cats enjoy visiting us through our cat door. Initially, our cat, Jack, did not appreciate all the feline guests, but just as our introvert daughter gets used to guests, so did our cat. Our family does enjoy our loaner cats. We always let the cat owners know when their cats are having a sleepover or a snack at our house, too.
Our open-door policy doesn’t stop at pets. It includes humans, too. I want our children and their friends to feel welcome and safe at our house. We’re that house: the house where all the kids hang out. We’re that family that you can count on for help, a meal, or a shoulder to cry on. When parents are running late after school, they can pick up their kids at our house. It’s convenient that we are steps from our school and often home after school.
I’ve often been asked if I run a daycare. I’ve also been asked on numerous occasions to provide before- and after-school care for children. I can see why people would ask this as I often pick up my own kids and three or four of their friends after school. We have watched a few of our friends’ children for one or two days a week after school. Even when our kids no longer attend the elementary school that is steps from our door, I am confident we’ll still be the house where they hang out the most often.
My son sometimes asks why we always have to be that house and have everyone over. He prefers to branch out and go to other people’s houses, too. Although, he’s just happy to socialize anywhere. I think it comes down to many factors. I am glad adults, kids, and pets feel comfortable in our home. I leave our children and their friends to their own devices during their playdates, but I am around to fix snacks and help reach compromises when there are disagreements. I think our availability, willingness, and love of entertaining also helps. I enjoy the sound of kids being kids, running through our house and playing hide and seek together. The fact that my husband and I both work from home and can adjust our work hours throughout the week helps us with our frequent playdates. It’s nice to know what your kids are up to and to be able to keep an eye on them, too.
I believe our open door and open communication with our children and their friends will help them communicate openly with all their parents as they reach the ’tween and teen years. I remember sitting up at sleepover with my daughter’s friend when she couldn’t sleep because she was worried. Sometimes it’s challenging to know what your own kids need let alone another family’s child, but we’ve managed to make it through.
I love that our home is that house. We feel connected to our community and our neighbourhood. I love that our kids can play outside and walk across the street to see if our neighbours’ kids want to go to the park. My parents’ house was also that house while I was growing up. Some of my brother’s friends lived with us while they were in high school. We would often have our friends over for supper or sleepovers, too. I guess it really stems from my roots and the foundation my parents set for me. I enjoyed it when our neighbour’s son came up to me afters chool and said: “If my Grandma is not home in time, my mom said my brother and I can go to your house. Is that okay? Are you home?” I replied “Of course! Any time.”