Thursday, May 21, 2015

If You Feed Them, They Will Come : hospitality and why I'm always giving your kids snacks

If you could see my dining room table right now, you would not find a clear surface ready for "real" entertaining or school work.  Not a collection of craft supplies or the mail from the last three weeks.  Not piles of clean, carefully folded laundry.  What you would find is what you will almost always find: food.  Sliced apples, pretzels, graham crackers.  Maybe a  half-eaten banana that someone is saving for later.  Definitely too many abandoned kiddy cups of ice water.

Yesterday I read this post by my e-friend Jenny.  In it she wonders out loud about snacking and asks why people feed kids at random times of the day- not only their own children, but other people's children who happen to be at their houses.

"Why do people want to randomly feed my children? I do not want to randomly feed their children. I do not want to randomly feed my own children. Why is this a thing?"



Right away I emailed Jenny and asked if she wouldn't mind me answering her question publicly because it was intriguing for me to consider those whys.  It had never occurred to me, in fact, that someone wouldn't do those things, so it was an interesting thought exercise to say the least.  After some consideration, I hit on two main reasons that we choose to manage a Casa de Neverending Snackos.

I've had no less than three separate conversations in the last week about hospitality, about our family specializing in enjoying having guests.  Rarely a weekend goes by that doesn't involve someone(s) of some age(s) coming over for no reason.  During the week, if you text me that you'll be passing my house and can you drop off that bag of hand-me-down baby clothes, I will say "We'll be here!  Can you stay?  I'd love to hang out and chat."  And when you arrive I will offer you coffee or tea or ice water or hey, you can drink milk or juice too.  Or a beer?  You can have a beer if you want.  I won't judge.  And here...over here on the table...

Here are the snacks.  Would you like a snack?



Part of my particular brand of hospitality includes food.  Maybe there is a different way to do it, but I don't know what that way is.  Entertaining people in our home is the perfect combination of my husband's (Quality Time) and my (Acts of Service) love languages.  Throw Paul and his "Gifts" in there, and we've covered all the "please eat our food and relax for a bit" bases.  So if your kids randomly come over, I will be randomly feeding them unless you expressly forbid me to do so because that is how I can show them my affection (in the same manner, I will also happily apply band aids to injuries and zip their jackets, yes, wipe their tiny bums if they request.) because to me they are our guests and in dweej-land, there is nothing better to offer a guest than food.

Secondly, and I'm wondering if this is the even bigger motivator, I want your kids to like me.  Not just me, but being at our house.  When I was younger, it was so nice to be at the houses where the moms chatted and joked and, yes, gave us snacks.  It felt so warm and welcoming.  I felt important and cared for and I'm guessing their own kids felt the same.  Those were the moms who seemed to know what was going with their kids, in their lives and in their heads.  They knew their friends' names and what was going on in their friends' lives, too.  It seemed good and safe.

Now I know it would be overly romantic and completely delusional to think that me giving my kids and their friends snacks will automatically ensure that I'm in on their most closely held dreams and that no one tries to pull a fast one on me or climb out a second story window (St. Michael, do your thing, okay?), but I'm telling myself it definitely won't hurt for this to be everyone's favorite place to be.

So come on in.  Have a seat.  Tell me what's going on in your life.  Would you like a cheese stick?


p.s. Hey, I was interviewed on the Fountains of Carrots podcast and it went up on Tuesday.  If you wanna check out my newly honed Michigander accent and see if you can catch my first hip hop reference before minute four, take a listen here.  It was a super fun conversation to have!


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27 comments :

  1. Are you sure we're not sisters? Because that is exactly how I roll! Exactly! It drives my hubby NUTS, but I don't know what other way to be. My nieces and nephews love it, so I feel loved, and heck my kids eat, 24 hrs a day ( Heck, the baby does at least), so come on over...we'll eat and be merry together!

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  2. I love this:) Growing up my own Mother's theme was "food is love" and that is how I like to roll in my own growing family as well! My mother lost her parents and 4 siblings in a house fire when she was 16 and was severely burnt herself from trying to save them. Her hands and the worst and are permanently burn into a bent position. Yet every time we asked she would lovingly roll out tortillas from scratch, filling the house wih the amazing smell of fresh Mexican food. She always had a pot of beans and rice on, ready to feed any hungry children or visitors. Now as she teaches my own children how to roll out tortillas, I noticed that her hands crack a little each time she rolls out the dough. I grabbed her hands and said ," Mama! Your hands!" She just smiles and said, " Oh honey, they always cracked. It's ok, I want to do this for you. Food is love!" Indeed, she poured love into all her food and continues to do it now. I strive to add my own touch of love to our families food because of her lovely and sacrificial example:)

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    1. Melita, I am totally crying right now. Thank you for sharing the story of your mama!

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    2. That was simply beautiful, Melita. Thank you so much for sharing that perfect example of ongoing sacrificial love!!

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  3. Snacks drive me nuts -- I feel like I'm already in the kitchen enough, I don't want to spend more time there. It also bothers me that there seems to be a need to provide snacks for every occasion. A one hour soccer game -- snacks. One hour Faith Formation class -- snacks. 4H class -- snacks. And then we wonder why we have an obesity epidemic among the young?? Sorry I sound so angry about the snacks, lol.

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    1. I agree with all the event required snacking being unnecessary (and ridiculous!) Karyn, but I think that is something different than going to someone's house and being offered a snack.

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  4. I'm really happy you're definition of your kids' friends liking your house is because you would know what is going on in their lives, not because you'd let them do whatever they want :)

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    1. Well, I guess the prayer, the hope,is that what they want will mostly align with what is right as long as they have good, consistent guidance and support. And when it doesn't, someone needs to know REAL fast!

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  5. I can't get my kids to eat lunch or dinner if I give them snacks. They get one afternoon snack

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  6. Here in the south (esp when I was growing up) you did not go to a friend's house without being offered something to drink and food. A piece of freshly baked pound cake, a sandwich, cookies. Something.
    It's a way of saying 'Welcome, I'm glad you're here. Please make yourself at home.' Not to offer such was considered extremely rude, and you (mom/hostess) were discussed in very poor terms by the other moms.

    Me? I offer snacks when we have guests. It's cultural, and just a nice gesture. Kids come to play the Wii or whatever? Something to drink and popcorn. Maybe cookies or crackers if not the popcorn. SImple, but nothing too difficult.

    I'm pro-snack and proud!

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  7. When we have guest over, we always offer them food and drink. I think it is the Mexican grandmother in me who always wants to feed people. :) When we go to someone's house, I have no problem with them giving my kids snacks as long as they know that my kids always act they are starving and will eat their weight in snacks. That being said we limit the afternoon snacks because they won't eat dinner. Of course, I also play it by ear if dinner is going to be later, they played a lot outside, or I am hungry. Now all this talk of snacking is making me want a snack.

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  8. When we have guest over, we always offer them food and drink. I think it is the Mexican grandmother in me who always wants to feed people. :) When we go to someone's house, I have no problem with them giving my kids snacks as long as they know that my kids always act they are starving and will eat their weight in snacks. That being said we limit the afternoon snacks because they won't eat dinner. Of course, I also play it by ear if dinner is going to be later, they played a lot outside, or I am hungry. Now all this talk of snacking is making me want a snack.

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  9. When we have guest over, we always offer them food and drink. I think it is the Mexican grandmother in me who always wants to feed people. :) When we go to someone's house, I have no problem with them giving my kids snacks as long as they know that my kids always act they are starving and will eat their weight in snacks. That being said we limit the afternoon snacks because they won't eat dinner. Of course, I also play it by ear if dinner is going to be later, they played a lot outside, or I am hungry. Now all this talk of snacking is making me want a snack.

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  10. I thought a lot about hospitality when I was getting married because my husband introduced me to his sponsors and their family. He had spent a lot of time with them during his childhood (they were like a second home). Something about their home was always different... joyful, peaceful, (with a huge side of fun and wild children throwing chickens over fences). But I definitely experienced all of those things when I walked through the door. There was always food there too, maybe because food is so social (and let me add, none of the people who lived in that house were at all overweight - moderation was key). The mother would make meals and snacks and leave them on the island counter to be eaten. She would offer to make a plate for people, but was never pushy about it and kind of let them all graze. She is the kind of lady that always has extra children and guests in her home, and the children always knew to share snacks with their friends.

    There is something very intimate about sharing food, and when you open up your home that way to everyone, how are you NOT showing love to each and every person that comes through your door? I don't know why it seems to be over analyzed by people... Sure, if you send your kids over to someones house and they sugar them up and send them home, that could definitely be a problem. But I don't think that's what people complain about most of the time.

    The family I was introduced to shortly before marrying my husband taught me to accept all gifts graciously and to be hospitable to everyone. It was honestly one of the best lessons I ever learned.

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  11. The whole "food = love" is also big in Italian familes. You feed the people you love. You feed people who come into your home. You send them home with food if they come over for dinner. I like having my kids' friends come over, and will happily bake up a batch of brownies or chocolate chip cookies while they're here. Seems natural and normal to me. NOT to do that would be a sign that (1) you're a terrible hostess and (2) you don't really care what the kids are doing or if they're ok (I guess that's redundant).

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    1. "NOT to do that would be a sign that (1) you're a terrible hostess and (2) you don't really care what the kids are doing or if they're ok (I guess that's redundant)."

      That's a real charitable interpretation, there.

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    2. I think there are different ways that people show their love and affection, JoAnn. And while you and I both serve food, I think it's important and interesting to learn how other people approach the world. And maybe all guests don't like food? I mean I hadn't ever considered that, but it might be a thing! :)

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    3. As a fellow Italian, I couldn't agree more. I would feel like an utter failure if I didn't send adult or child away with a little something in their belly.

      In the summer, I fill our deep freezer in the garage with popsicles and ice cream. I put out a water dispenser and paper cups on hot days. My house is filled with neighborhood friends I think this gives my kids a sense of community. I like that I know where my kids are and what they're doing, and I love knowing their friends. If I'm worried it's close to the dinner hour, I text the moms and make sure a fruit bar is a-ok. I hope I'm teaching my kids hospitality and ways to be kind in small ways.

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  12. I totally get food as hospitality. I just really never think about it outside of mealtimes. My general response to snacks is, "Didn't we just eat?" or "Aren't we fixin' to eat?"

    I guess I have a three fold hangup with the snacks. 1) I'm at work at the time a reasonable snack might be had so it has never become part of the rhythm of my day. 2) Oh, the kitchen! Dragons be there. 3a) When I eat a snack, I am not hungry for the next meal or 3b) When I eat normal meals, I am not hungry for a snack.

    So I don't know, the whole process stresses me out and then they don't want supper. Maybe, one fine day, I'll become that house which is warm and inviting and cozy, but, right now, I'm just hanging on for dear life.

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    1. Working outside the home changes things a lot in this regard, I think. AND your kitchen is definitely not conducive to hanging out and enjoying each other, that is for sure!

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    2. We have fantasies about knocking down walls and putting in real windows that open to the real outside!

      Like, how much would knocking out the whole back wall cost? We could even put in a dining room that the table would fit in! Dreams, dreams. :)

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    3. I don't know that food is the ticket to being hospitable. It's just one hospitality language. It's got so much more to do with being welcoming and open...with or without food. :) (And Dweej...forcing food is NOT a love language. I got you some stories about that!)

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  13. So I'm reading this the morning after about thirty students and teachers crashed my house after graduation, and I fed them even though I was totally exhausted because that's just what you DO!
    This is such a huge thing for me. We have people at our house ALL the time, and honestly, feeding them is my favorite part of that. It is satisfying and simple, and helps everyone be more firmly connected to the present, is what I've noticed. I can't even limit this to my home...I'm always baking for my students too, because it makes a difference, it just DOES. Have a cookie and make good choices is pretty much my teaching motto!
    One of our guys just finished his freshman year and was imparting his wisdom and experience to a bunch of the teens last night. "English class was the most difficult to get used to, man." He informed them. "Because it's so much harder?" They asked. "No, not really. It was because nobody gave me a cookie every Monday for doing my homework..."

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  15. Growing up, this was always my house. Our neighbor kids would always be over. My mom was just mom. I need to get my patoot in order to make our home more readily hospitable. I desperately want the same thing but would be mortified if most people just swung by. Oh, and we are out of snacks. :) I don't think your efforts are a pipe dream. I think that this is exactly how we make our homes safe and places of refuge when those trying years come by. Even if we aren't their first confidant, we are home base. Love this so much.

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  16. It occurs to me that maybe some people confuse "snacks" with "meals"? Some of the best "snacks" I've had in other people's homes were simple things like tea and toast with butter.

    It doesn't have to be fancy or plentiful in order to communicate hospitality. :)

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