Be Kind and HAVE FUN! - originally posted 5/20/2014

NOTE: I originally wrote this post over two years ago. All week long, (as it's the first week of school), we have been talking about being kind to our friends, our classmates, our teachers, our friends, our bus driver, the younger kids at school, etc. I went back and read this post as I was updating the blog, and I thought that the timing was right to re-post it...hope you all survived the first week of school, whether it was last week or before that...and if this coming week is your first week, hold on for the ride ;)

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Original post from 5/20/2014

Last week was a week full of dinners with friends and impromptu play dates. Here's how it all played out:

We had a farewell dinner of sorts for some of our friends/neighbors towards the beginning of the week. I made my Tomato Pie and Food and Wine's Grilled Mini Meatloaves. My friend brought a delicious salad with homemade balsamic dressing and some yummy cookies. The night was laid back and so much fun for us and the kids.

The next night was dinner with my best friend from Wake and her two kiddos. We are making a concerted effort to get our families together once a week since her youngest couldn't remember my name!!!  (He's barely 3 but STILL!) I grabbed some premade crabcakes from Trader Joe's and put them over a simple salad with blue cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. Again, a fun night, but my friend and I decided there's a reason we usually drink wine when we get all of our kids together ;)

Thursday afternoon, a friend of mine asked if her two boys could come home on the bus with my oldest child. (I am still working on "Paying It Forward" and my boys love these boys so it was a no-brainer.) They stayed for a play date, and, as they were leaving, my friend found out that her husband's flight was delayed, and I found out that my husband needed to stay late for a meeting. Well, after a quick trip to the grocery store for salad fixings and a phone call to Papa John's, it was another play date/dinner with friends. Done and done!

Saturday, another of my best friends from Wake who lives in Charlotte drove up for the day with her two kids. We had a picnic at Wake (totally forgot about it being WFU graduation on the quad...oops!) and then came back to my house to meet our other best friend and to put the littles down for naps and let the bigger kids play. They had a blast as did we. There is nothing better for my soul than time with my best girlfriends!! They stayed through dinner...she brought Barefoot Contessa's Roast Chicken for us to enjoy, and I provided the sides.

I absolutely LOVED spending this time with family friends this past week. Now, I don't want you to leave here thinking that everything is always perfection...the image that I imagine you have in your head is of me in a cute little apron serving a delicious meal while all of my kids are sitting quietly at the table, napkins in their laps, waiting for the blessing to be said. Riiiigggghhhhtttt...y'all have read enough of this blog to know that that is a false image that I do not wish to convey!

Any time you get entire families together, there are bound to be some sibling rivalries come to surface, personality conflicts, and maybe a smidge of grouchiness (amongst the kids, not the adults...of course). Those aspects of the play dates are ALWAYS outweighed by the benefits of the play dates, however, and, as I have said before, I HIGHLY encourage these afternoon play dates/dinners with friends especially when you're flying solo.  Sometimes the success of a play date is just a result of setting a few simple ground rules to (hopefully) be followed by all parties involved.

When you come to my house for a play date, there are two rules that I give you when you walk in the door: Be Kind and HAVE FUN! Now, there are LOTS more rules at my house, but there's just no need to get into all of them when kids are here for a limited amount of time and the point of their time here is genuinely to HAVE FUN! I have found over my six+ years of being a parent that these two rules (Be Kind and HAVE FUN!) encompass pretty much any conflict that could arise during a play date. If kids aren't being kind, someone's not going to be having fun. If someone's not having fun, they are likely to turn that into being unkind to either get attention or to try and make everyone else not have fun either. If I hear a raised voice or see tears, I can usually ask, "Is everyone having fun? Is everyone being kind?". Those are yes or no questions that leave little wiggle room for ambiguous answers.

Doesn't that apply to us as adults as well in some way? If we're not being kind (whether it's directed at someone, at a group of people, or just at ourselves) someone is not having "fun." And if we're not having "fun," (whether that looks like being sick, being overwhelmed, being in a bad place in our relationships, or just generally being crabby), it is a lot more difficult to be kind. When people are unkind, I find that it usually has little to do with what's lying on the surface. There is more to their story, more behind their being unkind. Sometimes, you have to peel the onion to get to the root of the problem, and sometimes you have to give people a little grace and just allow them to work things out in their own time. It's hard to not take unkindness personally, but I have found over the years and through many many amazing friendships that, more often than not, unkindness in either friends or from strangers usually has little to nothing to do with me (unless I know that I've done something that I need to apologize for...obviously!).

It is so hard to admit sometimes that we are not the centers of everyone's universe, so when we experience someone having a bad day, we sometimes jump to the conclusion that they're mad at us, that we did something wrong, that they don't like us, blah blah blah. I can tell you right now that when I am snippy and crabby, it rarely has anything to do with anyone other than me...even if it doesn't seem that way on the surface. I can blame other people (my husband, my kids, and my family usually get cast in this unfair role), but the bottom line is, I am the one who is responsible for my attitude. I am the one who can change my own tune and who can turn the day around. It's not anyone else's fault or's mine, 100% mine.

Like I said before, we all need grace at our non-finer moments, and it's our greatest friends who give us that grace and who love us despite our "cray-cray." It's those friends who can see beyond our words and our attitude to know that there's something deeper going on, that what we're talking about on the surface probably has nothing to do with what's really going on, that when we're not ourselves, there may be a problem that needs to be uncovered. I know it's hard, and I'm not be any means suggesting that we play mind games with each other or try to make something out of nothing, but I've been that crabby person who, upon lots of self reflection, realizes that what I think is the problem is really just a product of a deeper issue I'm having within myself.

Whew, I don't really know how to wrap this up other than to say, thank goodness there are those people out there who love me in spite of myself and for whom I do the same in return. Thank goodness there are friends who can come to dinner at my home and embrace what they're walking into. It's not going to be perfect, but I promise, I will Be Kind, and we will HAVE FUN!

Happy Cooking!

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