“Mommy, we’re on our way back from Jerusalem. Can we come home with the team for dinner?”
“The team? The whole team? At 11 at night?”
This was my conversation with my oldest son three years ago. He had just started high school at a boarding school 45 minutes south of our house. When the basketball team has away games, the kids often don’t get a chance to eat dinner before they leave for the game. And even if they do eat – they do so early and are ready for another dinner after the game. When they play in Jerusalem, they travel by our house to get back to school.
So, the first time this happened, I thought it was absolutely insane; I ran to change out of my pajamas and started throwing frozen pizzas into the oven and pasta onto the stove. They piled into the house, these big, hungry boys and I prayed that there was enough food. Not only was there enough food, but they swept my floors , cleaned the tables, put away the extra chairs and carried the trash out with them on the way back to their bus.
We were amazed by how appreciative and sweet the boys were, and how diligently they cleaned up without being asked.
Since then, Matan has learned that we love hosting his team and his friends – but that we appreciate a bit of warning. In the last three years, we’ve hosted his team a number of times; and as our second son joined the same school and the younger team there, we’ve hosted his team as well.
But we’ve never hosted them together. Last night, both teams played back to back games in Jerusalem. With 24 hours warning (such an improvement! The boys are learning!), the boys called to ask if we might (maybe? perhaps?) want to host both teams together for dinner. And of course we said yes.
Why do I say of course? Obviously hosting 35 hungry teenagers and their coach at 11 pm isn’t always an “of course.”
But for us, this was an “of course” moment. Here’s why.
Raising kids has an incredible learning curve to it, and this is particularly true for the first born. Raising them in a culture where they are 100% comfortable and we are between 20 and 80% comfortable at any given time is another level of learning curve. In our community, it’s culturally acceptable and often expected that the boys go to boarding school for high school. Needless to say, this has been an enormous adjustment for us (and even for our younger children) and we’ve learned that we need to grab the moments that we can with our older two.
If this means that we make memories by hosting 35 of their friends, and we have the opportunity to see them for an hour on an evening when they would typically be at school, then we say “yes!”. These changes require me to step outside of my comfort zone and I think this is so often true as we raise kids. While we are the parents and we set the rules, there are many ways in which we work to meet our kids half way. I’m one of those in-bed-by-10-with-a-book people. But my teenagers keep very different hours than I do, and I jump at the chance to see them and to enjoy time with them when I can.
I think this is a very important parenting lesson. This is not to say that every parent has to say yes to every crazy idea their kids might concoct, but it does mean showing flexibility and being willing to meet them where they are. We don’t always get to show our love the way that we might want to show it; rather we show it at times by stepping outside of our own comfort zone and meeting them in theirs.
Even when that comfort zone includes 7 frozen pizzas, 8 bags of pasta, popcorn, pretzels, chips, cut up vegetables, 17 bottles of drinks and 35 ice cream cones!
Lessons learned on the road to raising a crop of boys.