When I was growing up, we had an open-door policy at our house, meaning that during the day, our front door was always open, and we never expected our neighborhood buddies to knock.
We had a house full of neighborhood hoodlums at all times, and, mixed with the five of us, it was enough to drive any parent crazy.
Which, actually, we kind of did. My mom succumbed to a few rough years on the bottle and stepping out with gentlemen callers who most certainly weren’t my dad—but don’t worry, she’s all better now. And all’s well that ends well, right?
Anyhoo, the open-door policy was awesome and really worked out for everyone. Well, except for that one time when my childhood best friend, the boy that I grew up with who lived next door, walked in on my mom, who was walking down the hall naked because she had forgotten her towel after her shower and for some strange reason, our towel/linen closet was in the hallway.
None of us kids were even home, so not only was it an otherwise fruitless visit for the kid, but there was also no one there to share in his misery, the poor thing. He didn’t come over again for several days after that, and really, I’m not sure he was ever the same.
But I digress.
I realized once, in high school, that I had never even seen the inside of my childhood best friend’s house until we were 16 years old and he’d figured out that his downstairs rec room had one of those suspended ceilings that was the perfect hiding place for liquor bottles. I wasn’t even a big drinker back then—in fact, I wasn’t a drinker at all—but there was something exciting about standing on a stool, moving aside a piece of the ceiling, and shoving a liquor bottle inside. I almost felt…dirty.
To this day, I still have no idea how I had such cool friends when I would sit on the couch, watching them take shots with a prim look on my face, making sure they saw me as I did the Sign of the Cross over their liquor-filled faces.
But even then, I was still the one with the fun house. After they’d had fun taking their shots, we’d head back to my house and sit on the porch or back deck to hang out, our parents none the wiser.
What I’m trying to say in this roundabout way is that, as a mother now, I want my house to be the neighborhood fun house (minus the nakedness and the underage drinking, of course). I have so many good memories from living in the house that everyone wanted to come to growing up that I want to give that to my own kids.
I’m going to be the cool, fully-clothed neighborhood mom.
My husband usually enjoys having the ‘hood kids over, too, but there are times when I can tell he just wants a quiet evening at home. I always remind him on those days that if the neighborhood kids are over entertaining our own kids, that’s less work for us. They usually only leave the playroom or the backyard to come and ask us for a few chicken nuggets and some Capri Suns—and you know what? I’ve gotten so efficient at this whole thing that I now have them at the ready.
“Of course, sweetie!” I’ll call to whomever it is—my own kids or a neighborhood stray—in my best June Cleaver from behind my computer. “It’s all on the table!”
The kids thank me, the neighborhood moms thank me (and feel like they owe me big time, even though it seriously makes my life easier), and I get some work done while feeling like pretty much the best mom in the world.
The point of all of this (I mean, there is one…kind of) is that it’s summertime now, and in a house with an open-door policy, that means lots of sleepovers with friends.
My older son had a little friend for a sleepover the other night, and the next morning, I spent about 10 minutes picking blueberries out of his blueberry pancake so that the gagging would stop. (He prefers plain pancakes, you see, but I didn't have any because I bought them frozen like this.)
I had to stop myself from curtsying and asking, "Is everything to your liking now, sire?" before adding a dollop of syrup and shuffling out of the room backwards.
But at least I had my clothes on, dammit. And the kids had fun.
Neighborhood domination, one blueberry at a time? CHECK