We had a slew of people visit us from Indianapolis for a few days over the 4th, effectively filling our little house to noisy, joyful capacity (total bodies: 8 adults, 2 toddlers, 2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 fish. Plus 6 additional dinner guests on Friday.) Birdy had a fabulous time with her small friend P.,we laid on old blankets to watch fireworks in the park in our neighborhood and Bird spent half the time with her hands on top of her head, afraid the fireworks would fall on her. She and P. ate popsicles that stained their skin green until morning, despite heavy scrubbing. We all stayed up too late and ate too much. We talked about old times and how much things have changed. We laughed at my dog’s haircut. We waited in line for the one shower in my 80-year old house. We braved the heat.
I love to be the host of that kind of party. It was perfect.
I read something in a glossy home magazine recently about a woman who, of course, had some fabulously rustic summer home in, like, France or something, and it was all about her laid-back style of hosting (she doesn’t match towels!) (Mama says WTF, do people really match their towels?) and how she hosts these lounge-y weekends with fabulously simple dinners at an enormous table probably with fireflies and famously interesting people lolling around on hammocks with candles hanging from the trees, smoking fancy cigarettes and having a few too many glasses of wine, everyone jolly and singing a little too loudly and helping cook breakfast in the morning.
Well. Our style of hosting is more of a fend-for-yourself, you-know-where-the-band-aids-are, if-you-want-a-clean-shower-here's-a-sponge model. And yet, we still have loads of guests year-round, so that must be somewhat appealing. Or at least not completely revolting. Anyway.
This woman in the magazine was talking about her steady stream of summer guests and how she felt it was good for her children as they grew up, that it encouraged spontaneity and joy de vivre, that observing an unscripted, uncensored moment around the grown-up table was healthy and made kids feel included, valued, one of the pack.
Recently, someone I respect very much wondered aloud if our constant visitors were causing stress to our little Bird. It was a part of a larger conversation about attention-seeking behaviors that really made me feel helpless and honestly, hurt my little feelings as a full-time worker bee who’s just trying her damndest to be a good mama.
Uh-oh. Shake it off.
Anyway. I believe that yes, Birdy does need very special one-one-one attention from us. And she also needs to be left alone (within earshot) to get lost in her little world of babies and songs and playdough pancakes. And I believe it’s good for her, on occasion, to be a valued member of a raucous bunch of good-natured and treasured friends, where everybody cooks and everybody parents, where people aren’t hanging on her every precious word and she can gain the confidence to strike up conversation with anyone, even (gasp) a grown-up, or feel loved enough by a non-family member to snuggle on the couch with her favorite grown up friend A.L., or discuss scarecrows in-depth with a plentifully tattooed photographer friend, or rub a pregnant guest’s belly and ask two hundred questions and never feel embarrassed, or too young, or insignificant. It's good for her to have structure, yes, but it's good for her to learn that you don't always have to give a shit about bedtime. That sometimes things not going according to plan is the plan. That friends can be family and you can never be loved too much.
(Wish I would have thought to say that then.)