. Feeding the Neighborhood
I have a question. Do you have any advice about dealing with snacks and meals for children’s friends during the summer? Let me explain. I have two sons that are 7 and 8. On our street there are 12 boys in that age group, (and that doesn’t include girls!) I like to give them inexpensive snacks during the summer, like bubble gum, Popsicles, popcorn, suckers, etc., and I also feed them lunch if they are at our house at lunch time. However I have noticed that the numbers are growing and I’m feeding more and more children.
Some of the neighbors do the same thing, but others seem to be perfectly happy to have their children eat over and never reciprocate. I want to be charitable and kind to the children, but it’s getting to be time consuming and I find myself having negative feelings about it. I’m also having trouble explaining to my children why it is not appropriate to bring all the kids home for lunch or to go over to the neighbor’s house and ask for food.
I would really like to hear your opinion on this subject.
One thing must be born in mind: YOU HAVE A PROBLEM!
1) All things must be done in order, with moderation, and with a pattern. Otherwise you are going to be feeding the whole neighborhood and then some EVERY day. And your resentment will grow and grow. Besides, there is no easy method to appropriately and completely be compensated by others (so don’t plan on it).
2) The best way to rein in a situation which has grown out of control is to IMMEDIATELY set parameters which best meet your needs:
a) Set up a plan. How many days will you entertain youthful guests at your home? How many children will you feed? How will you ask the children to leave when you are having a lunch meal alone or when you are having a lunch meal with only certain children?
b) Sit down with your children and explain your challenge. Children tend to repeat what you say [i.e. don’t say this is a problem or I don’t like feeding so many kids] and so you will need to put a positive spin on it [i.e. we are going to initiate a new plan to have special picnic days with our friends].
c) Suggest to them your new plan, ask for their approval and cooperation. Set the plan in place by informing every child that comes into the home during the next week (when they arrive) of your new plan. This avoids embarrassment when you have to tell them to leave later or tell them that you will not be serving lunch (just as they are noticing that you are getting out the food).
3) Some possible plans are:
a) Treat day (Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.). A “feed the clan” picnic on Fridays. All comers welcome.
b) Snacks served whenever but no more children for lunch. Once a month have a picnic at a local park (where each child is to bring his own lunch).
c) Lunch “invitations” are given out to one guest per your child on any given day. This way you will be only feeding twice the number of children you have. (This has challenges because then someone has to leave without being fed. And what if there are many children playing all morning?)
4) Tell children when they first arrive in the morning that you will be having a backyard picnic today and they can skip home and bring back a sack lunch if they want to join you.
5) Teach your children to come home when they are hungry and only accept an meal invitation if it is extended, they have called home, and have asked permission. Setting this example will help other families get the point quickly and politely without you making a major deal of the problem.
Good luck! I am sure that you can do what needs to be done to keep it a wonderful summer without resentment or inconvenience past what you can accept!
Find more helpful ideas in the House of Order Handbook.
Photo from sxc.hu. Used with permission.