Bored Housewives Network

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Ask a Bored Housewife: What to Do When Hosting Overly Rowdy Young Guests

Dear Bored Housewives,

This weekend, my husband and I sponsored a going away party for some friends. We invited our circle of mutual friends and their children (approx. 30 adults and 10 kids/babies) for coffee and dessert. It was a laid back Sunday evening, nothing fancy.

Among our guests were three couples with a total of five 3- and 5-year-old boys between them. Said boys immediately began jumping up and down on our sectional sofa and pulling it apart. First graders were running around ON the couch. They were standing on the back, jumping off, then scrabbling up and over. Repeatedly. Couch cushions were placed in the middle of the floor to make a fort.

Setting aside my momentary embarrassment at the unexpected exposure of a forgotten hair clip, stray piece of popcorn and other detritus that collects under a couch's cushions, I was stunned that these kids would treat someone else's property that way. I'm fairly laid back about these things, and do not generally overreact to incidental property damage (earlier in the evening I watched a favorite vase fall and shatter due to a guest's enormous handbag and didn't blink -- these things happen) so please believe that I do not exaggerate when I say that my couch is destroyed. Cushions sag, springs audibly creak, one leg is cracked, and the hardwood floor beneath is scratched.

Aside from that, the jumping, whooping and wrestling kept the other guests from being able to sit in that room, or maintain a conversation over the din. The three mothers were sitting directly across from the couch in the only other available chairs in that room, watching bemusedly as their kids ruined my couch, and offered a half-hearted, "Sorry about this..." while my husband was literally lifting the section pieces back into place multiple times during the course of the evening. These are women who are intelligent professionals who generally appear to have their lives in hand. I've been to their homes and spent time with their kids, who are normally fairly well behaved, and have never seen this crazed behavior.

Neither my husband nor I made any overt comments (i.e. "Get the hell off the couch!") to the boys or their mothers (or fathers -- who were not in the room) but did comment pointedly that the boys were "spirited" and mused that they must really like the cookies. As a parent, I would have picked up on this hint, and done something about my child's rowdy behavior, but I am not unsympathetic to the fact that sometimes children just don't act they way you want them to in public. What puzzles me is that these women didn't even try to control their kids. They didn't split them up, give them a warning, or issue a lackluster "Honey, no." They didn't even make them take their shoes off!

My question is this:

Where do I draw the line between not wanting to make comment on a friend's lack of parental control, and protecting my couch from sofacide? Am I crazy for being angry at these moms who blithely murmured, "Sorry for tearing up your house" as they sailed out the door to go home? Did holding my tongue serve as tacit permission for the kids to act that way? My husband and I have crossed them off our list of people to invite into our home, unless we're having a strictly backyard affair, but we entertain a lot and I'd like to know what I could/should say if this situation comes up in the future. Thanks.

Sign me,
I don't live at Gymboree for a reason

Ooh, that's a juicy one to start the week. What do you make of this, O Wise BHNers?


  • At 6:36 AM, Blogger landismom said…

    I totally agree with Karen. I have no problem telling other people's kids to stop doing stuff in my house. I think that this is one of those weird realizations that we all come to at one point or another as parents--that moment where, "isn't someone going to stop them from doing that?" turns into, "I have to be the one who stops them from doing that." When I became a parent, I truly became an adult.

  • At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree. It is your house and your rules. If you had said something about keeping the kids off your furniture I am sure the moms would have put more effort in to keeping them in line. It is easy to be pissed off at the mom's for supposedly not doing anything, but where were the Dads? Nowhere close by...of course.

  • At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a PS, I think the comment below could only have been written by someone who doesn't have kids:

    "As a parent, I would have picked up on this hint, and done something about my child's rowdy behavior"

    Everyone (esp non parents) has opinions on what they would do if they were parents. People can't really know how they would behave in a situation unless they have lived thru it. When it comes to children and parenting, you really DON'T know until it is you. I have made that mistake many times, passing judgment on the "bad" behavior of my friends two year old, while my sweet 6 months old sat there smiling and well behaved. Now I have a 20 month old who is an independant person. She has certainly knocked me down off of any pedestal I ever stood on.

  • At 10:27 AM, Blogger ... said…

    I dunno. If my daughter started acting like that at someone's place she would be warned once and then removed. Kids can get crazy in a group and there's that whole mob mentality thing... It would have been totally okay if you had corrected the kids - after all, it is your home.

    But I'm more of the mind that these parents should have controlled their children and used the opportunity teach them the appropriate way to treat other people's homes and property. I can't speak for other parents and yes, my daughter has chosen the worst times and places to act out - but, she knows if she pushes it we leave.

  • At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree: children should be taught manners. By age 3, they should be able to remove their shoes, play without destroying your living room, and speak without yelling. Their parents are not doing them any favours by letting them behave that way, and you are totally justified in cutting them from your invitation list.

    (And if I let Jonah act like a terror in public without consequences, remind me of my firm opinions here!)

  • At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks everyone! I really wanted to get righteous with these kids, and I think I would have if their parents had wandered away, but it's a strange dynamic to start pointing out seemingly obvious things like little boys don't belong on top of couches, when their moms are right there. Whoever credited the mob mentality is right. I think the boys could sense that if they stuck together, no parent could hope to wade into the fray without losing a body part. In any event, I plan to follow your advice and stick up for my house rules when parents drop the ball. P.S. to Alison: I really do have children (twins). Prior to becoming a parent, I worried about how I would handle situations like this. Faced with the real thing, my regular tricks are usually enough, but occasionally I have had to leave events when my kids put the less desirable parts of their personalties on full display.

  • At 9:11 PM, Blogger Tammy said…

    I'll second everyone else's great feedback and advice. Ultimately, it's the parents' responsibility to control their children, but if they're not stepping up to the plate, then you're always within your rights to step in and nicely but firmly let the kids know the rules.

    I'll add one other tip that I don't think I've seen mentioned here. When I know I'm going to have younger guests, I try to give some thought to what they're going to do for the 3+ hours that most get-togethers seem to last. If the weather's nice and the kids can go outside, great! But if they have to be indoors, then either have toys and art supplies on hand, or, if you don't have such things, encourage the parents to bring some from home.

    I can remember being a kid and going to big family gatherings with tonnes of other kids and no toys, and we all went MENTAL with boredom. I mean, you should expect good behaviour from children, but you have to be realistic about it.

  • At 10:29 PM, Blogger Jennifer (ponderosa) said…

    Your job is not to discipline other people's kids but to let them know what your rules are. So you can say something like, boys, no jumping on the couches in this house and then an explanation aside to the parents: it's an heirloom, it's my favorite piece of furniture ... whatever.

    Then if the parents know your rules but still don't discipline their kids, you are right to call them pigs : )

    It's also true that boys form packs. That's an awful lot of kids in a house, if it were even remotely possible I'd have thrown them outside. Or built an obstacle course for them. If you don't direct their energy, they will direct their energy at you!

  • At 7:45 AM, Blogger Tallis Ford said…

    I just wanted to second Doppleganger's comment that i agree with everyone that the behavior of the kids was inappropriate but with that many of them cooped up in a house i think it makes sense that in the future they need to have some activities or games/crafts to keep them occupied. Kids shouldn't be climbing on your couch but kids do act their age and especially when in groups it seems even those that could play independently just fine are suddenly demanding entertainment.

  • At 9:22 PM, Blogger adventures in disaster said…

    Because you allowed the behaviour the mothers acted like the pigs they were and shrugged.
    Personally I would have asked to speak privately with each mother and told them kindly that the couch is expensive and will be difficult to repair or replace so it would be advisable that they get their little darling under control.
    At this point I would send each family a short note explaining the couch damage and the floor damage. Don't ask for money or an apology..just state the facts and sign off.
    Anyone who calls with an apology or sends cash gets reconsideration as a person you would re invite..anyone who doesn't gets written off.
    If you have no manners and your children are monsters you don't deserve invitations to other peoples homes.
    So, if you are sitting home alone wondering why your friends stopped inviting you to their house..catch the clue.


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