A friend regularly posts a thought-provoking ‘Question of the Day’ on Facebook, challenging many of us to focus on a certain perspective we might have on some aspect of life. Recently, his question was “What makes a house a home?”
Like so many of us, I grew up in a house, not a home. I have been developing a clearer understanding about the differences between the two, and just how important it is to be aware of and understand those differences. Houses can be very lonely places, whereas homes are usually vibrant.
My answer to the question was life, love and few house rules. These three ideas underlie principles of respect, trust and encouragement. With these as the foundation, a house will transform into a loving nurturing home, where children can grow up with healthy physical, psychological and spiritual strengths. They will also grow up to be tomorrow’s leaders.
I am often asked questions about children returning to the nest, visitors overstaying their welcome, and family who have decided your vacation pad will suit them just fine for an extended holiday. The question is usually something like, “How do I tell them I don’t want them to come back home, without hurting their feelings?” “How do I tell the brother I have not seen in several years that he can come for two days, but not a week, without hurting his feelings?” Or, “We don’t want unattended guests, or their pets in our vacation home because they make things so uncomfortable for us and are ill behaved, without hurting their feelings?” This tendency of being a doormat to the world is not required to live a fulfilled, good and happy life.
I answer these questions by stating that honesty is the best policy. If you cannot be clear in communicating with your friends and with your family, something is very wrong. Unfortunately, this is the case for many of us. We have busy lives – all of us. We have limitations on our time, and we deserve our privacy. We have friends who act disrespectfully when they come to visit, and we don’t appreciate that. But something blocks us from saying no. What is it?
We are afraid we will lose their friendship; they will think we are rude; they will think we don’t care; and on the list goes. The fact of the matter is that if everyone used some common sense and followed The Golden Rule, we wouldn’t anticipate and feel these fears nearly as deeply. From an early age, it is important to teach children that there should be no secrets, and that expressing how you feel is important and essential. There is no other way for people to know how we feel, and how their actions affect us unless we speak up.
There will be plenty of times when we may not be in the mood to entertain or to share our vacation home. But, there are also times when we need to reconsider our position. After all, we raise our children to do as we do, for better or for worse. This is the way societies are formed and maintained. We follow the leader, more or less. Sadly, in this politically correct fast-paced world, slowing down to reconsider our position is easier said than done. Therefore, a conscious effort must be made. It’s a reasonable practice to consider putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. But don't presume to wear those shoes before you have clearly stated your position as a host and friend.
Sharing our home is part of what makes a house a home. However, our home is our castle, and as such, deserves respect first and foremost. If we do not have guidelines for how we run our household, chaos can easily ensue. Having an open door policy might be a generous gesture, until you suddenly want your privacy. Parameters for privacy are the basis for creating and maintaining a home that is comfortable for its occupants, and will be welcoming for those visiting.
Once you have invited guests, remember that people appreciate house rules more than we realize. With guidelines in place, we don’t need to wonder or second-guess how a host likes things done. If, for example, you don’t want shedding dogs on your furniture, and your son’s new girlfriend owns a hairy dog, you need to be firm and explain that the dog is not to be on the furniture. If you don’t want to make your two daughters share a room in order to accommodate a visiting relative, be very clear and tell the prospective visitor(s) that you cannot accommodate them. You should feel no shame or guilt for adhering to your rules. You must learn to say NO. The anxiety of unwanted visitors and houseguests is just not worth being sick over or put out.
Mutual respect, caring for one another, and encouraging everyone to do their best is what makes a home welcoming, safe and nurturing. Like any community, no matter how large or small, households run more smoothly with house rules. When everyone lives by the rules of the house, there is very little room for misunderstandings, fears or resentments. The home becomes and remains a place for compassion, good times and love.