“Look at what I made,” says my son, holding up to me his newest drawing.
I respond, “Just one more second, mommy needs to finish up this email.”
“Can you look now?”
“Of course, tell me about your picture while I cut up these veggies for dinner?”
As I cut, he explains his picture to me. Sometimes it’s a superhero or a scene from his favorite tv show. Sometimes it’s a drawing of him helping me in the kitchen. Every picture, however, is in some way a description of how he sees himself, what is important to him, what he wants to be like, or how he understands his place in our family. He is looking for affirmation, an opportunity to mutually express our family’s values as well as his own sense of self and belonging. And he finds that affirmation through our family’s practice of hospitality.
Hospitality is a spiritual practice of mutual respect, where all parties are welcomed as valuable contributors to communal goals. Genuine hospitality fosters collaborative relationships where differences are welcomed and appreciated and no one person’s perspective is valued over another’s viewpoint
In families, this means creating spaces where every family member’s unique interests, personal identity, opinions, and skills are not just tolerated but welcomed. Unfortunately, due to the many demands on parents’ and children’s time, energy, and focus, we often forget to practice hospitality with one another on a regular basis. Instead, we bark directions or listen with just half an ear while our child chatters away about their latest passion. In return, our children learn to seek us out only when they need something or have a spare minute between their own activities.
Here are a few questions to help you reflect on the practice of hospitality that you are modeling in your home.
- In what ways has my child felt close to the other members of our family today? When have I felt especially close to my child today?
- In what ways have I made space for my child to tell me about the things that interest them?
- Based on observing me, what would my child say are the most important things in my life?
- Where have you seen your child work collaboratively with other family members today?
When answering these questions, practice self-compassion. Parenting is filled with moments when you feel inadequate, overwhelmed, and maybe even guilty. Instead of feeling like a failure or beating yourself up for what you should have done, let these targeted questions spur different actions as you embrace the practice of family hospitality.