Hope you didn’t want to use the fan!
Maybe there’s something wrong with me. If so, then I depend on you, my friends and readers, to set me straight. Over the past three years, I have hosted many missionary families. Most have well-behaved children, but some are literally raising holy terrors.
One family came with their four children and the nanny, and within the first ten minutes their child had broken the ceiling fans in both bedrooms—and this was their oldest child, a ten-year-old—a child that is old enough to know better.
Another family had children that opened the refrigerator and just stood there looking into it, like it was a TV or something.
I often leave out a dish of individually-wrapped candies, but I’ve learned to put the candies away when families with kids come. Some kids literally have no brakes, and will eat the candies until they are all gone, leaving the wrappers strewn all over the house.
One family’s kids, aged five and two, played with the light switches, turning the lights on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off, on and off . . . until finally, I had to say something: “The light switch is not a toy.” At that point, the parents, who had been there all along, chimed-in.
With two- and three-year-olds, I know that there are many things that I have to move out of their reach, but with a five-year-old? I raised two kids of my own, so I know that a five-year-old is perfectly capable of understanding if you tell her not to take the bookmarks out of my books.
In fact, this same kid put candy wrappers in the pages of my Bible, while my bookmark was nowhere to be found. I showed her dad, and he said, “She just doesn’t understand. I’ll talk to her.” And a few minutes later, I did hear him talk to her: “You mustn’t put your candy wrappers into Mrs. Alisa’s Bible.”
I physically cringed because the Bible was sitting in front of me in the next room. He had removed the wrappers and put it back for me before talking to the child. I knew that she didn’t understand what in the world he was talking about. On hearing the word Bible, she probably thought of his Bible, which looks completely different from mine. If he had done what I did: show her the Bible with the candy wrappers still in its pages, she would probably have understood. It’s very possible that she doesn’t even remember putting the candy wrappers into the pages—again a reason to show her what she had done.
I’m not precious about the things in the apartment. I have said many times that this is God’s house. He is good enough to let me live here, but I do have a responsibility to be a good steward of what He has given me to take care of.
I sometimes wonder, do these people let their kids slam, slam, slam, slam, slam the door at home, just for the joy of hearing the loud noise they’ve made? I’ve got neighbors to think of. They hear these things, too.
And in all this, the parents are not absent, they’re just not paying attention to their kids. Often, they are right there when their children are acting wildly. They only say something after I’ve said, “Leave the Kleenex box alone—it’s not a toy,” after their four-year-old has entertained himself by pulling out one tissue after another, after another, after another, after another, almost emptying the box. Suddenly aware of the inappropriate play, the parent jumps into action, gathering up all the tissues off the floor and stuffing them back into the box. He laughs and says, “He’s never seen a Kleenex box before.” Like that makes it OK for him to let the kid go through all the tissues like that?
Do their kids act like this in their own house? I sincerely doubt it. I know they come to me tired from traveling with the kids, but what do I do? Either I let these children literally tear the house apart or I become the one to tell them no. And except for a few extreme cases that may require an exorcism, the majority of kids understand and meet my reasonable expectations. But why do I have to do the parenting? Honestly, it makes me want to screen families for lazy parenting.
This is not a hostel, this is ministry. I don’t have a supernatural gift for hosting, I have to work hard to help people feel comfortable, welcome, and relaxed here. I don’t dislike kids. In fact, I don’t blame the kids in any of these cases. But I would like to not be put into the situation of having to parent other people’s kids for them.
Am I wrong? If I’m being unreasonable, please leave a comment below. . . . and I’ll be out of town when you and the kids want to come for a visit. God is good, even if some parents are not.