25 February 2016

Asserting Myself

I'm a quiet people-pleaser by nature, so I have a hard time asserting myself. Now that we have three kids and house, there are lots of family traditions I want to start or continue and ways I want to go about things in my new house. But I have to learn to set the rules and boundaries with guests, even if it annoys them and that's hard for me.

One example I've been working through is the use of our front door. I know it's a silly little thing, but it's important to me. So my house is situated such that the driveway and the front door are on two different roads. There is a short sidewalk that leads off the driveway to our back porch, which has been screened in. You can walk around to the front of the house, but you either have to cut across the snowy yard or follow the sidewalk around the pine tree.

The former owners used the back door as the front door, and everyone from the UPS guy to the neighborhood girl scouts come around that way. In fact, the UPS guy would rather leave a package outside the locked screen room in the rain or snow instead of walking around and putting it on my covered, cove-like front porch! It's so frustrating!

Now we're all settled and entertaining guests who've never been here before, yet almost every single person naturally goes around to the back of the house to come in the back door! Matt swears it's because there is a sidewalk right off the driveway, but I'm not fully convinced. I mean, a back door is one thing, but an enclosed screen room? It's pretty much a private space. I would not venture through one to go visit someone unless they specifically asked me to come through the back door. I mean, I know the front door is all the way around the corner and us Americans already get way too much exercise, but come on - it's a cozy and inviting covered front porch with flowers (or, there will be soon) and front steps!

The driveway street sees a decent amount of traffic, and not everyone obeys the speed limit, but there is street parking on Slow Street, which pretty much only hosts people living on this block. If I were a visitor, I'd definitely gravitate toward parking on the street and walking up the front walk. (The house really does have nice curb appeal!)

It bugs me for two main reasons. First, snow gets tracked through the screen room (which has terrible drainage), then the back door opens into a narrow hallway with no good place to put shoes and coats. The floors are wood, which means I need to worry about salt and melting snow from people's shoes. The front door opens onto a foyer with space for people to take off their shoes and coats, slate floors, tons of space to store said melty shoes, and a closet for coats.

The second reason is that I'd have to keep the screen door unlocked and I use the screen room as a staging place for kids coming in and out of the car. In the winter, I like to warm up the car, which I obviously need to have the garage door open to do. Right now I leave Abigail in the screen room and get the two babies loaded up, then come back for her. If I left her in the garage, she'd bolt for the street. If I left the door unlocked, I'd inevitably forget to lock it when we came out, and while I'm mindlessly loading Eleanor in, Abigail would open the door and bolt for Fast Road. I can't leave her in the house because she'll run downstairs and take her coat and shoes off.

It's just better for everyone if guests use the front door. But some people get annoyed with me!
"We tried the back door, but it was locked," the first thing they say after, "Hello."
One person in my life is actively mad at me for keeping the screen door locked.
It might help if I ran though my reasons whenever someone complained, but I don't want to have to explain myself like some naughty little girl waiting for the judge to issue approval. If I want people to use the small yellow bathroom or not to take self-guided tours through my house (and closets), I have that right. But I don't know how to assert that right or to handle it when people get unjustly offended.

I also don't know the proper etiquette to handle guests' kids. I'm not a natural with kids (I do try! Fake it till you make it!) But what do you do when you discover an unflushed toilet with the seat up? (It gets worse, but I'll spare you the details.) Or your kid covered in ashes from the downstairs stove when your kid isn't capable of opening up the door to the stove? Or a door open to a room you said no one could go in? Do you rally up all the kids and have a big lecture? Do you ask the oldest kid to tattle on one of his or her siblings? Do you make a list of rules and go over them every time you invite someone over to dinner like a school marm?

Thankfully the back door issue will resolve itself soon, as we are going to finish fencing in the backyard and get a dog as soon as the ground thaws. (At least, I hope no one jumps the fence into a backyard with a dog. Maybe I should check with Matt for our liability on that one.) But I am hosting my first family holiday this Easter and that will certainly put my ability to enforce boundaries and limitations to the test. I am going to do things a bit differently than they've ever been done before, I need to set aside (and enforce!) a place for my extremely crowd-resistant daughter to retreat, and I'm going to have to tell two people very close to me, "no." Not big deal "no," but any kind of "no" is hard.

Being an adult and being in charge can be very difficult, even when you know you are doing the right thing.


Anonymous said...

You have every right, and every parent friend/guest in your home should EXPECT you to lay the ground rules, or wade in when somebody gets into something they shouldn't. It is alarming to me when children walk around my place, looking into rooms, drawers, etc, without asking, or jumping on the couch and throwing toys around. It makes me wonder what on earth goes on at home. But I have no problem letting them know, even in front of Mom and Dad, that we do not do those things in our house.

I remember the state of shock and mystification when such things happened in FL, but I think my skin has definitely thickened over the years. I say, let yourself be MamaBear, set the rules, remind them of the rules, and keep the order you want in your home -even if that means telling the kid guests to help clean up the floor before they leave. TB (obviously, I have strong feelings on this issue!)

Matt said...

I recall seeing somewhere that kids who are really bad for their parents behaved for their grandparents because they set rules and enforced them. Kids are naturally curious and it is not surprising that they would explore this new, way-fun house. However, they also have a sense of authority and will push boundaries if no-one enforces it. Being your house, I think you should enforce the rules you expect from guests. The children, particularly, will then follow your lead and learn that they can't get away with things in your house.