That time I took back the dinner party

Mandy Arioto honestly

Hello, Dearest …

When my kids were little it felt exhausting to invite people over. Just the thought of having to clean my house and do even one more dish seemed like just about the worst idea I ever had. What I realized though is that if I want to raise kids who know how to be warm hosts in their own homes that I would need to model it. Cue the exhaustion. Seriously, another lesson that I had to model? Can’t I just read them a book about it?

Here is what I did. I decided to take back the dinner party. In order to get over my fears that my house would never be clean enough or my culinary skills weren’t up to par, I decided that I would play out my biggest fear. So I called some trusted friends (ones who had kids, they are my people, they get it) and invited them over for dinner. Right now. No time to clean, no time to make anything fancy. Just right now. And because they love me and know that I can be a little impulsive they said yes. I had zero time to consult Pinterest to find out what the necessary essentials where for hosting a dinner party. In fact I barely had time to change out of the purple sweat pants that I had been living in for two days straight (don’t you envy my husband?). Between making sure all of the underwear was off the floor and brushing my hair, the only time left for culinary genius was taking leftover lasagna out of the fridge to heat up. Yes, I served three day old leftovers to my friends for dinner. And you know what? It was one of the best dinner parties I have ever thrown. I didn’t have time to stress about making ever detail perfect. I wasn’t running around like a mad woman yelling at my kids to shove their toys under the bed. I actually enjoyed myself.

I don’t believe in giving advice. My comfort level looks more like sitting down over a cup of tea and swapping stories about what is working right now for our family. So, here is how we are living in order to help our kids see that showing hospitality is a good thing.

Giving up the idea that our house has to be perfectly spotless. If we waited to have a perfectly spotless house before people could come over, no one would ever cross the threshold of our door. Ever. This is a tough one for me. I like to have people think that I keep my house immaculately clean. But the truth is I don’t. So I remind myself that I have had more fun in places where I was welcomed with hugs, sat on a couch covered with dog hair and feed leftovers. Deep breaths help a little too.

Make something simple. I know, Giada De Laurentiis wants you to believe it’s all about the food, but it’s not. Make a simple dinner and remember the experience is about being together. I believe hotdogs can communicate love just as well as filet mignon.

Ask your guests to help.This is something I learned from from my Uncle Jodi. Yes, she is woman and yes I call her uncle. Long story. Anyways, I purposely ask guests to help with small things when they arrive. It gives them something to do rather than just standing around and the truth is, people like to participate.

No space is too small. We have a postage size house, which always made me feel like we couldn’t invite a lot of people over. Until we did. And now every Wednesday night we open our house to anyone who wants a place to hang out. Everyone is free to come over for dinner and to stay as late as they want. You know what? On any given Wednesday night we have the most eclectic mix of people you have ever met. College students, neighbors, wisdom friends (read over 65), singles and marrieds. Kids from down the street who use bad words and Curt who also uses bad words which is why they love being around him. Friends are packed in like sardines and they keep coming back for more. Sometimes it is nice to be close to one another. Don’t let space define you.

Ask good questions. One of the best ways to connect with friends is to ask great questions. I love to ask questions that help me learn more about their lives and how they feel about things. Everyone appreciates when someone makes the effort to learn unique things about them.

The mantra at our house is that that it’s more important to do it wrong than not at all. So invite people over, heat up some lasagna and don’t worry about perfection. And if for some reason three days go by and the dishes are still your sink, don’t stress about it. Chances are your hubby will give in and do them for you.

I would love to hear about what is working for you right now. Leave a comment and share your favorite tips for entertaining.