Wally Waffles asks:
A friend of mine with two kids wants to visit me this summer and stay at my house. The two kids (both girls – who are like 11 and 7?) do absolutely nothing to help out when they are visiting. Nothing. They don’t even take their own plates to the kitchen after dinner. I’m single with no kids, so feel uncomfortable asking them to do things – but it is a source of tension for me. We spent xmas together last year and I felt like I was having to do everything for the two kids and their dad (who also does nothing). And I really needed a vacation too! Any advice on how someone who doesn’t have kids can address this? I just don’t want to have them come and wreak havoc on my house and expect me to do everything for them. I will be resentful and frustrated. Of course, I could ask them to stay elsewhere, but this is an ongoing issue.
#Disclaimer. We’re from the Midwest and midwestern hospitality rules are clear that good guests clean up after themselves and offer to help in the kitchen and doing yardwork and maybe helping with that new deck or whatever big project the host has been putting off (if healthy and able to help). Hosts are to play the 3 asks game with the guests to determine which help they are willing to accept and which help they aren’t (as well as the extent to which guests actually want to help). We understand that hospitality rules outside the Midwest aren’t quite so orchestrated, but guests should still use the rule that they provide as little work as possible for the host, including cleaning up after themselves, as a minimum, and offer to help out otherwise. They should also take the host for a meal out and pay for it.
The dad who does nothing is the bigger problem than the kids in terms of being a good host. You can ask the kids to put plates away but it’s less polite to ask the dad. I mean, you still can, but it depends on how good of friends you are. He sounds like he was raised in a barn and is raising his children the same way.
Personally I wouldn’t have them at my house. It sounds awful. I would have a hard time spending time with the guy at all.
That said you have options.
1. See what happens when you cheerfully ask the dad to help out in the kitchen and tell the girls it’s cleanup time. This could go fine or it could result in dad writing a dear Wally letter later (my parents got a bizarre letter telling them they were awful hosts for asking the husband of a couple help with outside (bbq) grilling when they stayed at our house while traveling across the country—no big loss).
2. Talk to the dad ahead of time saying you’re happy to have them but you were exhausted last year/last summer and they need to help out.
3. They stay elsewhere or just don’t visit this year.
Back when I was always on childcare duty at DH’s in-laws, I would make sure every play session ended with a clean-up session. Kids were willing to take instruction from me. I have never felt the least qualm telling other people’s kids to help out. And I’m perfectly happy for other people to instruct my kids to clean up after themselves (#daycare). Some parents don’t like it though. So it’s not like it’s a sure thing– the dad might get irritated. If he does, then you have to think about how much you value his friendship if he gets upset vs. you being resentful from him being a dick.
They may know this song (not from Barney, but from preschool or elementary school). Almost every kid I’ve interacted with knows exactly what to do when I start singing it and sings along too.:
But again, the problem is not the kids– you can ask them to pick up after themselves. It’s the Dad who is old enough to know better and is old enough to be a good example and to guide his kids.
Grumpy Nation: What advice do you have for Wally?