Sitting at the breakfast table slurping my last spoonful of Honey Bunches of Oats, I felt a breeze behind me, then heard the screech of wheels rounding the corner. Based on the fraction of a second between the breeze and the screech, whatever it was that just blasted through the kitchen was moving fast. I whipped my head around to see my nine-year-old son, Collin, racing down the hallway on his roller blades. "Whoa, whoa, no, no, NO!" I hollered after him. "Not in the house!"
Collin spent a lot of time over school vacation week this holiday with a friend who lives around the corner. Their home is different from ours. They're a hockey family, and we're not talking just tickets to the Bruins. Their house is a rink - with furniture. The kids' rollerblades have worn a groove into the hardwood floors. Doors and walls have weathered more than a few collisions. There might even be some blood. To their credit, our neighbors have raised a brood of great hockey players, but most families choose to put a limit on the amount of fun allowed in the home.
Raising kids to enjoy - but also to respect -- your home and its furnishings is a challenge. We've seen the gamut in our clients' homes. Some couples spend thousands on a mahogany dining room set, then let their children race toy cars on its gleaming finish. Conversely, one newlywed couple is wrestling with the decision of how to furnish the living room for this, their second marriage. He doesn't have children; she has three. He wants formal and fancy; she knows the carnage kids can inflict on furniture. If not managed with care, that situation has disaster written all over it.
So where is the happy medium? How can you satisfy an adult's need for beauty with a kid's desire for fun? It is not easy, but here are some ideas that may help you figure out a solution:
Give the kids a few areas in the house where they can be kids. We, as parents, should encourage playtime. Even some roughhousing is healthy. Big or small, some part of your home should be dedicated to fun. And when things get a bit out of hand, as my Mother used to holler to us: "Take it out to the front yard!"
Create a warm, cozy place in your home where you can come together as a family. A place where everybody is comfortable. A place where you won't trip over toys. A place where kids can snuggle up with Mom and Dad.
And, yes, your home should have some special items that are meaningful to your family. Maybe they are costly new pieces that create a certain look. Maybe they are treasured heirlooms passed down from parents or grandparents. One of the responsibilities of parenting is teaching kids to treat special possessions - their own and others' - with respect. My Dad would drive me crazy when he would knock my feet off the coffee table. Somehow he could see the fresh scratch on the wall before entering the home from work. We put our dents in our home, but my brothers and I also learned the valuable lesson of respecting the family's hard earned assets.
And here's one last tip. New furniture can be very costly. But there's an alternative for those who value quality furniture -- while also understanding that indoor rollerblading on rare occasions (and snow days) might be necessary. Shop smart. Shop consignment. If you don't mind a tiny scratch or two, you'll find a great selection of quality pieces at Furniture Consignment Gallery in Hanover and now in Chestnut Hill. They didn't have consignment stores like ours when I was growing up. If there had been, I'm sure my family would have been regular visitors.