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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Parenting Tips: Spaghetti Night..revisited

By request I am repeating a blog entry from a while back.  It seems logical following Dr. Patch Adams' advice about neighborhood potlucks.  Maybe having kids over is less intimidating... besides... teenagers will eat almost anything and can be coerced into helping with promise of food. :-)

Try starting this new family tradition to get the family together and let you meet your kids friends at the same time. Institute a Friday Spaghetti Open for your household. [or Saturday if you prefer]
Here is how it works:

1. The kids have your okay to each invite a friend [one each] over for any Friday Spaghetti Open. [The more the merrier?] You might want to start by doing it on a specific Friday each month [ex: first Friday]. IF you like it and the process is running smoothly you can increase the frequency. The truly brave, flexible, [or slightly crazy?] can try every other Friday.

2. All people eating dinner must help prepare the dinner, set and clear the table, do the dishes and cleanup. [This includes guests and grownups.] Insist on this so that you only have to deal with the confusion and noise, not prep or cleanup too. Anyone who doesn't pitch in loses the privilege of having guests the next Spaghetti night. Half of the fun and benefit is in the cooperation of the project.

3. Mom or Dad will drive all guests home at a set time. [Choose one based on the age of the youngest child or on your tolerance for possibly loud but happy noise.] Stick to this even if all is going smoothly. Remember the theater adage to always leave them wanting more.

4. Keep extra spaghetti and jars of sauce in the cupboard at all times. Meat can be added to the sauce if you choose, but be sure you have a jar of meatless sauce available in case of vegetarian family members or guests.

Why spaghetti?
In my experience spaghetti is the best choice because it is easily expanded, cooks quickly [remember you aren't aiming for elaborate homemade sauce], most children like it, and clean up is simple. Even a very young pair of children can help with spaghetti and sauce. If a frequent guest [or their parent] offers to bring something, a salad or loaf of bread can be easily and inexpensively added to the meal.

Try it! Is it crazy and chaotic?... sometimes. Do they all talk at once?... often. Do the kids look forward to it?... more and more. Do you learn a lot about your kids by watching them with their friends...absolutely. Will they remember the Friday Spaghetti Nights?..... forever.

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