My wife is incredibly social. She can talk to anyone, and anyone talks to her. She’s one of those people whom random strangers seek out to divulge all kinds of information. She can ride in an elevator with someone and know more about their lives than a close friend would know after a year of Facebook posts.
I, on the other hand, lack a small-talk gene. I know how to shut down a conversation—whether it’s intentional or not. And while I crave alone time, my wife and my kids thrive on spending time with friends.
My dream home is a cave. Theirs is a hotel with a constant stream of guests.
You see, I like order, a little too much sometimes. I like predictable. I like when it’s just the five of us.
I feel like I have my hands full with just keeping up with my wife and kids, and adding someone else into the mix just feels like “one more thing” to deal with sometimes.
I know. If I were eighty, I would be the old man at the end of the street with the dilapidated house yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
But my family loves sharing our life with other people.
And so I give in.
I get up and make breakfast for my sons and their friends.
I drive them to where they need to go.
I give them space.
The house gets noisier.
I abdicate the TV.
And in the process, some of those kids who come over become like family. My small, little grinch-sized heart starts to care about them.
As an added bonus, I learn more about my sons by watching them interact with their friends.
And I learn more about their world by seeing the kinds of people they invite into our home.
Now there are times when I say “no” because there is a value in spending time with just the five of us. But I also have to be honest about why I’m saying “no.” And since my natural tendency is to shut the gates, I often find myself asking how my wife, who is more social than me, would respond.
I would love to live in a cave.
But my wife and my boys keep dragging people into the cave.
And so I have to fight my natural tendencies, because it’s how I can show my kids that I love them and care about the things they care about.
So I’ve found more subtle ways to be supportive. I’m the guy who makes the cookies or the one who’s up making breakfast. I’m the taxi service on occasion. And when I need to be alone, and to give them some space with their friends, I retreat to a corner.
I’ve found a way to make it work.
What about you? How are you wired—cave dweller or cave welcomer?
If you’re a cave dweller, how can you fight your own preferences to fight for the heart of your family, and make your home a welcoming place for their friends?
It will require sacrifice. At times, you’ll be more annoyed than welcoming. But you never know what might happen in the heart of your kids or their friends—or even your own.