Ok so I need to clarify (from this post yesterday) that I do still believe in gathering and Dave and I will always try to provide a safe, uplifting environment in which our kids can feel comfortable bringing their friends but I just don’t know that I want to force the issue.

I’ve noticed that our house always seems to be crawling with neighbor elementary-school-aged kids but as Max and Elle have grown and blossomed into teenagers they don’t gather here as much. This morning I asked the kids at breakfast what makes a house a “gathering house” and Elle sheepishly told me “one where there aren’t little kids.” There’s a strike-out for our house but I actually think a bunch of these teenagers like seeing the funny things Elle’s crazy little sisters do… Claire and Grace adore them look up to them so much and Lucy doesn’t care either way but sure makes for some amusing things to watch sometimes:)

I know another draw for teenagers is food, namely junk food, which is quite non-existent over here. When the teenagers do gather here I generally respond by whipping up some cookies because I know their poor growing bodies really need some nutritious sustenance of that sort:) A couple of my favorite afternoons have been with Elle’s friends gathered around the bar in our kitchen telling me all kinds of things as I whip up some no-bake cookies for them. I love to hear their interactions and the things they talk about.

I guess the bottom line is that in my observations of my teenage children thus far I will take what I can get of the friends that visit and take advantage of carpools where I have them trapped within listening/talking range. I think “gathering” houses become that way not only because of the kids who invite their friends, but because of the parents who are all cool and friendly and welcoming. And sometimes I think with everything going on in life for Dave and I right now we are just plain tired at the end of the day.

I think being in a gathering mode ebbs and flows through life. There are times when I’ve been an avid “gatherer” and times when I’ve had to hunker down and just get through the busy-ness and/or trials of life. Each personality is so different and I want to be there to support whatever my kids need/want at each stage of life.

And then I’ll brace myself for when Grace becomes a teenager 🙂


  1. I have felt the same way. I am a gatherer, but, found that it is difficult for my eldest daughter to be so because her younger brother is Autistic, so, not only does she have a younger brother (and a few other younger sibs) my dream of gathering has not gone as planned. I have become more "okay" with letting her go else where so she can have that time. Although we are careful about where she goes! 🙂

  2. Ugg the gathering thing is always such a balance! I have a Q & A, not sure if I should email this or comment it-but does your big boy tease the girls? My 2 big boys tend to be huge teases to the 3 little sisters and I would love some tips on dealing with it! Thanks!

  3. I completely understand what Elle is saying, but in a different way. Most of my friends LOVE my older brother, and it bugs me when I have them over and they hang out with him and not me. Oh well, my mom usually puts an end to that when it happens!
    I pretty much adore your family. Poor Max stuck with all those sisters! Haha, tell Lucy I said hi, and Grace and Claire too. 🙂

  4. i had younger sisters, and it drove me nuts when my friends came around and they wanted to 'play' with them. Of course it's so hard now thats it's my turn to be the mom. I also have this inner battle when one of my girls asks to go to a friends house ( and the youngers one, cries, begs screams, ) to go too. We live in a TINY town and it's soo hard sometimes with friend issues.. oh the joys!!

  5. This is such an interesting concept because growing up I never felt like my house was a gatherer house. I did try to invite friends over as much as I could, but for some reason, I always went over to friends houses. Especially as I got older.

    My husband and i debate about sleepovers. What's your advice?

  6. As you know I am a total gatherer. I love having my kids and their friends around. I feel like it is the best way to get to know them and have a handle on what is going on in their lives. I like to make it appealing and fun for them so they want to be around.
    I think every parent gathers to a certain extent and each person does it in their own unique way. I think that is how we keep our families together.
    I have been so surprised and grateful at how much the teenagers love my little kids. They treat them so kind and are so good to them. It is so great for them to learn and watch them and have role models to follow outside of our own family.

  7. My husband and I have thought a lot about this and I think so many components go into it (as you have pointed out). Thinking back to where we gathered when I was in high school:

    -Dereks' parents had a big basement room for playing games so we'd meet there

    -Steve's mom was the coolest so their house was small but we LOVED her so we'd sometimes gather there

    Often we'd meet at parks and such too. I guess we'll just have to take it as it comes — watch our kids personalities, try to have a house with large gathering places, and try to be chill, welcoming, nice parents…with party food.

  8. This is a interesting topic to me because before I had kids I wanted our home to be the house where my children' friends came and hung out and ate all the food etc. But I have found that it isn't that easy. I have younger children that seem to get in the way (in my son's way, his friends don't seem to mind). Other times I feel like I have to provide the entertainment so they are not bored or just play the Wii the whole time. Nicole said in her comment she tries to make it fun and appealing so they want to be around. I don't always want to (or have the time) to be the fun director and be in charge of their fun. I guess I need to think more about this.

  9. One more thing:

    I am SO thankful for the gatherers in my life and in the life of my kids. I know that in some cases we need to step up and make ourselves into gatherers even if that's not what comes naturally. It helps SO much to know what our kids are up to, to know their friends and it's so good to get out of a comfort zone and create social opportunities for ourselves AND for our kids (especially those who may naturally be more shy). But it's good to realize that there are stages of life where we go in and out of these phases and that's ok.

    This is really just a stream-of-conscience I've been thinking about lately because I think it's interesting to note that it is so much more about personalities and priorities and stages of life, rather than location as I had thought when I first started having kids. I have two friends who are some of the best gatherers I know and I know they would gather those around them because of their great personalities with or without a great location to do it in. And I'm so glad my kids get to be friends with their kids!

  10. I don't agree with Elle… I'm the oldest of 7 kids and my house was DEFINITELY a gathering house all though my high school years. A lot of times, my friends actually really liked having my baby siblings around… the boys would goof around with my littlest brother and the girls would all want to hold my toddler sister. I will say, though, that my parents were really good about putting the little kids to bed early when I had friends over, so they were only around for a little while at the beginning of the evening (which is probably why they were so popular when they were there). My mom would also have amazing snacks – orange chicken bites from Costco, cheese and sausage on crackers, chips and homemade dip, etc. My guy friends in particular would get really excited about the food my mom put out for them. So I definitely agree on the food part of it. 🙂

  11. Growing up, my house was the gatherer house. We always had parties and friends over, and my friends just became part of the family. And most of that probably was because I didn't have a lot of little siblings like my friends did, and we always had pop and chips.
    My girls now are always wanting play dates with friends, and I have such a hard time with it when I don't know the kids or the parents or what their family situation is. Same with going to bday parties. Do you have any "rules" for that? I'm finding it hard to find the line between being over protective and just letting go, and being safe and protecting them.

  12. See you this weekend in Richmond! Can't hardly wait! I'll be the werid girl who comes up to you and says, "Hi, you don't know me but I read your blog" 🙂

  13. I liked today's post and the comments too. Hoping you can share more about this and on rules of sleepovers. I left a comment in the previous post about it.

    Thanks for all you do and share with us.

  14. Our family is a good 15 years ahead of yours. Our last is a senior this year. I have struggled with this idea of being a gathering home. I wanted our children in our home so that I knew what they were doing. And yet, I felt that our home needed to be a refuge from the world, peaceful. "Other" things happened in other people's homes, that I years later found out about, and these were good homes! What I struggle with is that as teen-agers, the kids want the big, expensive toys and pools. That seems to be where the gathering places are. We can't afford that stuff, and haven't wanted to spoil our children with it. Did you have the big toys at your house growing up? What are your thoughts on that?

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