A couple months ago Max started hanging out with some new kids from school. (A few junior high schools feed into his high school so there are a ton of new faces which he has sure enjoyed.)

There was one house in particular that seemed to be hosting a whole bunch of gatherings. It seemed to be the place where kids found themselves on half days and for random get-togethers so I decided I better be the one to drop Max off so I could get a feel for what was going on there.

We know the girl’s relatives (the one doing the inviting) and have heard really nice things about her family so it wasn’t that I was worried about Max’s safety or anything like that. I was simply curious about what was attracting all these kids to this one particular house. I had a preconceived notion it would be a mansion…the kind with a sport court and massive pool or even a movie theater in the basement. After all, those are the kinds of homes that I assume attract hoards of teenagers. (That’s the kind of home Dave and I used to dream of having when our kids became teenagers so that we could keep them close and get to know their friends well…we’ve kind of changed our minds on that a little bit but that’s a story for another day.)

So I was surprised to drive into a very normal neighborhood lined with regular-sized homes. As I peered into the living room from the front door I saw that it was no bigger than ours, and was packed with teenagers all apparently having a great time. I realized that the cute girl with big personality doing the inviting was the draw, not some big, fancy house. (Although her house was very nice, but you get what I mean).

The reason I tell this story is because it’s made me think ever since about “gatherers” and whether we have any in our family.

Dave and I are not really what I would call “gatherers.” We’re not generally the idea-generators who invite a bunch of people to do things. We are lucky to have really, really nice “gathering” friends who include us in fun things and we are generally so busy trying to stay afloat with our family that we don’t branch out that much aside from that. Elle and Max it seems have taken after us. They mostly gather at their “gathering” friends houses which makes me sad and glad at the same time (which my fifteen minute time allotment won’t allow me to go into right now 🙂 They used to gather here all the time, so maybe “gathering” comes and goes in phases but I just don’t think they are the host-a-big-huge-party types.

I have recently discovered that Grace, on the other hand, is a “gatherer” through and through. She would host parties every night if she could. I generally say no because by the weekend we are tired and have other things going on, but a couple weeks ago when Dave was out of town she begged to invite some friends over to swim and play games and I figured what the heck.

It was so fun to watch Grace in her element as she entertained her friends. I came to the realization that I need to let her do her “gathering” thing more often. She’s good at it.

I just think it’s so interesting to take note of how very different each of my children are.

Just some things I’ve been thinking about lately.

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  1. I think I have changed alot on this subject. when i was younger in my teens, my house was 'where the party was at'. My parents always made a huge deal out of having my friends over in a good way, and even when i left on my mission, my friends called around to say hi to them. But now i prefer to go to others. I'm not sure if it's lack of confidence, or jsut that i like to get out of the house! LOL. I do still like having people over, but not as much as i used to!.. When you have more time, i would love to hear more about this topic and your thoughts!

  2. I thought I was/wanted to be a gatherer. But my husband is definately not. I too have always wanted to have kids at my home for your same reasoning… I am interested to have you go into more details about how/why that has changed for you! i love reading your thoughts! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Max & Elle being so close in age, probably never felt the need to gather others to play with! My girls are the exact same way, they never have asked for friends over, it's always me pushing the friends. I decided to stop doing that because it just caused me a headache and drama for no reason!!!
    that's so cool that each child is so different, so fun to watch!!!

  4. I wish my parents would let me be more of a "gatherer." I'm 14, and I live pretty far away from the town I go to school at so it's difficult sometimes to have friends over. I've also been virtual-schooled for the last two years and that's also been a limiting factor on making friends. I go to the public high school for two classes a day but that's not quite enough to keep me in the loop! Haha, I wish I lived in a bigger area like you guys! 🙂 God bless!

  5. Shawni, this is such a great post. I'm definitely a gatherer. I'm in my early twenties and I have my own apartment, and I have at least one friend over almost every day, and a big party almost every week! It's so much fun but I do think I sometimes stress myself out over having everything nice and perfect when guests come. I liked your point that it was the girl who was the draw, not her house. That made me think about my situation, and it was a good reminder that people come to my house to see ME, not to see my perfectly vacuumed living room floor or desserts that I spent hours making (something store-bought can be just as good!). So I think reading this will help me calm down about parties in the future, while still enjoying being a gatherer. Thanks!

  6. I was actually wanting to ask you about this before I even saw this post! What changed your mind about being the fun house that teenagers flock to? And also have there ever been any friends that you wish your kids would not hang out with and where do you draw the line at saying or doing something about it?

  7. Be always wanted to be gatherer because I love being with people. My husband is definitely not one and we both generally stay content with just being together. But I agree that isn't it so important to allow our children to be who they are? To recognize that not everyone is the way we are and that those natural gatherers are SO important. Great thoughts. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  8. Growing up I was definitely a "gatherer". I think my parents really encouraged it so they would know where I was. As soon as I left home though I stopped. It makes me feel a little guilty as I have friends who are definitely gatherers who include us (just me and the hubs at this point) in all sorts of things, and I rarely return the favor. Maybe this is just the jump start I need to get back into the gatherer mood again!

  9. Ditto to "love is all you need." Could you spare a few of your precious fifteen minutes one day telling us why you changed your mind about having the "house that teenagers flock to" because that's what I thought I wanted too, until I read your post! You are an amazing example.

  10. I would love to hear why you changed your mind about wanting the house where teenagers gather!

    Also, I am curious as to whether you have ever felt bad about not being a gatherer? My husband keeps telling me I need to be more social and plan more playdates so our kids will have more friends, but it's kind of hard for me.

  11. Children are our most important asset and I think all of us should take a moment and just look at them and study each thing that makes them so special. In each family there is a gatherer. That important person has the quality of joining everyone through love and understanding. Without a gatherer there is no unity within the family. Such a lovely family you have!


  12. Such wisdom. We have a quiet home now soon to change for a while but have had one that promoted gathering and the other that was great to have quiet time. I am a gatherer at work and home. Fun topic and love your writing and perspective.

  13. This was just what I needed to read. My girls 13&14 want to only hang out at their friends houses every weekend. It's just not fun to stay home and their friends houses are way more fun they tell me. Some of these parents tell my kids they can stay for a whole weekend, why for the whole weekend??? I let my kids stay for only one night though and pick them up by noon the next day, to me that is long enough. These parents are also letting the kids pull all nighters each weekend and so my girls come home tired and crabby which doesn't make for fun family time.
    I would love to hear more about this subject too. Also are your kids allowed on sleep-overs/do you host sleepovers? What are the rules about this?
    Any moms who can jump in to help me would be appreciated too.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  14. As the mother of three teenagers (one is actually leaving on a mission now) and a seven year old, this blog resonated with me. After years of being off and on the gathering place, I have found that it truly does boil down to the things you have mentioned: good food and drinks (yes, junk), lack of younger siblings under foot, and cool parents who stay out of the way (seen but not heard). Have fun with the coming years. They are my favorite!

  15. Just saw your post; it brought all kinds of thoughts to me. As the dad of 4 children – 2 boys and 2 girls – I really enjoy when my children gather their friends to our home. It is fun to see them in action and know what they are up to. Now that our oldest son is away at school, our second son is on a mission, and our oldest daughter is also away at school – I miss the gatherings. Our youngest daughter gathers once in a while, and our exchange student daughter, does once in a great while – but for the most part it is quiet around our home these days. With my sweetheart in the midst of a very time consuming graduate program, there are times when she just doesn’t want the noise and there are times when she is okay with it and even enjoys it (if the house is in order, they pick up after themselves and aren’t too put out when she embarrasses them). So, like many of life’s activities, there is a season . . . but in our case, the season of gathering ebbs and flows, depending mostly on time demands, and is (almost) always welcome.

    And one more observation, our current missionary and our college student daughter are the best at gathering. So I’ve wondered, “What is it about them?” And I’m inclined to think that maybe it’s because they are also the easiest at sharing.

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