I got the message while standing in the checkout line. We’d be hosting a nine-year old girl over spring break. I was excited to be welcoming a child into my home again and announced the news to my younger son and daughter.
Knowing they’d have to give up their shared bedroom, I asked my daughter if she wanted to sleep in the basement or in big sister’s room while our guest was here. She happily announced she’d stay downstairs. I turned to my son and asked where he’d like to sleep.
I saw a flash of anger in his eyes. He scrunched up his face defiantly and announced that he’s not giving up his bed.
I paused. This was new behavior. He’d been giving up his bed since infancy for various kids we’ve hosted with no fuss at all. Because of a transition to a new organization, it had been nine months since we last had kids stay with us. But it still surprised me that he’d dig in his heels like this.
I smiled sympathetically and reminded him that we share in our family and that includes our home and our bedrooms. I gave him some options, trying to make it sound like an adventure: he could sleep in mommy and daddy’s room, or big brother’s room or downstairs with his sister. He was crying in protest at this point and I had to pay for my groceries, so I told him he could think about it and get back to me.
He scowled and fussed all the way out to the van as he considered his options.
On the way home, he quieted down. Then he started reminiscing.*
“Mom, do you remember when James broke my Lego?”
“Mom, do you remember how Dante loved to play with my cars?”
“Mom, do you remember when we went swimming with the boys?”
“Mom, do you remember when Anton and Dante came to VBS?”
He went on listing memories, fun and challenging, of the various times we hosted kids. He suddenly grinned and announced, “I’ll sleep in your room when that girl comes.”
So often, parents are hesitant to host kids from hard places out of fear that the experience might be uncomfortable for their own children.
What if a favorite toy is broken?
Where will my child sleep?
What if the other child misbehaves in front of my child?
How will my child feel about having to share mommy’s attention?
What if my children miss their activities?
What if they are sad to say good-bye?
I get it. I was once afraid that hosting kids in crisis might negatively affect my children. But I decided to take the risk. And what’ I’ve learned is that even though it’s hard on them sometimes, and it absolutely can be, the experience is more than worth it.
I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that the world exists for their pleasure and comfort. I don’t want to shield them from the inconvenience and tension that arises when you share your space with others. And I don’t want to miss an incredible opportunity to model what sacrificial love looks like.
“What we are asking our kids to do is almost harder than what we are doing as host moms, and we can really feel frustrated with them when they aren’t on board or their feelings are coming out in behaviors. But my kids have muscles other kids their age just don’t have, so it’s a beautiful thing.” – Katie, host mom
Ask any parent who’s waded into the deep waters of hosting or fostering children and they will tell you about the muscles their children have developed:
I want my children to hold others closely and their stuff loosely. I want them to grow up with a Biblical understanding of how their home should be used for the Kingdom. I want them to be inconvenienced, stretched and refined in ways that grow their character. I want them to develop life on life relationships with children who look differently, think differently and act differently than they do.
Isn’t that what we all wish for our children?
Nothing – NOTHING – I have ever done as a parent has accomplished any of these hopes for my children like hosting kids from hard places. This lifestyle has been woven into the fabric of their childhood and I am blown away by how God has used hospitality to shape my kids and draw them to Himself.
My kids have learned that the gut-wrenching good-bye of someone we’ve loved is worth it. My kids understand that their toys aren’t as important as people. My teens have a deep understanding of the complexities and hardship that so many in poverty overcome. My children are slower to judge kids and parents from other walks of life because they know that nothing is ever how it seems on the surface.
Believe me, my kids are not perfect. But hosting has not only refined them, it’s allowed them to shine brightly as they serve the Lord right in their own home.
If you’ve been holding back from doing something like this for fear of how it might affect your children, know this: the risk is worth it.
Because you know what kids do? They rise to the occasion. Not always quickly. Rarely without some tears, frustration and a steep learning curve along the way. But they will grow in unbelievable ways as God works in and through them.
Can it be hard on them? Yes. But that’s what makes it so beautiful.
*names changed for privacy
Learn more about hosting kids or how you can support Together for Good here.