Happy New Year everyone!  I hope that 2009 is all that you hope it to be.  And now that the winter break is over and the kids are back in school I hope to get back to my regular blogging schedule.

I begin my 2009 blogging schedule with a question:

Have parents completely abdicated their responsibility to teach their kids some manners????

Okay, that’s not really my question, but there were some situations that occurred at our home over the winter break that left me scratching my head.  Here’s the lowdown…I have dedicated an entire cupboard in my kitchen for snack foods.  We even call it the “snack cupboard.”  The contents change every once in awhile, but the staples usually include several types of chips and crackers, some peanuts, pretzels, hot cocoa packets, kool-aid packets, fruit snacks, and a few sweets.  I also keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen table.  Right now there are oranges and bananas in it.  I also fill it with apples and grapes and occasionally pears, kiwi fruit, nectarines, and plums. 

The kids all know that the snack cupboard and the fruit bowl are “open” and the items can be eaten at any time (as long as they don’t spoil their appetite for dinner).  I have asked that if they are eyeing any food items in any of the other cupboards or in the fridge, they ask me if it is fair game as a snack before eating it because sometimes certain food items are planned for a future meal.  Our kids are good about following my system–most of the time.  And I don’t mind if the kids’ friends help themselves to the snack cupboard or fruit bowl.

A problem arose over the winter break when some  friends of Juju’s visited our home a couple of times, once for a sleep over and once just to hang out.  These friends make themselves at home–quite literally.  They rummage through every cupboard, the pantry, and fridge and help themselves to whatever they decide looks good.  They pull the toaster out and use it.  They heat food on the stove and in the microwave (which requires them to look through even more cupboards to find the dishes and utensils they need).  Then they leave the mess for the residents of our home to clean up.  And let me point out that Juju was not in the kitchen with them.

I have always taught my kids that whenever they are a guest in someone else’s home they never ask for food and they certainly never help themselves to food.  If the hosts offer them some food then it is perfectly okay to accept, but other wise I have taught them to act like a guest.  It is my humble opinion that kids who help themselves to food without it being offered are rude.

Part of my stand on this issue comes from what I was taught when I was growing up, and part of it comes from the time I was a single mom.  When I was single, money was very tight.  I managed to provide some simple meals, but there were times that that was all I was able to provide.  Sometimes an after school snack was out of the question.  I always felt embarrassed if my kids had a playmate over after school and that playmate would look at me and ask me what they could eat for a snack.  Sometimes there really was nothing for them to eat and it hurt my pride to have to state the truth.  Because of that, I have taught my kids never to ask for or expect food at a friend’s house because they may not know the situation of the family.

After what we experienced over the recent winter break I find myself wondering if I am the only parent that feels that way.  Am I too uptight about it?  If any of the kids’ friends happen to be at our house when it is time to serve dinner I always ask them if they would like to stay for dinner (after they get their parents’ permission, of course).  So, I don’t think it’s a matter of me being selfish and not wanting to share my food.  I just have a problem with people who don’t live in my home going through my cupboards and helping themselves to anything they desire.  In a way I feel violated.  So, again, am I too uptight about it?  Is it becoming more accepted for teens to literally make themselves at home in their friends’ houses?  Am I a clueless, out of touch parent?  

I don’t think it was a case of Juju telling her friends to make themselves at home.  The first time I met one of the girls she walked into our kitchen with Juju, was introduced to me, and then turned and started going through my cupboards.  Juju had said nothing about finding something to eat.  It would seem that these teens have not been taught to respect the homes of their hosts.  Or they just don’t care.

Help me out here.  Do I need to lighten up?  Am I supposed to be the “cool” mom and just let teens have free reign over my home?  If that is what is expected of parents these days then I guess I’ll be rebelling.  Are there any out there who have experienced this, and how did you handle it?