Life with a Smile: Open doors are great (just not to the bathroom)

Published 12:09 pm Monday, January 23, 2017

By Kate Snyder

Contributing writer

One of the most important things you should know if you ever visit my house is this: always close the bathroom door.

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For most people, this is probably a no-brainer, but I’ll admit that I don’t always follow the conventions of personal privacy when I’m home with my kids. It’s a wasted gesture since they barge in anyways.

In the new house, however, it’s non-negotiable. It’s a straight shot from the side entrance of my house through the dining room, through the kitchen, through the foyer, down a small hall and straight into the bathroom. The total distance is roughly 60 feet, but arriving visitors can delight in a perfect visualization of the toilet if the bathroom door is open.

What elevates this situation from interesting to alarming is that it is impossible to predict with any certainty when a neighbor child might suddenly burst into our home.

We’ve got an open door policy and I love it. My kids have several good buddies in the neighborhood and friends are welcome to come and go as they please.

Ostensibly, they’re supposed to knock first, but the total elapsed time between knocking and entering is usually about a nanosecond. Thus, it’s not unusual to be playing in an upstairs bedroom only to hear the sound of thundering feet on the stairs. After a quick headcount confirms that all three of my kids are accounted for, I’ll know to expect one of their friends at any moment.

Growing up, I had a best friend who lived down the street and she was a regular fixture at our house. No organized playdates or scheduled activities — just an extra face at the dinner-table many nights.

As I got older, my friends knew they could let themselves into our house, sometimes ringing the bell to announce their arrival, but never waiting for formal reception before rummaging through the cupboards for snacks.

I’m trying to foster that same free-flowing hospitality at my house. I like the sight of a pile of shoes in the hallway and the hum of kids’ voices upstairs. I’m happy to dole out apple slices and graham crackers to anybody who’s hungry. I keep plastic cups at kid-height, and everybody who visits gets a quick lesson in operating the water dispenser in the fridge.

On lazy Saturday afternoons, my kids and their friends drift from house to house, with an occasional text exchanged between parents to confirm their location.

The secret to staying sane in the face of unannounced visitors is to embrace the idea of “good enough” when it comes to housework. My house isn’t always tidy.

There are often markers on the table, mismatched socks on the couch and a small mountain of children’s schoolwork on the counter. I don’t dust frequently and there are finger prints on the windows. Interestingly, I’ve never heard a child complain about any of that. Or an adult, for that matter.

So come on in and make yourself at home. Just be sure to close the bathroom door.