Photo Credit: Jewish Press

In many areas of the United States and other parts of the world, people are going back to living their pre-Covid lives, which means going to shul, entertaining friends and relatives, and hosting overnight guests and visitors. In fact, during Memorial Day weekend, there was a huge spike in air travel, compared to last year, as reported by the TSA.

Over the summer, as more states open up, there likely will be an explosion of travel, as far-flung families make up for lost time.

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Some of us may be out of practice on how to be efficient hosts, or considerate guests, and can result in the energy-draining stress that goes hand and hand with being and having company.

For a relatively successful visit, ground rules need to be established between host and visitors before the guests arrive, and realistic expectations thoroughly outlined. You don’t want to wear out your welcome within 24 hours of your arrival. Especially if you are coming with small children – no matter how adorable they are in grandparents’ eyes.

There may be members of the hosting family that will be delighted to spend all their waking moments taking care of babies and toddlers. Initially. But they have lives too, and may not want to be stuck at home, day after day, watching young, energetic children who need to be constantly watched.

There have to be firm boundaries regarding child care, and no guilt inducing sense of entitlement by understandably tired young parents who feel they are “on vacation.”

Visitors have to be mindful when they are visiting family in a private house, that they are not in a hotel, where they feel it’s ok to leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Diapers should not be left wherever the baby was changed, nor dirty clothes strewn on the floor or shoes left in an entrance, which is a tripping hazard, especially for older people who – unlike children who seem to be made out of rubber and bounce off the floor – can sustain serious limb or head injuries.

The host, however, should provide wastepaper cans lined with plastic bags, in several rooms, where diapers, wipes, tissues and personal hygiene items can be discretely disposed of. Perhaps shoe racks can be set up in a hallway closet so assorted footwear will be put away upon entry. Thus, a tripping hazard will be removed and valuable time not wasted looking for missing shoes. Night lights in all the bedrooms and bathrooms would be helpful to young and old alike, to potentially prevent dangerous falls at night. As well, throw rugs, if possible, should be removed or securely anchored to also help anyone stumbling out of bed, from tripping.

Leaving juice boxes, or water bottles in the bedrooms might be helpful, as well as nonperishable snacks, like dried fruit, that won’t leave crumbs, so that a sleep deprived parent or grandparent doesn’t have to go down to the kitchen late at night. Hallway lights could be left on as well for further protection.

It is absolutely crucial that all medications or cleansing products that are dangerous if swallowed be put where curious toddlers cannot reach them, or better yet, are placed totally out of sight. Many pills look like small candies and some taste good as well. Synthroid, for example, is a very commonly prescribed pill, and comes in many pretty hues. I myself have been taking this thyroid pill since 1993. Over the years, there were times I was chided (to put it mildly) for leaving the bottle on the night table. Insisting that the container has child-proof caps didn’t matter. It may be difficult for adults to open them but somehow, children are really good at opening the unopenable.

When adults live in a child-free home, they don’t give a second thought about the visibility of their meds. Yet lack of mindfulness can be life threatening when one is in a household of children.

An extra measure of safety is knowing how many pills there are in each bottle, in case G-d forbid, a child does manage to somehow get their hands on one. Knowing how many a child ate can help determine the need for aggressive, invasive treatment or just cautious observation.

To further make your house safe, adults should sit on the floor, and get a child’s view of things, and gain valuable insight as to what kind of mischief a child potentially can get into. Perhaps it can grab the edges of an overhanging tablecloth and pull it down and everything on the table such as bone china plates and food platters. Child proofing is easier when you see the world through a child’s eyes.

There is something to be said for using elegant paper goods! Less labor intensive and not breakable!

If there is a swimming pool in the backyard, extra vigilance is needed that all exit doors are locked or alarmed so that if a child manages to get out – even if you are sure he can’t unlock the door, the alarm will go off. Some people even have cameras that send alerts to a smart phone whenever someone goes on the front or back sidewalk. A homeowner who is hundreds of miles away from home will get a live feed of e.g. a delivery person walking up with a package.

May all hosts and guests have a safe and delightful reunion!

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