How to be a good house guest this summer

Here are 10 things your family should never do when invited to stay at a friend’s summer home.

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Photo: Catherine Yeulet/iStockphoto

Being asked up to a summer home is a big honour in Canadian culture. It means your friends find you charming enough to spend their restful lakeside time in your company. But for many parents that sense of pride is quickly replaced by dread, as they envision their child clogging the septic tank with a toy and trying to hurl herself off the dock every three minutes.

To prepare for potential summer invites, here’s a list of things you and your children should never do at your friends’ summer homes:
 
1. Crash a party. Consider the circumstances of the invitation. Are you going to be shushing a bachelorette party because the baby is sleeping? If the object of the weekend is anything beyond eating too much and going to bed early, don’t bring the kids.

2. Forget to prepare your hosts for the reality that is your children. Does your son get up at 3 a.m. every morning to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep? Mine does! Being honest about the idiosyncrasies of your family can help your hosts plan for your arrival by stocking up on earplugs and strong coffee.

3. Forget to prepare your children for the reality of where you’re going. Most children are up for an adventure, but everyone likes to know in advance if they are using an outhouse or sharing a tent with five other people.

4. Expect meal service. It is customary to share meal preparation whether you have children or not. But if your youngest only eats strawberry yogurt, it’s not the host’s responsibility to supply it. Bring and prepare your children’s meals.

5. Shirk lifeguard duty. That arrangement where adults take turns watching the kids in the water while the others relax (drink cocktails) doesn’t work. If you have small children, you need to watch them. Even friends with children might not notice if there is trouble.

6. Use the bed sheets. Whether or not  your host has laundry facilities, it is only polite to bring your own. If your child has an accident on the 500 thread-count sheets, at least they will be your 500 thread-count sheets.

7. Pack the iPad. Many cabins are technology-free zones and the sound of Angry Birds for hours might impel your host to hurl your smartphone into the lake. If your host does not have children, try to harken back to a time when shrill beeping noises weren’t the norm, and pack accordingly.

8. Sit Around. Summer homes are a lot of work, and owners often feel resentful of lazy guests. Pick an odd job your family can do during your stay.

9. Expect entertainment. Your children are beautiful, unique snowflakes, but 48 hours is a long time to spend with someone else’s child. Take all the kids out for a hike and score brownie points with your host.

10. Stay longer. The weather is beautiful and your children are perfect angels. That doesn’t mean you can extend your stay. Leave when you said you would, or risk the mood turning sour.

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