Making family visits tolerable for peace-and-quiet loving hosts

Linda Sharps
Healthy Living

We spent Christmas in Oregon visiting my husband's parents. I have ten thousand photos that show what a great time we had: beautiful coastal scenery, the kids going batshit over their presents on Christmas day, candid shots of grinning family members. It was a nice holiday.

Now that we're re-settling into our normal routines, however, I have this nagging feeling it could have been better. I feel like we were maybe . . . kind of . . . well, sort of a pain in the ass to host.

Maybe it's that we stayed too long—arriving Wednesday night and leaving Sunday afternoon. What's that they say about fish and house guests? 3 days max, right?

Maybe it's that the boys are at a particularly rambunctious age, and it's difficult to dial them down to a manageable level for any length of time. They can be loud and hyper and when they have a bucketload of new toys to play with, they're kind of extra loud and hyper. It's not exactly obnoxious behavior—although they're certainly capable of that—it's more joyous yelling and loud playing, as opposed to screaming or fighting.

Their presence tends to transform a room. Toys get strewn about, and although they'll pick them up when they're told to, they have to be told over and over.

They play for a while on their own, then they want attention. They bring you books they want you to read, they want you to acknowledge the Lego thing they built, they want to show you how they can jump like a rabbit. They're THERE, you know?

I don't let them run completely wild, but I guess to me it's like, you can either battle all day long with a five- and a nearly-3-year-old over being quiet, not making a mess, not playing boisterously, etc . . . or you can, you know, realize that they're small children. Happy children having a good time, even.

Still, I think it's probably a lot to ask of a household that isn't used to little kids. The noise factor, the chaos—it's disruptive. Even for a couple of loving grandparents who dote on their grandchildren.

Do any of you have tips for making yourselves less of a burden when you visit family? Like what do you do when Grandpa or Grandma clearly just wants to chill out with a magazine in a quiet house, and a kid wants to play? We did try and take the kids out for drives now and then to give everyone a break, but we always end up doing a lot of sitting around in the living room together. (December + Pacific Northwest = playing in the backyard not typically an option.)

I don't want the next visit to involve me constantly hissing at the boys to sit still and shut up, but I'd sure like everyone to feel a little less . . . harried by their energy.

Read More