When friends and relatives come to visit, it can be a ton of fun-and a ton of work. It can also be downright expensive buying all the food. This was evident in a letter written by a mother who had recently hosted her out-of-town kids and their five children during the 4th of July. They had been there for nearly a week when she wrote the following:
"The bread is gone, the juice is gone, the pancake mix is gone, the milk is gone, every morsel from our big roast beef dinner is gone. Everything's gone but ... the company. We must make an early morning run to the market, so we can feed them yet again before they leave for the parade in the morning. Are we going to the parade? Not on your grandma's girdle. We shall revel in the quiet. And, by the way, WE LOVE THESE KIDS BEYOND WORDS."
A friend, having just hosted her own daughter and her seven children said, "It's like a swarm of locusts had gone through and eaten every crumb. But so worth it. We love those kids."
That's how it is. We love them and we want them to visit. Still, it can be difficult. To make it a little more enjoyable for the hosts, we have these 7 suggestions.
1. Ask your guests for an agenda
You need to know how many meals you need to fix. Nothing is more frustrating than preparing a meal and having them not show up. Or having them show up when you haven't planned for a meal. They can always let you know at least a little in advance if the agenda changes.
2. Find out what they enjoy eating
If you fix things the kids don't like, there will be a lot of waste and grouchy kids. It's their vacation-spoil them a little, but don't go overboard. Remember, they'll be back and will expect the same treatment again.
Buy wisely. Have a few pizzas or a lasagna on hand in the freezer for emergency meals. Also, cook as much ahead as you can, so all you have to do is warm it up. A friend of ours has a quick meal she can throw together in a pinch that she calls Mexican Stack. It's Fritos stacked with cooked ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce, chopped tomatoes and topped with salsa and guacamole. It's a hit with all ages.
3. You don't need to tag along
If they're going to the zoo, hiking or doing any other activity that strikes you as too difficult, you can decline. Simply say, "I think I need to sit this one out. You go and have a wonderful time. Take some pictures and tell me all about it when you get back." Sometimes they may just want to be alone with their kids and other times they will want you along. Be sensitive to the situation. You don't need to be in on all your guests' activities. A few things, maybe, if you feel comfortable and healthy enough to go.
Take care of yourself while taking care of them. One mother said, "I have to get my sleep or I'm no good to anyone the next day." She's an early-to-bed person, while her guests are too often the stay-up-late kind. So around 10:30 p.m. she politely says, "Please excuse me. I have to go to bed. Stay up as long as you want and I'll see you in the morning." They don't seem to mind. Sometimes they take the hint and hit the sack earlier than they otherwise might have. Everyone benefits from a good night's rest.
5. Ask them to change the sheets when they leave
It won't hurt them at all to take off the used sheets and put clean ones on. Let them know this would really be helpful. They can stack the dirty ones in the laundry room. Also have them add all the dirty towels to the pile. It will help you when you do the laundry. Some guests even offer to put a load in the day they leave. Let them do whatever they offer. Changing linens can be exhausting for the host. We have a daughter-in-law who always does that, without being asked, and it really helps.
6. If they offer to help pay for food, let them
If you see you're running short on milk, bread or other items, ask them to make a run to the store to pick some up. It won't hurt if they pay for some of the food. Any assistance can help relieve your stressed budget. Also, they'll have the feeling of being helpful and not just expecting a handout from you.
Some kids offer to take their parents out to dinner. If that happens, let them. Parents too often think they are supposed to pay the bill, just because they are parents. It reminds us of an NCIS episode when Tony and his father were out to dinner. His dad reached for the bill when Tony stopped him and said something like, "Dad, I'm still in the earning mode. You're retired. Let me do this." Most kids enjoy a chance to treat their parents on occasions like this.
7. Let them know how much you love them
If you have children and grandchildren who visit you, count your blessings. Some people don't have that sweet opportunity. Even though it's hard and expensive, having them come is a blessing to them and to you. Express your gratitude to them for coming to see you. Tell them how much you love them. Building these family relationships are important to the happiness of all involved.