When my little people visited their grandparents I used to send my doppelganger along in my place. She looked like me, although my mom thought she was a few pounds heavier. She smelled a lot like me and wore the same color lipstick. She knew all the words to the Christmas carols and nobody could beat her sweet potato casserole. But this look-a-like sure didn’t sound or think like me. And she smiled a lot more.
This unreasonable facsimile thought like her parents. She cleaved to Hubby while still believing that her Daddy hung the moon. Her children didn’t run in the house, yell, or draw with crayons and markers. This mom kept them from going in and out of the refrigerator, didn’t let them play with sticks outside, and bathed the kids every night without fail before herding them off to bed by 8:05. She didn’t yell, repeat herself a million times, or lose her temper.
The parents appreciated this daughter, a perfect mother with reasonably good, but slightly loud kids. Hubby did a lot of head shaking, watching his pseudo-wife sprout gray hairs each trip, with all the self-restraint she practiced. The little people? Not so much. They barely recognized me—um, her—even if she did smell like vanilla and sport polka-dot pajamas.
At one time it was easier for me to trek across country with my seven little people than to hop, skip, and jump over to Grandma’s house. And it was all because I left “me” behind when I packed the car. Hubby, on the other hand, was always comfortable in his own size thirteens. It didn’t matter if he was in his mama’s house or The White House. Me? I felt hopelessly caught between two roles: daughter or parent? Finally, I had to make a choice:
Yes, I’m the adoring, respectful child. I love sleeping in my old room, eating Mama’s potato salad, and feeling taken care of. But I’m also a parent who doesn’t have the option of handing back the baby and waving “Bye-bye” after three days. My great parents are now grandparents—two people who don’t live with the day-to-day whininess, messiness, and everything-ness of little people traipsing through, destroying, and fighting over who played chess with Grandpa first, who last cooked with Grandma, and all things in between.
I had to find a way to merge the two, the dutiful daughter and the responsible parent. And the right way wasn’t to create some weird stand-in who failed at both. Since we don’t enjoy the luxury of living near Big Mama and Cousin Larry like some do, we must work at re-braiding communication ties that unravel just a bit over the months and miles between visits. It took some years and a few children to figure out how to parent when I’m the child visiting my parent’s home, but I figured out whose rules to play by—my parents’ or my family’s:
First of all I had to be me. Regressing to childhood days wasn’t the answer since I don’t really fit on anybody’s knee anymore, not even Santa’s. I had to embrace the fact Mama and Daddy prepared me for parenthood. They taught me according to Titus 2:4-5, to love my husband and children, to be a chaste, reasonable homemaker and submissive wife according to God’s Word.
So, they expect me to rule my roost; not doing so confuses everybody, especially my little people. I’m Wife first, then Mommy, and finally Daughter. I stopped adopting some new persona, failing to please everybody. Now Mama and Daddy can be themselves, and that’s not always doting grandparents. Most importantly, I don’t expect my children to be perfect—not that they will. It all works out because real people enjoy real visits. Grandparents don’t see the warts on my little frogs anyway.
Now, that still means when in Rome… It used to be my house, but technically, it’s not anymore; it’s my parents’ home, and we need to respect their rules. Maven might grill her own jelly sandwiches at home, but my dad frowns upon little people just pushing buttons on the microwave. I depend on the independence of my little people to get through our normal day, but the holidays aren’t “normal.” We just leave our spatula at home and I work a little harder in Mama’s kitchen—and save Maven’s five-star snacks for our house.
Small concessions like these make for more peaceful visits. So, we can’t step into Mama’s special room with the pretty things? I accept it because I desire to “Honor [my] father and mother, that [my] days may be long upon the land which the LORD [my] God is giving [me].” (Exodus 20:12) I also desire for our visits to be long, so I don’t mind keeping a closed door between M&M and Grandma’s breakables.
I had to take the scout’s approach and be prepared. I’ve learned to cover the law of the land with my little people before we ever hit the road. Don’t you have rules for everywhere you go? We don’t run in church. We whisper in the library. We act like we’ve got some sense at Grandpa and Grandma’s. I know my parents rest up for us and we gear up for them: I eschew loud toys for books and board games. We swap stories instead of the remote.
It works the same way it works at home. Children appreciate consistency, order, and tradition. The same yearly menu makes my little people salivate—over the menu and the one-of-a-kind visits with grandparents’. I’m just glad I stopped being the turkey at the table so now we all can enjoy—and not just endure—our holiday visits.