The article you are about to read is told from my daughter’s perspective, but is unfailingly — and unfortunately — true. Names have been omitted to protect those involved. Our house guest has promised to visit us again. When my daughter is older.
Every so often, it happens. What starts out as a normal day goes horribly wrong. As usual, mom serves you breakfast, helps you find your shoes, gets you in the car, lovingly pats you on the head, and then – “Today is the day your auntie is coming to stay for a week!”
Now I did not have nearly enough time to prepare for this visit. Sure, my mom told me every night at bedtime for five days or so leading up to the visit, but I mean c’mon! How does she expect me to remember that? If given more time, I would have been hoarding stuffed horses so I could casually sever the heads and leave them in auntie’s bed. So, these tips are all ones that you can do with minimal planning and at no cost to your piggy bank contents.
- Meet any bribes with casual boredom. Grownups love to bring presents to try to ingratiate themselves into your lives. Do not fall for this, it is the oldest trick in the book. No matter how amazing the gift is, do not play with it for at least an hour after receiving it. Oh, a complete set of glittery markers that smell like fruit? Whatever. I could make these on my own with a stick and some blueberries. Get a broken crayon and start drawing.
- Do not acknowledge the guest for the first two days. Direct questions should be met with condescending stares. This is most effective when done with a face smeared with something — like Nutella, chocolate, peanut butter — that will make your guest underestimate your power. Then bring out the stare and let the tears begin.
- On day three, have one or two moments when you acknowledge your guest’s existence. You want to make sure that she doesn’t completely write you off. You need to dangle the hope of her winning your affections before the end of the visit. Don’t go too crazy with this — you still don’t want to be directly responding to her questions, just giving her a taste of what she’s missing. Sing a song, retell the plot of Frozen — something pretty inane but still cute.
- When in the presence of your mother, tone things back a bit. You should save the really good stuff for when she’s out of the room. This will force your guest either to be a tattletale, or to choose your mom to take sides. And we all know who your mom loves unconditionally, amirite?
- When your mom is out of the room, show your guest who is in control. A simple gesture speaks volumes, like knocking over her purse when she puts it on the floor next to you, in an attempt to join you in Lego building.
- If your guest is unable or unwilling to understand nonverbal cues, don’t be afraid to be direct. I like to use a simple “Go upstairs,” when my guest tries to play with me in the basement. Another good one is to say “You don’t have a boyfriend” when she talks about her relationship.
- Remind your guest that this is not her home. If she makes the ridiculous mistake of saying “We’re home!” when pulling into the driveway, calmly and clearly state “This is not your home.”
- Keep your ear to the ground. If the first thing your guest does when entering the house is to mutter “I’m the grown up! I’m the grown up!” under her breath, you are on the right track.
- When she tries to talk to your mom, be sure to keep your mom really distracted. Especially if your mom is laughing, nodding sympathetically, or otherwise seems really engaged in the conversation. You can try: hitting your brother on the head, standing on top of a chair (not the cushion, the way top), asking repeatedly for water, saying your tummy hurts, or talking incessantly about anything at a high volume and pitch. All work nicely.
- Two days before she has to leave, be really, really nice. Say thank you when she helps you. Ask her to color with you. Really bring out all the stops.
- The day before she has to leave, revert to day one attitude. You have to keep this lady on her toes. What if she decides to extend her visit?
- The day of departure, go back to being nice. Those markers were pretty amazing and she will probably bring more for her next visit.
These tips will help to remind your guest who really wears the tights in this family. It will also lead to the largest possible cache of gifts for the return visit. Now good luck. Remember — she is YOUR mommy, not hers. You’ve got this.