First off, a blanket apology to all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and friends from the myriad families with small children who will be invading for a holiday visit this season:
“We’re sorry. Truly. Our kids are a mess. They are living, breathing, never-ending torrents of destruction, ill manners and chaos. It’s probably our fault but we are, in many ways, powerless against their supernatural, all-consuming powers of filth and messiness. Judge us. Scold us. Talk about us behind our backs. But please do not rescind your invitation. We need a break from these monsters!”
We know that a visit from our children is like preparing for a hurricane — sure, you get advanced warning but there’s no way to know exactly how devastating the hit from the storm will be. My kids are often at least a Category 3. By the way, do they sell Kid Damage Insurance?
I knew our trip to see the in-laws was going to be trouble when our 4-year-old decided to pack his suitcase entirely with Lego’s and our 2-year-old demanded to take his entire collection of Hot Wheels cars.
Even though my wife and I had visions of complex Lego creations and random pieces of metal on wheels competing for precious space on the floor of my in-laws living room, the idea of our kids being without their favorite toys for 8 days, was even more frightening. Certainly, we would order our children to clean up their mess each day before bed. Certainly, they would comply. Yeah right.
By the end of the first day every member of the family knew the bone-crippling agony of stepping on a Lego or the shooting pain from a direct hit on top of a miniature moving vehicle. Our kids learned a few new “adult” words from those encounters as well.
To their credit, my in-laws held their tongues about the mess. But I checked my mashed potatoes at dinner anyway, wondering if they decided to sneak in some foreign chemicals as payback for the ruin we inflicted on their once-immaculate home.
There were games involved, though, which brought the whole family together. We got to play “Where did 2 leave his cup of milk?” for about 45 minutes yesterday. Did he spill it on the floor? Dump it on the carpet? Feed it to the cat? It was recovered without incident behind one of grandma’s pictures in her bedroom just before bedtime. No harm done.
We also played “How wet can we get Grandma’s floor at bath time?” and “What is the sticky substance on the dining room table?”
But, buy far, the most fun was had playing “How much food can two boys get on the floor, chairs, tablecloths, napkins and selves during three meals a day?” Obviously, there are no winners to these games. Only losers.
While we wait to see whether we are invited back for Christmas, I can offer this: The best advice to anyone hosting families with small kids this holiday season — don’t clean before we arrive. Save your energy for cleaning after we leave.