Grandma doesn’t want to visit because she loves you. She knows that she can use the holidays to release her vengeance and strike you down. Search your feelings. You know it to be true. Think back to when you visited their peaceful home this summer.
My step-dad likes to say, “The two greatest days are when your grandkids come to visit and the day they leave.” Every summer my chaotic clan visits their empty nest and turns it into a pigsty. After a week of nearly killing their pets with dropped legos and chocolate, we leave them to discover soiled pants and carnage after we’ve fled their hospitality. I assume it will take them a full year to forget and invite us back. But they have concocted a better plan. The diabolic geriatrics baked a revenge plot disguised as an innocent holiday visit to our home. They will arrive with gifts, goodies, and hugs. Yet I know they are really delivering a holiday basket full of…revenge of the grandparents!
How will they pay us back for a lifetime of torturing them? Easy: they wind-up our kids, form an allegiance and turn them against us. I’m not saying our grandparents share the same strategy as ISIS, but that’s mainly because I’m too scared. Of my Mom. Let me show you exactly their sweetly-veiled plan so you can attempt to defend it.
Tactic 1: The Phantom Menace: Master of guilt “No, go ahead, young Anakin. Desert your mother and run off to be a Jedi while I’m left to be a slave. Don’t worry about me.”
It took two months assuring my mother that we did want her to visit. Once you invite the vampire into your home…I know I’m crossing my movie references but I get all my wisdom from the cinema that raised me.
Tactic 2: Attack of the Sweets: Once you’ve invited the dark lord to your home, grandparents first strike by pumping your kids full of sugar. From day one of my Mom’s week long Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas visit, I noticed my 8 year-old guzzling Pepsis constantly. His Mimi let him buy a case at the store of the caffeinated, sugar-filled cans that he always asks for and we never give him. They went to the store to get the ingredients to make her “famous Mimi cheesecake”. We’ve all fallen prey to the cheesecake for years. This visit I discover them eating it for breakfast and in between every meal. The bottomless cheesecake kept returning as Mimi kept making new ones every other day. She even made one on her departure to remember her by. Then, like a good drug dealer, as soon as they get used to the daily treat, she leaves them wanting their next fix. And we try to return them to eating vegetables.
Tactic 3: Revenge of the Gifts: Gifts or time-bombs? When the kids were younger, grandparents would wreak their revenge with screaming, flashing toys and singing cards that drive parents bonkers. Now they have gotten craftier buying drones and advanced toys that make kids hug their grandparents in total ecstasy. Then when the grandparents are long gone, we are required to assemble, register the toy online, find the instructional video, and missing batteries. Then finally we attempt to fix the greatest gift ever when it breaks one day later. We fail. We are now the enemy that won’t fix the grandparents’ generous splendor.
Tactic 4: A New Hope? Spoils don’t only come as gifts. The dark side will use a new unfamiliar positive attitude to drive our children against us. When my kids ask Mimi for anything her answer now is “Ab-so-lutely!” The classics I grew up with like, “Life’s not fair.” And everyone’s favorite, “Because I said so!” would never come out of the mouths of these pseudo-positive-pie-makers. They save that soul-crushing negativity for when they are alone with us and their true identity is revealed. I try to unmask the grandparents by having kids to ask them about how they’d punish us in the good old days. The kids love those stories but they are no match for the spoils. In addition to gifts, there are daily trips to anywhere fun they want to go, sugar treats hourly, and restaurants nightly. One week of spoils and we’re left to re-install the word “no” back into our now over-stimulated, bratty babes.
Tactic 5: The Grandparents Strike Back with Technology Their trusty light saber that they always draw on us is tech support. Any spare moments I have to plan a counter attack are spent teaching them their cell phone, finding them internet, printing directions, or “liking” their friend’s post on Facebook. When they are not at my house I can deflect their invites to join Candy Crush. But when they are around me constantly, their tech-support needs are too strong and wear me down to a venerable state.
Tactic 6: Return of the Self-doubt The Grandparent’s ultimate weapon. If Darth Vader’s Mom were alive to visit the Death Star he’d say, “I sense something, a presence of self-doubt I’ve not felt since-”. Yoda would instruct us criticism leads to doubt. Doubt leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Suffering leads us back to crying for our parents’ help and the more frequent phone calls they demand. Every decision me and the wife made about our home design, our finances, and our children’s upbringing made sense before the grandparent’s visit. It’s always innocently followed up with, “What do I know? Maybe it’s me. I just don’t get it.” I can only imagine the changes I need to make that were put in my spouse’s head when they went shopping. The grandparents pretend to be hard of hearing so that the children can easily overhear all of the family’s choices that come into question.
Now my kids have been turned into spoiled, sugar-raging maniacs and none of us know what is right anymore. Who can I trust? I begin to wonder if only our grandparents were in our lives more then we could see the helping power of the grey side.
Star Wars taught us our parents may have some good in them if we battle their negative light-sabers and forgive their years on the dark side. They may have removed their mask to reveal an old sweet face, but their motive is still to rule our universe. I’ve lost my point in a galaxy far away, but be warned: when they come to visit, they are coming for revenge. They will turn your children against you and break you down with helpful criticism. Though I felt pretty good about myself the other 51 weeks of the year, now I am unsure and need them once again.
Their strategic plot worked. I was shocked when I heard myself accept defeat and asked them to consider moving closer to us. Heck, I might’ve offered them to stay with us while we find an affordable home for them in our neighborhood. Their revenge is complete. They broke my house down as much as I broke theirs. You win this battle, grandparents. I’ll see you this summer.
*Oh, and thank you for everything and we love you.