As an old year ends and a new one begins, it’s a great time to think about what we will do differently, next time around. The upcoming year will include not only another set of winter holidays, but birthdays, graduations, weddings, baptisms, and so forth. It might be appropriate to have a glance at “How to Be a Good Guest in Your Adult Child’s Home” by Susan Moeller. The author quotes protocol expert Diane Gottsman:
If we want positive, strong relationships, sometimes we need to know when to bite our tongue. And other times we need to know that we need to be responsible for our body language and our tone of voice.
This all applies when visiting anyone’s home. If they want your input they will ask for it. And even when they do ask, the best choice is to stay in the role of gracious guest. Good manners are always in style, and this isn’t addressed only to parents in their kids’ homes — it goes both ways and includes adult children visiting back at their parents’ place. Once their progeny have moved out, parents are under no obligation to keep things looking the same, or do things the same way,
Beforehand, it’s a good idea for hosts to explain the ground rules around food, intoxicants, smoking, pets, and any other potential landmines. Adult children might tell parents, “Bring slippers, we don’t do shoes in the house.” They might also say, “Please leave the political talk outside. We don’t do that, either.”
Take it easy
A guest can offer help, but sometimes the hosts just simply don’t want interference. Rather than explain how to use a newfangled gadget, maybe they would just rather do the task themselves, and that’s fine. If you’re a visiting parent confronted with a new food, try a bite — just like you told your kids to do when they were small.
Visiting grandparents: Please respect the ground rules about food and gifts for the kids. No matter how desperately your granddaughter wants a drum kit, this needs to be discussed in advance. After a dinner party or prolonged visit, it’s nice to send a written thank-you note that your hosts can display to impress their other friends. Moeller breaks it all down into eight precepts, which are worth checking out.
Time to pass the baton?
Any large get-together can engender conflict starting months before the actual date rolls around. Who will host a certain event? Who is expected to, and who wants to? Does hosting mean taking on all the costs? Who will pitch in and help pay the bills? Who makes the decision not to travel to a family gathering, and why? There may be even more excruciating matters to thrash out, like “Should we, uh, you know…. forget to invite Uncle Roy?”
The whole hosting issue might need to be navigated with care. One traditional host might dislike being taken for granted, while another is mortally insulted by the slightest suggestion of replacement. There might be a lot of negotiation to find creative solutions like, “Let’s have it at Mom and Dad’s house because of the pool, but we’ll do all the work and make Ellie and Sam get on board too.”
Traditions add meaning to life, and to call the topic “emotional” is the understatement of the year. People may identify heavily with their roles. The author quotes 76-year-old Evey Meyer who says, “I’ve always been the feeder. When people think of me, I hope they think of food.” Ideas about change can erupt into ugly arguments and even feuds. Robin L. Flanigan wrote a piece called “When Is it Time to Stop (or Start) Hosting the Holidays?” which contains solid suggestions, and urges everyone to remember that the most important thing is togetherness.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “How to Be a Good Guest in Your Adult Child’s Home,” AARP.org, 12/08/22
Source: “When Is it Time to Stop (or Start) Hosting the Holidays?,” AARP.org, 12/05/22
Image by Ramesh NG/CC BY-SA 2.0