Advice about how to make the festive season memorable for Grandma and Grandpa

Hell's bells! (Not the most appropriate festive expression, I know.)  Yes, all the fuss and bustle of Christmas is over but you still have the whole family, which covers the entire age range, staying over until New Year!  What to do?

Well, there's always the 'hang yourself in the bathroom' option, but, let's face it, what a waste of your new silk dressing gown cord when Fran has advice for you which could change everything.

Grandma and Grandpa will be finding things particularly difficult.  You can tell, because they will be making the following comments about the children.  (Note that these are invariably made in the third person, directed to a parent.)

1. Does she have to answer her mobile phone at the table?
2. Won't he get square eyes if he looks at that computer much longer?
3. Isn't one chocolate enough for a small child?
4. Do the children always choose their own clothes to wear?
5. When do the children have their nap?
6. Should they be allowed pudding if they didn't eat their cabbage?
7. Is there a 'silent' button on that device he's playing with?
8. Shouldn't that baby be weaned by now if he's feeding every half an hour?
9. Wouldn't it be better if they got some proper exercise rather than leaping around in front of a screen?
10. Isn't it the children's turn to wash up?

Grandma and Grandpa may also be making the following remarks at mealtimes.  These will be meant for the cook but not directly addressed to the cook.

1. Is this beef meant to be pink in the middle?
2. What is balsamic vinegar anyway?
3. When are we going to have potatoes rather than rice or couscous?
4. Did you mean to cook these strange crunchy beans?
5. Is there any salad cream?
6. What do you mean, roasted vegetables?  Do you mean potatoes?
7. Oh, peppers and onions again!  How very Mediterranean of us!
8. Mascarpone?  I've not heard of it.  Do you have custard?
9. Wine?  With lunch?
10. You mean, you throw the innards of the chicken away?  What about a nice stock?

This can all get a little tiresome, so it's time to think of some fun activities for Grandma and Grandpa which will make this holiday season as memorable as possible for them and will distract them from the rest of the family's activities and habits, of which they most heartily disapprove, in the main.

Here are several ideas.

1. The 'Nostalgia in the Attic' game.  All old people love looking back.  Nostalgia is their favourite thing.  So, help them up the ladder to the attic (don't listen to any demurring - even 98 year olds need to retain a sense of adventure) and ask them to spend a few days up there sorting through all the items that have been hoarded since 1859.  Obviously, you won't want to keep the entrance to the attic open otherwise they might fall through, so make sure you shut the opening firmly up and take the ladder away to leave them to their happy task in peace.  Otherwise, gosh, wouldn't it be awful if they fell out of the attic and got hurt while they were staying with you?  Anyway, once they've got going on their task, you can sit and have a well-earned gin and tonic (even really thin, frail old people take some getting up a ladder, after all) and the children can play on the Wii, and when you hear banging and knocking on the ceiling above you you'll know the oldies are having such a great time with all the memories that they are celebrating with a little dance.

2. The 'Hide the Dentures' game. If you have quite a few elderly relatives staying, one really fun game is called 'Hide the Dentures'.  Everyone who has false teeth has to take them out and put them in a bag.  Then, someone else hides them around the house.  On 'Go', all the elderly people have to go round the house looking for their dentures, trying on any sets they find until they discover the right ones.  A way of making this even more fun and absorbing is splitting the sets and mixing up the top and bottom dentures (you can tell them you're doing this if you like, but it's not essential).  What with making their way around the house on their frames and with their walking sticks, and if the person hiding the dentures has been as inventive as possible (concealing them on high shelves, under beds and down the bottom of the garden, for instance), this game can go on and on for hours.  An extra incentive can be set by telling all the elderlies that the menus that day are based around nut dishes, cold meats and toffee-based desserts.  This helps the fun along big-time and may even result in fewer old people to feed by the end of a long day's denture-hunting.

Grandma was going to have to look harder for her dentures as there was no way she'd cope
 with the nut roast and toffee cheesecake

3. The 'Blindfold War Story' game.  This is another fascinating activity.  Everyone in the family gathers round Grandpa and he is asked to choose an anecdote to tell from his war service.  There are rules though: if he hesitates or pauses, he has to start again and he's not allowed to use any words beginning with vowels, or he has to think of a different story to tell.  Once he is five minutes into his story (ie still trying to remember the exact date the story started), he is blindfolded and told that recent research has proved that memory is always sharper when one has the sense of sight removed.  When he resumes his story, one by one everyone can leave the room to go on Facebook or play on their PS2 while Grandpa finishes his tale.  This game can be adapted for Grandma ('Blindfold Advice about How to Discipline Modern Children' is a good choice) or even for both Grandpa and Grandma ('Blindfold Tell Us How, Where and When You First Met').  This last one is a wise option should the whole family want to go out to the sales and do some serious shopping, as a special rule for this one is, 'If you disagree on any small details, you have to start from the beginning' and Grandma and Grandpa will love all the extra tension this will add to the game.

Please let me know how you get on with using my tips and advice.  You know I love to get feedback, especially if I have managed to make a real, tangible difference to your family's health and happiness.


  1. Oh, I needed this! Why am I holed up in my computer room for a breather when I could just put my house guest in the attic?

  2. Actually I think some of their questions are quite sensible. Does that make me an old fart? Come to think of it I love to rummage through old things and tell stories too... no I don't have dentures!

    Merry Merry to you and family Fran.

  3. Hahahahahahahaha! I was just sitting here thinking that three days is the absolute perfect amount of time for visitors. Not enough time to do everything - not enough time to get sick and tired of everyone.

    How much fun to read this.

  4. I remember, last year, my step-brother suggested that we are now the boring old codgers, we used to try and avoid, forty years ago. Hmm...

  5. Some good tips there - cheers! You could also suggest they take the dog for a walk and remind them there's a short cut, now that the canal's frozen over....... (and change the locks while they're out in case some passing busybody rescues them)

  6. Hostage - I'm very glad to be of help here. Your hospitality to guests will never be the same again.

    Mark - Merry Christmas to you too. And I am saying NOTHING about the fact that you found the oldies' questions sensible ... absolutely nothing!

    Midlife - Three days? THREE days? My, can I have some of whatever you're on?

    Martin - I have been accused of this myself. Like Mark, until I am wearing dentures, I refuse to listen. (Ouch. That tooth again ....)

    Vintage - I know, I know. Those busybody types - they always mess things up just when you're trying to have a bit of peace and quiet!

  7. Oh heavens, so help me, all those questions are beign aired here too. I too am holed up on the computer in desperation. Am now off to suggest the attic game......

    Merry Christmas, Fran and a very Happy New Year!

  8. Love it! I'm always glad we all live in the same city so that we don't have to live under each other's feet during the holidays :)

  9. 2 thoughts occur.

    1) Nearly all the quotes in your post have been uttered by my lips over the last few days.

    2) Hide The Dentures - for a minute I thought it was going to be a variation of the old swingers game (which I've read about) where, instead of car keys being thrown into a bowl, dentures are thrown in and then someone else selects a pair. So glad it wasn't that.

  10. Linds - So many people suffering and so little need! I hope the attic game proved helpful.

    Jemi - Ah, living under someone else's feet! That sounds like another idea for a good game to keep certain people under control.

    Steve - yes, but parents are ALLOWED to say these things. Grandparents are meant to just THINK them. Otherwise, it's the attic for them.

  11. Oh, now if only my brother and sil could have got the parents into the attic!

  12. Unfortunately our house has no attic.

    There is a cupboard under the stairs, though. Would this be regarded as A Bit Much?

    I've just read Kate Atkinson's "Started Early, Took the Dog" and I couldn't follow it. Or only one and a half of the stories. It was clearly fabby and I'm thick, but I'm going to have to read it again to remind myself of who the people in the sub-plots are. Does this mean that I'm going dotty? Or is reading half a page a night for a month not the way to do it? You're an English teacher - advise me.

  13. LOL, can I just put the teeth in a bag and mix them all up? Seems like it would have the same results plus as an added bonus family morphed pictures. Grandma with Grandpa's teeth :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  14. How on Earth did you manage to write such a long post whilst having so many awquard qestions to answer? Hehehe! Thoroughly entertaining stuff!

  15. Please Note: AWQUARD is a new generation spelling for describing UBER awkward questions - I'm sure you will want to add it to your own private dictionary immediately!

  16. This has made my day more bareable AND ... THEY GO TODAY !!! Grandpa has made a HUGE amount of stock - three pans full ! ( Admid mutterings of " Now you won't need to BUY stock " )
    Hubby is wondering if we bath in it. Today before they leave Grandpa is making leek soup.

    Grandpa did hiss the, " You'll get square eyes" at Joe when Joe did not want to accompany the family on yet another walk ( I didn't go either much to raised eyebrows - I NEEDED A BREAK !!! )

    I told GP on his return, " Joe's been on the trampoline all the time - such good exercise "

    Last year GP told my hung over teenage daughter that, " No daughter of mine would behave like that "
    No of course not, you are absolutley right...

    my sister in law was worse - far far worse ... Memory going Grandpa ?

  17. Visitors are like fish - they start to go off fairly quickly. Roll on January and normality :-) Jo

  18. Eliza - it's not too difficult to get old people into attics. Catching them while they're napping is quite a good way, because it takes a while for them to realise what's happening and they're up that ladder before they know it.

    Isabelle - 1) Cupboards are perfectly acceptable. 2) I know what you mean about Kate Atkinson - I like her Jackson Brodie books, but in the end, you just have to give in and admit that you can't follow it all, and enjoy what you can. And ignore all the strange and unbelievable coincidences, of which she is very fond.

    Jules - I'm so glad I've given you some new ideas. That's the aim.

    Trelissimo - I think 'awquard' is a much better spelling than the real one. I shall adopt it immediately. I am pronouncing it 'ork-ward' - is that right? Don't be so ORK-WARD!

    Bad Penny - you see? I know exactly what goes on in your household, and everyone else's ... The three pans of stock made me laugh! And by the way find another GP, please.

    imagespast - I love your fish comparison. Brilliant! And it gives me another idea - how about suggesting a new game called 'Who can stay underwater the longest?' It might cut down your number of visitors nicely.

  19. I've still got my own teeth and I'm more likely to ask , "What , no wine? " . So , can I come out of the attic yet ? I've found all the eBay-ables already .....
    Someone else's Gran .

  20. SmitandSon - you can come out of the attic, yes, especially if you know how to deal with ebay.


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