Archive for June 29th, 2009

Five Ways to Make Family Visits Fun

Monday, June 29th, 2009

It’s summer, and time for reunions, visits from family, or Camp Grandma. Some people love these visits, some hate them, and some worry that there will be nothing fun to do. Our family holidays and vacations often include at least 10 or 12 adults and even more children. Mass chaos is the usual order of the day, but we always have a lot of fun. If your family visits leave something to be desired, here are some suggestions for livening things up this summer.

1.    Play a simple card or dice game. After dinner, we clear the table and my sister-in-law declares game time. Sometimes it’s a board game, but usually we play Farkle with dice, or Golf with cards. Five to eight players might start the game. Others stand behind them and give advice or talk trash. Someone gets irritated by bad cards and quits in the middle of the game. Someone else sits down in their seat and takes over. It’s a fluid kind of game. Often it gets pretty loud. The little kids play wrong, the old people forget the moves, the middles are distracted and have to be reminded when it’s their turn. Everyone accuses everyone else of cheating. Everyone cheats.

2.    Look at photo albums. Not the recent ones, get out the really old ones, where everyone has funny hairstyles and ugly clothes. Laugh at the cat-eye glasses, fins on cars, and crying kids. After a while, you begin to notice the backgrounds, remembering furniture in Grandma’s house, your dad’s vegetable garden, the neighbor’s bushes where you played hide and seek. Show them to the kids and you have the basis for passing on family stories to the next generation.

3.    Make Cookies! Come on, surely one person in your family knows how to make cookies. We tend to make two or three varieties at once, with one adult in charge of peanut butter, one in charge of oatmeal, one in charge of chocolate chip. Children are allowed to help more or less, depending on the patience of the supervisor. Dough is stolen, fingers are smacked, flour is spread, and mouths are burned. There are no cookies left for the next day.

4.    Watch a movie. I don’t recommend watching a movie you’ve been dying to see. You’re going to miss half of it. With all the seats full of adults holding children on their laps while teens cover the floor, heads will be blocking the view, crying babies will interrupt the dialogue. We like to watch movies we know well, so that we can quote along with the actors. Or watch home videos. My daughter’s Spanish project had the entire family rolling! Comments are welcome. Silence is not.

5.    Sit on the porch and talk. After doing activities 1-4, everyone is relaxed and talkative. Now memories are bubbling up and talk flows freely. Give the kids some plastic peanut butter jars and send them out to catch fireflies while the grownups rehash juicy stories, then let them cuddle on laps and fall asleep as quiet reminiscence ends a satisfying evening.

These are activities our family enjoys. Sure, we get irritated, criticize each other, yell at kids, and make a mess. We could get mad, hold a grudge and quit talking to each other. Instead, we choose to forgive each other when feelings are hurt, and to cherish our time together even when things are rocky. The ONE thing you need for a great family visit is lots of love.