This is our third overseas tour, so we are very accustomed to the long anticipated and long lasting family visits to our neck of the woods.  These visits happen once a year, once a tour, or once in a lifetime for many of our guests. My parents got their first passports in their 50s, not for an exotic cruise, but to come visit me overseas.  When we live this far away, family can’t just drop in for a visit.  They don’t come for a couple days or a long weekend.  They come to stay for a good while.  A gooooood looooong whiiiiiiile.

And if you are anything like me, there are a couple of phases to the visits:
  1. The pre-excitment period:  “Grandee is coming in TWELVE DAYS!!” “Grandee is coming in FOUR DAYS!!”  “Grandee is coming TODAY!!”
  2. The initial honeymoon period:  Not wanting to let them go to bed cuz you have more to talk about.  Filling the first days with proudly showing them around your life.  Being so glad that now when you talk with them about going to the Rocker for Sunday Brunch or to the rolly slide park or to Toguchi, they’ll KNOW what you mean.
  3. The is-it-over-yet period:  They’ve been here for a week, you’ve exhausted yourself running around and cooking and entertaining, and you’re ready to having a quiet day of laying around the house and you know that will only happen when THEY are gone.
  4. The post-visit period:  “I can’t believe she’s been gone for TWELVE DAYS.” The sadness that comes knowing it will be another year or two or three before you see the loved one again.  They’ve become part of your life in this short visit and it’s hard to imagine next week without them being here to see little Johnny’s school musical or to see if the tomato plants really blossom.
But what I’d like to ask your advice on is #3.  I think there is a way to make this period go smoother.  The reason it’s so bad for me is that during visitor’s time with us, I turn into the following people:
  1. Tracy Tour Guide:  I plan and replan and route and reroute our days.  I have elaborate schedules so that we’ll be sure to miss nothing important during their visit.  I keep us running at a rather frenetic pace that brings exhaustion to most all of us.  Course Tracy often forgets that most importantly, they are actually here just to BE with us.
  2. Susie Super Mom & Wife:  I try not to yell at the kids, fight with my husband or “loose it” with any of the above.  When they come for such a short time, I don’t want family to think we have any problems or troubles.  This is crazy, but Susie wants them to leave feeling we are ok and that we’re surviving far from their aid and help.
  3. Dara Defensive:  It seems that some time during every visit, our visitors (mostly of the mother-genre) decide to comment on our life — constructively criticizing my parenting, housekeeping, priorities or clothes.  Instead of listening to these people who love me in hopes of becoming a better person, Dara turns into a mother bear defending her choices in life.
As my wonderful mom is currently somewhere over the Pacific and soon to be walking through my front door, I’d love any suggestions you have for surviving and, dare I say it?, truly ENJOYING my overseas visitor…  Help??


  1. This is such a great post! I too, have lived far away from family for most of my adult life. I treasure visits from afar and want to make the most of it. The number one thing to remember is – although they want to see your new “home”, wherever it may be, the main thing they want to see is YOU! (and if you have kids, you may take a backseat to them wanting to see the kids).

    I’ve found that it is always great to plan a few of your favorite places to go and at least one cultural thing (I mean, really, who can come to Okinawa and not see an Eisa performance?). Like Kandy said – every other day is a GREAT plan. Checking out your local “hangout” spots whether they be the beach, the bar, the park or your home are what your family will want to “picture” when they go home.

    Another thing that we did with my mother-in-law when she visited this past winter break was put her up in the WestPac for the first 2 days of her visit. We still spent plenty of time with her, but she was able to sleep (and be up) on her own time and not feel like she was a bother to us. That jet-lag can be a BEAR! She would just call us when she was awake and ready and we would go over and get her. She said that helped her transition into the visit tremendously and we hope to do that with all of our other visitors.

  2. We have hosted my parents and my husband’s parents recently. Like Kate, we found a brief separate activity helped. They chose a day and a base tour (from Kadena or Foster) that interested them and we set them up to go on that by themselves. We drove them to the bus and picked them up (amidst much joking about them doing that for us in school) Both sets of parents enjoyed a day away from us to explore the island in a different way than as a family trip. We suggested tours where we had either just recently visited the location due to our back to back houseguests or tours or tours we had taken ourselves and could give a review. Our families had a great time and it saved us from tour burnout. I also took both moms, one of whom had never had a pedicure, to Cocok’s and that was a big hit with them and relaxation time for me, too!

  3. I just act like I would normally, crazies and all, it wouldn’t be real otherwise! They have pretty much come to see the family and the other stuff like the sites is just extra. I have been at least 3,000 away from my parents for the past 10 years (wowzers!). My Dad says he is just glad to get some sunshine (he still drinks his wine at night like he is in London and likes to go to bed by 11pm latest) and my Mum would be happy to fold my laundry all day. I always take her to the beach, that’s what she loves. Not hard here.
    Like above said. Take them to a couple of fav places. If they want to see more, they will ask! Eat out, forget about cooking constantly. Bite tongue (hard). Should have mine here sometime in the next few mths!

  4. I swear that Okinawa Hai reads my mind. My parents are coming in April. This is our first duty station overseas. I’m an only child and it’s been the first time in my life I’ve ever been more than 100 miles away from my parents, for more than the occasional vacation. I look at the phases of the vacation expectation and grief and I realize that I’m already in the throws of the first phase. I look forward to showing them everything I love about this island especially this website. Thanks for letting me know what I’m going to have to deal with when they get here and after they leave.

  5. Though on some level it kind of defeats the purpose of their trip, in the past i`ve tried to alot a little time (an evening/ overnight/weekend) where my family visitors can spend time without me and mine. I`ll arrange a nice hotel visit up north, or get them a rental car for 24hrs…just something so when its starting to get all a little to intense and close, we can all take a little alone time and rediscover that we actually enjoy having family come to visit. In the past, far from resenting it, its worked well for my family and I.

  6. You’ve definitely got the phases down to a science! As for help with #3 and the three “people” we all turn into when entertaining visitors, I cope this way:
    1. Tracy Tour guide. I make a long list of things we’d like to see together, then narrow it down to doing things only every other day. The days in between, we just do stuff in the neighborhood…normal every day life kicked up just a little by fancier cooking and non-stop catching up.
    2. Super-mom and wife. But our family is the loud speak-your-mind kind…so I pretty much just act like myself screaming my head off if necessary. And I love any help I can get. My mom can single handedly organize all of my sock drawers while brushing her teeth.
    3. My parents are very vocal about their opinions. And so I take it all in..categorizing it to: “They love me and can’t NOT help. They’re venting so in one ear, out the other. And, they’re older and wiser. So although it may not make sense, take notes.”

  7. That’s in front of Shuri Castle down in Naha. My in-law’s local newspaper posts pix of town citizens on their exotic travels IF you have the newspaper in the photo… hence the holding of the news!

  8. Love how you broke down the phases of the visit. So true. It’s a hard thing sometimes-having guests when you live overseas. The biggest thing is (they can’t drive-or get on/off base)w/o you. No quick errand trips to help you out. So they’re in your space more than anyone has to deal with (stateside).
    I find that not having any agenda is helpful. Although my mom just made her sixth trip to Japan- so I didn’t feel guilty just hanging out. I let her help with things that she is good at– Cooking. Walking by the seawall. Helping me organize my ever-chaotic living room. Clear bins!
    The thing that touches me is how fast your kids know their grandparents. In like 10 minutes, my son reattaches himself to grandma. (That phase for me is guilt) because we have always lived so darn far. And recovering from when they leave is hard. You remember how great it is to have family.


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