Planning Christmas is hard once the little birdies start to leave home and especially when they start dating other birdies. If anyone's parents have split it's harder still - another set of parents who want to see their kids on Christmas.
We've solved this by giving up on a Christmas Day feast. We've been telling our oldest they can have every single Christmas with their partners' families, so long as we have Boxing Day, or some other day around Christmas, where we're all together - no excuses. We can't be fairer than that, surely.
But still, it seems, this may not be as simple as I expect. Certainly my friend seems prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to entice her chicks back to the nest.
"We're going to tell them their father has something important to tell them," she told me. "They'll think he's sick or something and will come home quick toot."
That's a bit drastic, I thought. But then she explained her reasoning behind the importance of having all the kids home on the same day.
"Five Christmas dinners!" she moaned. "They'll all want the double cooked roast duck, because it's everyone's favourite, and they take SIX HOURS TO COOK! And if we don't do duck for everyone there'll be hell."
You know what? If I had to spend six hours a day, five days in a row cooking a feast over my Christmas break I'd feel sick too.
"And what are you going to tell them when they all show up expecting doom and gloom?" I asked.
"Oh, they'll be gloomy," she assured me. "I'll tell them, after twenty years, it's their turn to do the dishes."
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