Alamy But our turkey's bigger!
We can all picture the classic family Christmas scene – kids and oldies alike roasting chestnuts on an open fire, enjoying old-fashioned board games, carols playing in the background and convivial chatter with not a bad word said. And equally, we all know the reality is usually oh so different, especially with that last bit, what with the mother-in-law's snappy, snipey comments and your dad making Victor Meldrew seem positively positive.
By the time the Queen's speech comes on, it's almost enough to make you want to roast your darling relatives on the open fire instead of those chestnuts.
So here, as a little lighthearted warning for the festive season, is our list of top 10 sources of gripes and grief from the grandparents at Christmas time (with apologies to all the Parentdish team's relatives, absolutely none of this, not a word, is based on you, honest!)
1. 'One sweet won't hurt'
What your children do or don't eat is food for every sort of comment: consuming too much junk or tickings off for you if you place limits on their e-number intake.
If you're the parent of a fussy eater, we bet you there will be a more approved of grandchild who will get mentioned repeatedly, along the lines of 'oh but cousin Charlie eats EVERYTHING - he absolutely loves sprouts/ stilton/ saffron'. Charlie (or your family's equivalent wunderkind) also slept through the night from birth, walked at six months and taught himself Mandarin before he started school.
2. 'When are you going back to work/giving up work'
This particularly applies to mums, whereas dads' employment status is seen as strangely irrelevant. If you're a working mother, all negative traits in your child will be your fault. Conversely if you're a stay-at-home mum, all negative traits will still be your fault and you're leaving their darling son to shoulder all the financial burden of supporting the family himself.
3. 'That poor little baby'
Breastfeeding: oh how this most natural of things stokes up reactions. Comments span the ridiculous and rude about your post-baby body ('are you going to stop breastfeeding soon so you can go on a diet') to the downright hurtful and ignorant ('did you have the miscarriage because you were still breastfeeding'). Sadly both are real comments experienced by mums we know.
Bottlefeeder? Don't think you'll escape scot free either. You can bet there will be an avid ex-breastfeeder around to make you feel like you're practically giving junior poison. Oh and if you're mixing bottle and breast, you'll be confusing your baby according to the oracles of feeding in the family.
4. 'Children are so spoilt nowadays.'
Your children have too many presents. In their day they were delighted to receive tuppence h'ppeny and a cup and ball or a pair of new shoes. Said relatives will conveniently forget that they may have bought most of the toy mountain in the first place though.
5. 'Is that a good present?'
Too many guns ('do you want to turn him into a lunatic?'), not enough guns ('what are you, a bleeding heart leftie?' A bit of playing cowboy shoot-outs never did us any harm'), too much pink ('she's not a Barbie doll you know!), too little pink ('she'll be booking in for one of those operations by the time she's 18...').
6. 'He takes after his dad!'
All your offspring's good characteristics were genetically inherited from their side of the family. All negative ones are from yours. 'Oh he's so clever isn't he – it's no surprise as everyone in our family is!' Not sufficiently clever to avoid implying your half of the family is really, really thick it seems.
7. 'Come to granny'
The 'I know your child better than you do' comment. This entails M.I.L./ granny interpreting every single cry or smile your baby or toddler makes – and every one of them incorrectly.
'He's crying because he's hungry' when you know he's actually just had the biggest meal of his life and is really crying because said relative is holding him in a vice like grip/ just gave them a revoltingly slobbery kiss.
8. 'Can I help?'
The 'not lifting a finger relative'. You know the one who says 'can I do anything to help?' just as you're dishing up Christmas dinner. They've spent the morning relaxing in an armchair watching It's A Wonderful Life, whilst you've been juggling making gravy, basting turkey and putting batteries in assorted kids' presents since the crack of dawn.
Conversely, there's the 'take over the entire kitchen' relative, who insists on elbowing you from your own kitchen and doing everything and only in their way. Until it comes to the washing up that is...when they rapidly scarper, with a bottle of sherry tucked under their arm.
9. 'I can't believe they woke up so early'
The kids wake up at 6am excited and desperate to open Santa's presents. Your sister is staying over and her children normally sleep until 9, yes, even on Christmas Day. Unamused by this, even though it's your house, she spends the whole day doing exaggerated yawns and blaming her little darlings' every grumpy moment on being tired due to the 'terribly early start'.
10. 'I still can't get used to her name'
The 'why did you call her that/ I never liked that name' issue. Affronted by your choice of monicker for your child, Great Aunt Vera is still tutting about it three years on, or worse, persistently replacing your child's name with the one she would have preferred her to have been called.
5 family Christmas anti-irritation tactics
1. Take deep breaths
2. Bite your tongue.
3. Stage a secret game of 'thoughtless comment bingo' with your partner - handy for distracting yourself from the anger welling up inside you.
4. Take more deep breaths.
5. Emigrate to a small house with no guest room in Australia and with absolutely no hotels or B&B's for hundreds of miles around - far, far too far to come for Christmas next year.
Does this sound familiar to you? Any strategies to share?
Bet it won't be as bad as this though...