Last summer, we were living with our two kids in Texas. After an interview in July, my husband was offered a job here in DC in August. We dropped everything to move without delay so we could be together as a family as my husband started the new job, which meant moving into my mother’s basement while our house remained on the market in Texas.
Also living at my mother’s house is my grandmother. Three years ago, my parents decided to move my grandparents from Florida to DC. My grandfather was in failing health and my grandmother needs supervision. My grandfather passed away shortly thereafter, and then last year my father passed away from complications related to multiple myeloma.
So now under one roof we are Honey (92), Sugar (72), Travis and Moira (37, 36) and our kids (4, 1). Four generations living the #multigenerational household dream.
Multigenerational Household Lagniappe
Meeting the needs of others
My kids have learned that when Honey comes down the steps, to wheel over her walker and move their toys out of the way. Little Miss doesn’t “talk” but her favorite way to communicate is to point to the seat where Honey is supposed to sit, because my grandmother doesn’t see very well. It is a positive early lesson for them to be attuned to the needs of other people.
Living in an “analog” home has benefits for my kids
Our son (4) reads the newspaper in the morning–he reviews the weather forecast, so he is learning to read a map and understanding geography of the United States. We are cable-cutters so try explaining why Daniel Tiger isn’t on Sugar’s TV all the time or any any time we want (it’s the easiest slash best excuse). We don’t need to FaceTime as much as we used to, because their faces are right in front of us.
What NOT to do
Ironically, Honey is a bad role model. She eats cookies with her breakfast. She tells them she does not share. She often wears her pajamas all day. I suppose as a woman in later years, she is afforded some liberties but if I’m honest, she grew up in Queens and has always had a streak of piss and vinegar (which I love). I don’t love that my kids want to eat cookies for breakfast, stay in pajamas all day, and not share, but I do love they get to know her.
Practical applications of academic pursuits
Honey just turned 92 and my son (still learning numbers and counting) wants to know if that is close to 100. It told him pretty close. Still, he has no idea. He will help me make a cake for her birthday and then he wants to write her name in frosting, so he is going to practice the letters in her name that he “doesn’t know” yet like H, N, and Y. My grandmother has “memory troubles”, to the point our son asks why “she keeps asking the same thing”. At her seat at the table, she has a clock and a perpetual calendar, so she doesn’t have to “keep asking” what time or day it is. Our son is also learning about telling time and the calendar, so they often compare notes about time and date.
Evening rituals for old and young alike
When the kids eat dinner, Honey has her drink. After dinner, dancing to Louisiana Saturday Night, bath and pajamas, both Honey and Sugar get hugs and kisses from both kids. Each night, Honey says to them, “and don’t snore!” with a finger raised, and now Little Miss wags her little finger back at her and giggles. They are soulmates. We are loud, but we bring life to their day.
Live-in beekeeping and babysitting
My mother and I are both caregivers, which means that living under the same roof and arranging childcare/”Bee Keeping” (what we call babysitting Honey) goes both ways. Instead of packing up both kids for school dropoff, Little Miss stays at home with Honey and Sugar. The other morning I had an open house to attend as we get to know the DC school system and I went sans child (a mom appearance that does not permit children–how inconvenient!). It’s really superb. While she doesn’t use me as much as I use her, my mom can also get out unencumbered to play cards, go to dinner, or just to the grocery store alone. So go small children, so go old people.
Love of family
Lastly, my mom needs the love of her only grandkids on a daily basis after losing my father and her husband of 48 years, which these several months of co-habitating cannot change but happily kids perservere and demand you read Bulldozer’s Big Day for the sixth time anyway.
Do you or have you lived in a multigenerational household? What did you learn from the experience?