Why "Running with Bunions"?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Multigen Life

Multigenerational Living
Retiree (Snowbird): a northern tourist who vacations in the South during the winter.
 
The school bus rumbles up the hill. It passes so near the house that I can see every face in each window. My darling, tow headed, amazing granddaughter is wrapped in purple, blonde hair pulled back, front teeth missing. I wave and in the moment before the bus disappears, her face lights.

I wait in the yard as she flies down the hill, arms extended, laces floating, backpack flailing.
 
For some, retirement means escaping the winter snows by heading to California and Florida. Finally writing that book. Studying a language. Beachcombing, sports watching, feet kicked-backing. Exercising, reading, writing, cooking.
 
Others of retirement age? Add on as peers downsize. Meet school buses, oversee homework and piano lessons, volunteer at the Christmas Small Mall, help with class parties, attend musicals and field trips. Sift through teacher newsletters. Plan healthy, child-friendly meals. Do laundry. Lots of laundry.
 
"My Gramma Nonny is my Safe Side Adult because she loves me. And prets [protects] me. She feeds me. She helps me." Amaze Girl, age 6, 1st grade.
 
The US Census Bureau reports that nearly one in five Americans today live in multigenerational households – parents (and sometimes the parents' parents) synchronize lives to reside in communal harmony with adult children and their children.
 
There are many reasons adults and their children cohabit with older relatives. Economic concerns. Waiting longer to marry. The need to care for aging parents. A rise in divorce and never-marrieds.
 
And, sometimes, special circumstances. Like a family uniting to rescue children who've been hurt. A parent willing to delay independence to gift his children the best possible re-start to life despite the personal hardships presented by a grownup return to his childhood residence.
 
Yeah, sometimes multigenerational living happens because of that.

Multigen love
Multigenerational living is so prevalent that home builders offer options geared to the special needs of families and subfamilies as a matter of course: split living areas, multiple kitchens, linked bath spaces. And it's increasingly common for on-site grandparents to help raise their children's children.
 
"Are you FERPA'd?" Teacher, confirming that (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) paperwork was submitted so she's allowed to talk to me.
 
Sure, there's conflict. Chaos. Dirty bathrooms, cluttered kitchens. Persistent restructuring of responsibilities, contingencies and boundaries. Delayed plans and revised expectations.
 
But there's also compromise. Communication. Patience, purposeful unselfishness, kindness.
 
And? Bedtime stories, morning snuggles. Stealing a kiss when covering cold toes at 2am. The joy in helping a non-verbal grandchild find everyday words.
 
And there's satisfaction in being the one to get granddaughter laughing again when the flight from bus to home finally sends her tumbling head-over-toe.
 
Last summer I ran – and finished - three half marathons. This winter, I'm lumpy, gray and soft. In all the pillowy grandma places.
 
Wonder Boy pressed his body into mine. He squeezed my hand. I whispered, "I love you." He looked into my eyes and replied, "I love you too."
 
Multigen morning