I’ve written before about being an only child. But, I haven’t written about living in a multi-generational household. For most of my childhood it was me, my parents, and my grandmother. She was Sicilian through and through, so I called her Nonnie.
My Papa, Nonnie’s husband, passed away when I was just eight years old. From then until ten years later, when Nonnie’s time came, we all lived together.
At first it was fun. It was like going to visit my grandma every day. But as my Nonnie’s health declined and I became a brattier teenager, things got harder.
I wasn’t as grateful as I could have been. So, I want to highlight some of the best parts of having my grandma around, and consider why more people should host a grandparent in their house if they have the chance.
- You spend more time together. This may seem obvious. But it can’t be overstated that having time with someone whose time is precious is a great gift. Whether it’s eating dinner, going for a walk, or just checking in to say hi each day, make the most of it.
- There’s more importance placed on family traditions. With Nonnie around, we ate a lot more Italian food. Whether it was making meatballs, marinara sauce, or other quirky dishes, I had the chance to learn recipes that had been in my family for generations.
- It’s easier for them to participate in your life. It can be tough for grandparents to drive long distances and figure out logistics on their own. As a result, they may not be as involved in their grandkids’ lives as they’d like. But, having my grandma in my house made it much easier for her to come to sporting events, concerts, and other things I did as a child.
- The rest of your family will come to you. Holidays can be a hassle. Every family has to decide who will host, who will travel, etc. Since it can be difficult for elderly family members to travel, you’ll often get to host holidays. Hosting comes with its own burdens, but it can be nice to celebrate in your own house and be hospitable to the rest of your family.
- You develop a unique appreciation for caretakers. Whether you do the work yourself, or you hire assistance (we did both) helping someone who is aging is hard. Beyond the medical complications of getting old, it can be emotionally taxing on everyone involved. As I saw my family encounter some of those struggles, I developed a much deeper appreciation for the patience and resilience of caretakers.
…Not all these items are obviously ‘cool’. But, they are fundamental to living in a multi-generational household. Sometimes it will seem hopeless, and other times it will seem perfect. The important part to remember is: you have a unique opportunity.