4 Generations, 1 House: My Experience
About seven years ago, my household added a third generation. Five years passed, and we added a fourth. This has made all our lives very different than the typical home of two parents and their kid.
I was in high school when my grandma moved in. She was having trouble living by herself, but at first, she had even more trouble living with us. She had been living by herself for almost 40 years.
At first, living in a household with three generations was a huge challenge because of all the differences among us. When my grandma first moved in, she changed from the sweet old lady who we visited all the time to another adult to discipline us. My sister and I didn't like that at all. For a while, we resented Grandma for the way she tried to make us obey her. Now that I look back on it, she had seven children herself, so taking care of kids was natural to her.
After a while, my grandma got used to living in our house with us. Most nights, we all ate dinner together, and she and I would have long talks about her past. We became good friends. Then, I found out I was pregnant....
I became pregnant unexpectedly, at a young age, and I wasn't married. This is pretty common in today's world, but I knew my 96 year old grandmother wouldn't feel the same way. I was terrified to let her know. I didn't think I could handle the look of disappointment that I was sure would cross her face.
My own mom ended up telling her before I could. You know what she said?
"These things happen, dear."
I don't think I've ever been more proud of my grandma, even though I knew part of her understanding was because she was so excited to have a new baby around. My grandma loves babies more than anyone I know.
She helped me through my pregnancy as much as anyone else, maybe even more. I remember her folding baby clothes, talking about potential names, and holding my hair back when my morning sickness hit. Some days, I didn't think I could take it. I was a single college student living at home with my family. I think Grandma understood, because one day, she just randomly hugged me and said, "It'll get better." And it did.
Having my son added the fourth generation to our household. Instead of bothering me, though, I realized how helpful it was. My parents helped me with Damian (their first grandchild!) as much as they could, and my grandma did what she could do, too. By the time he was a newborn, my grandma's arms had gotten a lot weaker, but if she used a Boppy pillow she could hold him for hours. I was so glad that my son got to meet his great-grandmothers (sadly, my other grandma passed away in 2011).
Our biggest problems come from a generational clash. Different ages of people have different interests and values. But after a while, things start to come together.
Now, my grandma is just like my son in many ways. Her dementia has changed her, but seeing Damian run into her room yelling "GaGaGa!" (for Great Grandma) still brightens her day the way it always has. I don't know how much time she has left, but I'm glad she is spending it with us.
Having four generations here is probably hardest on my parents, since most adults don't plan for this. Soon, my grandma will die, my sister will go off the college, and Damian and I will move out into our own place. I sometimes wonder how they will take the emptiness, after living with 6 people.
My sister was affected like a normal teenager. I'm sure she's the only one of her friends to live with four generations. Sometimes she complains, especially when my son had colic during her finals week. But I know in the end she'll have learned a lot about how to deal with different kinds of people.
I think living with four generations of family has changed me. I know how to deal with elderly people, adults, peers, and babies. Sometimes I wish I lived in a tiny apartment, alone with my son, but living here has shaped me in so many ways. I get to know my grandma, parents and sister on a more personal level, and they get to see my son every day. When I do move someday, I will take away a lifetime of knowledge.