Time. Lines. In one household, we occupy vastly different spaces. Worlds apart from each other, our bond is challenged by our coexistence.
A medical emergency lead us to decide that we needed to move our family in with our parents. As self-sufficient grown ass adults, it’s been humbling to say the least. It was the wisest option considering the totality of our circumstances, and their love and support has helped us through a difficult healing process.
We knew that combining our kids (young adults) and our parents under the same roof would be a challenge. What I think I underestimated was how this would become a study of values and behavioral norms across generational lines. Our age sets are 68-72, 44-47, and 17-23. The 68-72 set has two people, a male and a female. The 44-47 set is also a married male and female couple. The 17-23 group is made up of 3 single males.
Our parents lived alone in a two story 5 bedroom house. Needless to say, we are not living on top of one another. Everyone has a certain amount of privacy and a space they can retreat to. The parents generally occupy the living room during the day and early evening. The watch all their stories, Fox news, and Alaskan wilderness shows. Mother is the primary cook, so their days are scheduled around meals with dinner at 6pm. Pop is retired military, but works part time to stay active and supplement his income. Mother has not worked outside the house in about 30 years. Pop is a Republican and Mother is her husband’s wife. They share one car. The house alarm was generally set by 8pm.
Time. Our household is nocturnal. Well the male part of my household anyway. My husband and sons become active in the house after dark and it lasts until around 3am. While recovering from his injury, my husband slept during the day and perked up once I got home in the evening. Two of our sons work nights, so they do not get home until midnight. During summer, the 17 year old keeps the same vampire schedule as his Dad and brothers. I go to sleep around the time the older ones get home. Dad and boys may sit outside in the night air talking, laughing, and sipping a brew, or they may watch a comedy and laugh until they can’t breath. They have very little sense of volume, especially their Dad whose laugh is best described as “jolly”. My husband and I vote bipartisan. Our voting age sons are more liberal. Oh and we have 5 cars.
Lines. Everytime the night crew goes outside, the alarm system announces “garage door” or “front door” loudly. Apparently, the volume was raised to proclaim what they were doing at night and it fuels an annoyance about what they are doing at night. Pop is asleep; they are awake. Consequently during the day, he is awake, while they are asleep.
And more lines. The parents park in their garage. In an effort to not block their side of the driveway, we park two cars in a line on the other side, and three cars on the street. Yes, this means we have to park at least one in front of the neighbors houses (we try to rotate which neighbor as a courtesy). The parents don’t want to offend their neighbors; my menfolk feel like it’s a setup (can’t park in the driveway, but have to endure snide comments about disturbing the neighborhood). Sincerely, some neighbors have pulled their second cars out of their driveways and permanently parked them at the curb so they can’t use that space (super petty).
Worlds apart. The distance between our parents and children is vast. We exist in the void between. We look up to our parents and understand their perspective. Their act of love for us has also been an inconvenience for them. Their life and routines have changed. There is constant movement in their once quiet house.
Our children were hurt that they could not financially take over while their Dad was down. We respect them for their efforts and understand their limitations. We communicate with them as adult men. They work hard and pay an agreed upon rent. They helped with their Dad’s daily care while he was not mobile. His immobility also made the parents feel that they should act as surrogate parents to the boys. Their grandparents will always see them as children no matter that the 17 year old is 6’1″; therefore, chastising is the method employed for guidance. That hasn’t worked towards building reciprocity. It does contribute to the young men using avoidance as a defense. The sad part is that it’s also cheating them from being able to get to know their grandparents as people with decades of wisdom and experiences.
I don’t have a resolution. I don’t even know if there needs to be one. Conflict is not always negative; it can cause healthy introspection. I just know our arrangement is temporary and when it’s over I need to put more effort to get the parents to visit our home. Our political ideologies do not serve as concrete evidence that there is no consensus of opinions on any matter. Each generation pulls from their experiences and set their moral compass to navigate the world as they know it. I think all three generations need more time to erase some lines that keep us from fuller connections to the past, present, and future.