By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
When my parents retired and moved to our town a few weeks ago, the plan was to move them into a new condo being built just a couple blocks away from our house. But uncooperative weather and other construction delays wouldn’t let that happen. The condo isn’t quite ready yet, so my parents have been living at our house for the past several weeks in a state of transitional limbo.
Here’s the part of the column where most writers would report a whole laundry list of ways in which it’s hard to have your parents live with you – a crowded house, lack of privacy, conflicting TV preferences, personality clashes, etc. Anytime you have house guests, there’s a certain adjustment that has to be made. But I’ve gotta tell you. For me, it’s been awesome.
You know those times when you think your life would be so much easier if you could just clone yourself? Having my mom here for the past few weeks is as close as I’ll ever get to that clone wish. She helps with cooking, cleaning, laundry and shuttling kids to and from various activities. For the first time ever, I feel like I really can be in two places at once. And when I need a little mothering advice, my go-to source is already on location and available for consultation. What’s not to love?
And now, instead of bugging Tom to tackle a list of home repairs, I can ask my dad to do it. So far he has finished two painting projects, and I’ve got plans for the front walk to be pressure-washed and the bushes to be trimmed. With two men around, I can get double the number of “honey-do” jobs done with half the amount of nagging.
As great as it’s been working out for me, I don’t know that my parents necessarily feel the same way. They went from a relatively quiet home in a small town to a busy, loud house full of kids, two parents who work at home, homework drama, soccer practice, sibling arguments, video games, shoes that go missing, Matchbox cars on the floor and general chaos at any given moment – not to mention the whole new town they’re trying to learn their way around.
They’re also adjusting to day-to-day life with three grandkids underfoot, which is a different experience than occasional visits. The other day, I overheard this conversation between 4-year-old Kate and her grandmother:
“Memaw, where is your mom?” Kate asked.
“Well, my mom lives in Heaven now. She died because she was old,” Memaw replied.
“Older than you?” Kate asked incredulously, as if that weren’t even possible.
And then there was this little gem of conversation overhead one day while Kate and Memaw were coloring pictures together:
“What’s your favorite color, Memaw?” Kate asked. “Is it grey, just like your hair?”
The brutal honesty we must endure while living with preschoolers takes some getting used to.
Although they’d never admit to it, I think my folks are secretly counting down the days until they can move out of our guest room and into their new condo, creating a calm buffer between us and them. They’ll have their own quiet space again with all their familiar things around them. Their daily routine can revert back to a less frenetic pace. And they probably won’t sit down on chairs that have strawberry jelly on them, trip over toys or referee any fights about whose turn it is on the computer.
Wonder if they’d take me with them.