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One House, Three Generations, Ten Months: Chaos or Contentment?

May 25, 2017

Women's Wisdom: Pass It On!

A Column by Kathleen Vestal Logan, M.S., M.A.
 
Unexpectedly, there were six people stuffed into a house my husband, Flack, and I had built for the two of us and our occasional guests. Our bedroom is downstairs; upstairs are a bathroom and two bedrooms, one of which did double-duty as my office. So, what happened to disrupt our orderly life?
 
A year ago, May 1, our son, Kelly, retired from the military and started looking for a new career as a civilian. His last duty station was in Japan for three and one half years; he and his family were based in Hawaii for six years before that, so coming back to the Continental United States made for a harder than usual transition. Obviously, we saw them infrequently and had never even met Caroline, who turned four that May. Lauren, whom we last saw when she was five, was now tall and twelve.
 
While visiting with us last summer, Kelly looked for regular jobs, but eventually decided he wanted to open a Screenmobile franchise in this area. At that point, the temporary living arrangement with us became more permanent and open-ended.
 
After nearly two decades of just Flack and I living here, it was a big adjustment having a family of four move in with us. I cleaned out closets and got rid of lots of stuff (overdue, I must admit) so they’d have room. My ‘office’ shifted to the dining room. They only brought what they had in their suitcases when they left Japan, so space-wise it all worked. They’ve learned how little they really ‘need’ to live with.
 
Cooking for six was a big adjustment as I’d never consistently cooked that much or made so many trips to the grocery store. They were all good eaters, however, and Flack loved all the new recipes we tried that I wasn’t inspired to make for just the two of us. More than once Lauren pronounced, “This is my new favorite!” Every night at dinner, we would all hold hands and say a short blessing. If we ever forgot, Caroline would remind us.
 
Our water bill tripled and the electric bill spiked, too. Normally, money would have been handled differently, with our son contributing equally to the increased expenses. However, he was working hard to build his new franchise, covering basic expenses with his military retirement and not even taking a paycheck from the business for the first six months. As he said, “I’m reinvesting in the business for now.”
 
There were bound to be times when each of us wished for privacy. Caroline learned quickly not to come into our bedroom if the door was closed. We were all remarkably patient and tolerant of each other, working toward the same goals: a successful business for Kelly and a house of their own.
 
As of three weeks ago, Kelly and Michelle and the girls did move into their new home, not too far, fortunately, from us. Our house is less cluttered now. Cleaner. Quieter. Less work. But there’s also less laughter and joy and hugs and kisses.
 
Flack and I reflected on the ten months we were all here. As parents, we have a thriving business with our son, have reestablished our relationships with him, Michelle, and Lauren. And Caroline whom we’d never met? She’s now spent nearly twenty percent of her life with us! We have bonded with each other. In a lot of ways, this was an opportunity for close-up mentoring. When Caroline first came, for example, she was far behind in her English skills as she had attended a Japanese pre-school. Now, near the end of pre-Kindergarten, she’s ahead! I can’t help but think that living with us helped her expand her vocabulary and comprehension. And we got to celebrate her fifth birthday when she announced, “I’m not a baby anymore. I’m a big girl.”
 
For us, this year was wonderful and unexpected. We never dared to dream of having Kelly and his family here; the most we hoped for was that they would live in the Continental US.
 
We have decided that, if you believe in your values and want to share them with the next generation, there’s no better way than to have three generations living together. Flack would take it even further, believing, “As a nation, community, family, we’d all be better off if we could have these intergenerational experiences.”
 
Was there chaos? A little now and then. But was there contentment? Absolutely! A lot! We’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
 
 
Kathleen Vestal Logan is an inspirational speaker and writer on women's lives. She is co-author of the 2010 award-winning book Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life that Matters after Fifty (www.secondbloomingforwomen.com.) Her most recent book is Women's Wisdom: Pass It on! She conducts classes, seminars, and holds guided discussions on the content of both books. She is a contributing author for numerous publications. You can contact her at: kvllifeskills@aol.com and www.womenswisdompassiton.com. To purchase her latest book,  Click Here.