Our oldest daughter, son in law and granddaughter along with their French Bulldog have lived with us for the past year while they built a house. And what started as us doing them a favor turned into them giving us a gift that we can never repay. When they decided to buy an empty lot and build, they put their house on the market, it sold in one day and had a very short possession turn around. This meant that things happened quick, so quickly in fact that we were moving things out of the rooms and they were moving things in right behind us. Our sweet little “V” was 1 ½ years old when they moved in; she was shy, tentative, reserved, and she babbled A LOT, no real words just babble!
My husband and I strive to make our home a place where our kids know they are always welcome and that it is a place that they know is safe. When life throws you a bunch of crap, mom and dad’s house is always open but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure how an extended stay was going to work out. But we knew that this option made the most sense for all of us and we knew it would work out and were prepared to navigate any speed bumps that we may face. My husband also liked the fact that when he was away at work, someone would be home with me. Our daughter was 29 at the time and was quite set in her ways and always prided herself on never moving home again but I guess desperate times call for desperate measures, right? I always have enjoyed some quiet time myself and since I have two weeks when my husband is away every month, I’m comfortable with being alone. I’m not saying that I enjoy it all the time but I can keep myself busy enough to get through it. I miss him dearly but it is never as bad for me as it is for my him. I have the kids come over for dinner regularly, I worked up until last year so I saw other people daily, I have friends who I can meet for lunch or go to a yoga class with, etc. but he has nothing but working 12 – 16 hours a day for 2 weeks straight (eat, work, sleep, repeat x’s 14). During his work shift, he doesn’t get to see the kids whenever he wants to but I do, he misses birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, you name it but I don’t so I humbly acknowledge that it is harder for him and I am so grateful that he sacrifices these things for me and our family.
5 years ago, we built a cottage at the back of our property and had our other daughter and her two boys live there. We had the pleasure of having her there for approximately 2 years, where we could spend every single day with those boys. We played in the back yard, had dinner together whenever we wanted, had camp fires, they could walk down here by themselves and come borrow a cup of sugar or just yell at us from their deck to see if they could come have a hot tub with us if we were outside. It was a beautiful experience for us and one that we would never pass up again if the opportunity presented itself. In fact, after she met her husband and they moved out, we now have the pleasure of his mom living in the cottage which is another experience we feel blessed to be having. But back to my story……… I wasn’t sure how this arrangement was going to work; 2 big people, a small but mighty person and a medium sized clunker of a dog…..some would call us crazy.
What we didn’t bank on was that we were going to witness this mighty little girl come out of her shell in a big way and blossom. We would lay in bed in the mornings and hear her yell at the top of her lungs “mommyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”. I commented one day that she has a cheerleader voice just like me, and my husband said honey she has a drill sergeant voice, which is true, we watched as she found her drill sergeant voice! She went for a month of saying Anya this and Anya that and none of us knew what she was talking about. Finally, my daughter said show me Anya and V came over to me and pointed…..from then on I was known as Anya and Poppa was known as Bobby. She has changed somewhat and now calls me Aya and Poppa is now Poppa but that was such a sweet surprise to know that she had been talking about me for a month and none of us even knew it (except V of course). One early morning we heard them in the kitchen having breakfast and Poppa started to get out of bed so I said to him, you know you don’t have to get up with them and he said I will take whatever chance I can get to have breakfast with that little girl, you know she’s not going to be here forever and he did just that. And then right before our eyes, we watched this little girl become a confident, bossy, funny, sassy little firecracker drill sergeant finding her own place in the world that we wouldn’t have been able to watch had this opportunity not presented itself to us. That year helped us build a bond with her (and her parents for that matter) that I’m confident will only grow from there and I am so thankful that they took a chance and took us up on the offer to stay with us.
We also got the satisfaction of watching our daughter mother in ways that I am in awe of. She is patient and level headed, kind but firm, she is loving and is teaching V empathy, patience, sharing, manners, kindness, confidence and more. When she was frustrated and V had a meltdown she would get down to V’s level and we watched her turn it around with love, understanding and firmness. She (our daughter) really gets the meaning of spending quality time and being present, even if she had laundry, had to search for new flooring, had to work, had to get back to clients for her photography business, had to do some editing, or had other house decisions on her mind, she always made the time for V and let her know that she was important, valued and would always be heard. It is a real pleasure watching your daughters parent their own children.
I remember another time with our other daughter when her 6-year-old little boy wanted to give a girl in his class a kiss, not because he “liked her” (his words not mine) but because she gave him a special valentine, so he asked his mom if that was ok to do. Her answer melted my heart and was just one more time that made me so proud of the mother she is. She told him that mommy isn’t who he needs to ask, the little girl is who he should ask. She told him that it is the little girl’s choice if she wanted him to kiss her on the cheek and if she says no, that he needed to respect that and go back to swinging on the monkey bars. I’m not sure if he ever asked her but it didn’t really matter, what mattered was that our daughter used this opportunity to again teach her sons a valuable lesson; which was to respect women, to be a gentleman, and if a woman says no, she means it. Over the years, we have watched her teach her children so much; to open the doors for older people, to say please and thank you, to show people you love them even if they have hurt your feelings, she has taught them empathy and to play with the kids that others don’t play with, sit on the bench by the kids that other’s don’t want to sit with, she has taught them to be kind and care about everyone, even when they make you mad or look at you the wrong way or even when they aren’t being very nice to you. She has taught them to be good sports and to mind their manners and to chew with their mouth shut and most importantly she is teaching them that sometimes it will seem that life isn’t fair but that’s ok because sometimes it’s not but that’s life. The way she positively navigates mothering 4 children amazes me. She thinks on her feet, she is one of the most caring mothers I know and showers her brood with love even when she can hardly muster the energy to comb her own hair.
Our year-long roomie arrangement with our oldest daughter and family wasn’t without some challenges though (more for our daughter than for us) and I thought that would be the opposite. She had to live in a small area and pack things up and down the stairs a couple dozen times a day. She had to deal with us having the television turned up to max volume so my husband could hear it. She had to deal with me wanting popcorn for dinner when she is a super health freak. She had to deal with me being a night owl when she was tired and ready for bed by 7 pm every night, she had to be the one to do double and triple duty so her husband could spend 10-12 hours a day building their new home. She had to deal with my dog who is considerably smaller but a much bigger pain in the a@$ than her Frenchie. Speaking of their Frenchie, my dog took a while to warm up to his cousin but they even found a relationship that blossomed. Lexi taught Tucker how to play, how to chill out a bit, and he taught her how to bark at the slightest movement across town (I’m kind of kidding, but not really).
So, if you want to see some unexpected & beautiful results I would encourage you (if the opportunity presents itself) to open your heart and your home and put your worries on the back burner, you just may find that you will have some surprise outcomes, just like we did. It is a year that I will be forever grateful for.