A century ago many families lived in big, multi-generational clusters. Some still do.
They've got the right idea.
In this arrangement everybody receives something essential. Parents get support for the nonstop demands of child-rearing. Kids bask in the love and attention of grandparents, their biggest fans. For grandparents the gifts are the most precious. When grandchildren are born, they fling the door open to a room in your heart you didn't know was there. It's a room you don't want to leave.
If your grandchildren live nearby, you don't have to.
We have two sets of grandchildren living minutes away. You could say that we have our own version of the multi-generational lifestyle.
Our house is the hub for for a happy band of cousins that get together several times each week. Little kids who love to play together, eat dinner together, have slumber parties together. They snuggle on the couch to watch TV, then play hide and seek to stall for more time. Finally, they line up together for a Hershey kiss before they go home (two kisses on Shabbat).
Last week, our Chicago kids and three grandsons arrived at our house for a nine-day visit. That was the start of a non-stop party because having the Chicago cousins here is so, so special. The kids wanted to play together EVERY DAY and they did! A total of four boys, four girls, all four years old and under. Three are infants; two of those infants are newborns.
It was heaven.
Every night was playtime for the five children old enough to play. Dinner was in shifts, with the kids eating first at their little green table. Then they piled onto the couch to watch TV while the grownups ate and eagerly chatted. The babies were passed from one set of arms to the next.
Over the days, lines blurred. This aunt cuddling that nephew. This uncle throwing that niece in the air. Every lap was open seating.
Saying goodnight took a long, sweet time, as each child made the rounds, hugging cousins, aunts and uncles.
Every night at bedtime, our grandsons asked the same question: Will the cousins come back to play again tomorrow?
Yes, I promised. They will.
I know that this is not the lifestyle for everyone my age. Cooking for a crowd night after night, running the dishwasher three times a day, a return of toys and baby gear---no thanks, some say. We raised our kids. This is too much. This is over the top.
I understand that.
But I still prefer chaos. I love over-the-top. I'll take that every time.
And there's this. On Saturday afternoon we settled our three visiting grandsons down to nap. Then our local son asked if he could drop off his newborn while he ran errands. Sure, I said, why not? Within an hour that baby was fed and napping too. Mike and I gave each other a fist bump, then relaxed with coffee and the newspaper. Getting a four-year old, a two-year old, and two infants to nap at the same is how you feel like a rock star at sixty!
Saturday night was the grande finale of our week-long party and we all made the most of it. Goodbyes stretched out for a long time.
The Chicago crew hit the road early the next morning. Our four-year old grandson climbed into his car seat, head bowed and tears flowing. His parents said he was still waving goodbye long after our house disappeared from sight.
He wasn't the only one shedding tears.
The house is back to being clean and quiet, but I hope not for long. We still have five grandkids here. It's time for them to come back and mess everything up!
"Just stay right here, 'cause these are the good old days," sang Carly Simon a generation ago. Yes, yes, these are the best days of all.