Living in a multigenerational household

Photo of held hands

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For as long as I can remember, my grandparents would visit my family for weeks at a time, staying with us for about six months every year. I loved when they would visit and would cry every time they left, dramatically throwing a tantrum. But then COVID-19 hit, and suddenly my grandparents sold their house in Sacramento, California and were living in mine. 

Living in a multigenerational household has a lot of perks: my grandmother’s famous oatmeal cookies, my grandfather’s weird jokes that don’t make sense in English, my grandparents’ funny old married couple banter and watching telenovelas with them. The list is endless.

However, it also presents its own challenges. You have to shoulder additional responsibilities in helping take care of them, you need more patience, you provide lots of time and attention and if your grandparents speak another language like mine, you may even have to translate for them. 

I know it’s cliche to say that we learn so much from each other and the experience of living together is invaluable. All of that’s true, but it’s also difficult, especially during a time like this. I commend all of the families who have had to support extended family members, and I sympathize with those who have had to make sacrifices due to family pressures during the pandemic. 

After living with my grandparents for several months now, I’ve begun to notice differences in my relationship with them and how it’s developed. As a child, I had an idealistic view of my grandparents and our relationship. But now that I’m older, I see them in a more honest light. Living together has made our relationship more genuine: We get frustrated, mad and even annoyed with each other. We may say things that my other friends who don’t live with their grandparents would be too afraid to say out of respect. That’s not to say I don’t respect my grandparents. In fact, I believe it’s more respectful to treat them like normal people, instead of people who need pity and a condescending amount of patience. While I do maintain an element of respect with them, I think they appreciate our friendship-like relationship. 

I love how my grandfather will pick flowers and leave them on the kitchen table for my mom, grandmother or me. I love how he calls my mom “Peaches” and me “Peachita” because of the big pink cheeks we had when we were babies. I love how my grandmother would go to the store and come back to tell me her cashier’s entire life story because she loves to talk. But what I’ve loved most about living with them this past year is that my grandmother and I both grew to become more assertive and learned to stand up for ourselves, together. 

“You are not the woman I married!” My grandfather said one day in a frustrated tone.

“Good,” my grandmother said with a childish smirk as she winked at me. 

Contact Paloma Torres at [email protected].