Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A Full House

Imagine living with your in-laws. And their parents. Under the same roof. Oh, and  did I forget the kids? Right, you also have two kids. With the exception of a crazy pet, it sounds like a recipe for one of those crazy family torture/comedy movies, yet this has been our reality for the past year and a half. Well, Elena (baby 2) has only been around a few months, but still, it's a full house! For many cultures around the world this is a completely normal situation, but not for us. We've got generation gaps, language barriers and cultural differences that make for an interesting mix.

It's very easy to see life solely through your own eyes, as though you are the main character in a movie. Everyone else has one supporting role - in relation to you; your mother, brother, husband etc. But of course, everyone else also stars in their own story, so we all have many roles to play as we interact with those around us. So although this apartment is home to eight people, we have six parents, four grandparents, two great-grandparents and six "kids". Try to discipline a toddler with four extra sets of parenting eyes on you! I am a mother, wife, daughter-in-law and granddaughter-in-law all the time. Maybe it is this "being everything to everyone" that makes it difficult to maintain for a long time, and yet this recognition of all these roles also allows us to coexist peacefully as we each adjust our actions and attitudes to accommodate each other.

Of course, there are things that are frustrating, things that are annoying and a lot of things that are just funny (although they don't always seems as such at the time!) We have tried to make the apartment as baby proof as possible without changing too much, but an energetic toddler is hard to contain! We have lots of medicines to keep him away from, and all of the precious crystal and breakables have been slowly moving up higher and higher on the shelves. Right now the biggest challenge is keeping Lucas, our toddler, away from the table, that grandma loves to set hours in advance.   

The other thing that makes this situation less than ideal for me is that by nature, I am a homemaker. I love moving, decorating, and getting a home set-up. Although I expect a lot more work once we move out, I am looking forward to the challenge of  keeping up a home. I have learned a lot of little tricks from the other women in this household but in some ways we will always do things differently. For example, when we wash dishes, grandma puts them on the drying rack starting on the side closest to the sink, I put them starting on the side farthest from the sink and work my way towards the sink. My mother in law also starts on the farthest side but places the plates the other way around. Usually only one of us is washing dishes at a time, but occasionally we all wash a few and the rack ends up looking something like this:

It has certainly been an interesting year, full of ups and downs and various challenges, but I've learned a lot and come to know and appreciate my in-laws in ways that I never would have otherwise. We have also definitely benefited from the built-in babysitting! Lucas has brought a lot of joy to his grandparents and great-grandparents, and a few worries to his doting great-grandmother. I know once we move, we will be missed and I will appreciate having our own place that much more.  
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