At least once a year for three weeks, our family of four becomes a family of six. This usually occurs just before our girls’ birthday. During this time, L and K often wake up in the morning demanding that the gate upstairs be opened so they could knock on the guest room downstairs. After a couple weeks, it becomes a contest of sorts to see who can run down the stairs the fastest to knock on the door first, followed by a loud whine by the one who came in second.
This is Farmor’s and Farfar’s wake up call each morning for the duration of their stay. I feel bad but they really don’t seem to mind. In fact, they seem to look forward to it. They rouse themselves out of bed (if they’re not up already) while L and K continue to laugh and giggle between shouts of “God Morn” and “Wake up, Farmor, Farfar!” And the day begins.
L and K are in preschool. When Farmor and Farfar visit, they take over pickup and dropoff at preschool. They get to know their teachers and the girls get to show off their grandparents. This is their chance to take care of the girls exclusively during the year, unless we’re able to make it to Norway at some point. And they love it. In return, the girls know they have two more playmates whose attention they can command whenever they desire…which is all the time. They also take babysitting duty when T works late and I have a board meeting or we just want to see a movie. Times like this, I truly envy all my friends who have family around.
Farmor and Farfar also want to do house projects for us. Because T’s brothers’ and sister’s families all live close to them in Norway, they’re able to help out now and then. They feel bad that they can’t be as handy for us living so far away. So we’ve started to define those projects that they could do during their visit. This time, Farfar finished off the trim and crown moulding in the kitchen. It was a perfect project. It’s a project that required so much planning and detail work, who knows when T would have had time to spend on it. (And he does very professional work.) In the past, he has demolished our kitchen (in preparation for a kitchen remodel – another post entirely) and built a deck in our backyard (just imagine what he could do if he lived here!). Farmor infuses our garden with colorful, new flowers.
I know we’re lucky. It’s like this when my parents visit, too (well, maybe not the carpentry-type stuff but they certainly dive into cooking and gardening). They simply show up and just start taking care of the girls…and us. Unfortunately, I do know some people whose own parents maintain the “Well, I’ve already raised my children – why should I do it again?” attitude. And with that, they behave like guests when they visit their children and grandchildren, expecting to be cooked for and entertained with sightseeing trips here and there. I don’t understand this. Family is family. If you create distance, kids especially, will feel it. They won’t let you in and that’s a real shame.
Anyway, I noticed that whenever T’s parents or my parents leave after a visit, I feel a certain emptiness. A little bit sad. I quickly get used to their being around, expecting their presence. When they’re gone, it seems like we have to regroup and figure out how to be just us again. Weird, huh. I would have expected the opposite – relief, freedom – but no. And it’s probably because they’re family.