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grandchildren
dinner plans
short stay
clarifications
girlfriend
few minutes
clock
Getting Along With Live - In Grandchildren Or Not
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Getting Along With Live   -   in Grandchildren Or Not

Multi-Generational Families: Is Time Relative?

Saturday night I stopped by my friend Lillian's to pick her up and bring her back to my house for dinner and a movie. She didn't appear when I tooted, so I let myself into her house (I have a key), only to find her settled into the tv room as if she didn't have dinner plans.

"What's going on?" I asked.

"Sit down," she advised. But I didn't want to sit, I wanted to get back home where another friend awaited our arrival.

"My life is out of control," Lillian lamented. "Bobby's here, you know, well he isn't here he's gone out and I don't know where Tanya and Ben are."

Bobby and Tanya are both Lillian's grandchildren, though by different mothers; Ben is Tanya's boyfriend. I had no idea what Lillian was talking about, as Bobby lives in another state and I didn't see how Tanya and Ben's whereabouts affected our dinner plans. The latter live with Lillian but are often not home.

"So Bobby's here, or no?" I probed.

"He was supposed to come at 2 o'clock and I waited and I waited and then finally at 4pm his mother dropped him off; and he has a girlfriend and he's all upset about her, poor boy, and now he's gone and I don't know what to do."

Aided by questions and clarifications, I surmised that Bobby had arrived for a short stay because it was school vacation week. He's 16 and can't drive yet, so his mother had brought him to Lillian's. Lillian believed the point was for Bobby and Tanya to spend some time together, but Tanya had driven off to pick up Ben from work at 3pm, saying she'd be back in an hour. After Bobby arrived at 4, Lillian called Tanya who was at Ben's mother's house and would be home 'soon.' Bobby had gone for a walk after texting his girlfriend with whom he was apparently having problems. He'd told Lillian he'd be back in a few minutes. It was 6pm and no one had come home and Lillian had simply ground to a halt.

What's a friend to do? Lillian has an on-going problem with her daughter-in-laws and her grandchildren regarding time. She feels they should do what they say they'll do. If they say "2 o'clock" they should arrive at 2 o'clock. 'Soon' means half an hour or less. Her family's perspective is that they lead busy lives and do their best to meet Lillian's expectations. They know she wants thing's under control so when she asks when they'll be home, they give her a time. She suffers from chronic illness and they want to accomodate her. My repeated observation that time means different things to different people hasn't helped. Probably because that's not the problem. There's very little in her life that Lillian can control, especially her illness, and she'd like life at home to be predictable. Her family has their own needs and desires and don't see why they have to report their every move to grandma. Tanya is pregnant and Ben has his job and own family to deal with. Lillian's daughters-in-law have families too.

"When in doubt, solve a concrete problem," I think. Lillian doesn't feel she can go to dinner at my house as long as Bobby is gone. I remind her that he's always left alone while his mother works, and has just gone for a walk to clear his head. "At 16, every bump in the boy-girl road looms large," I say, "and he seems to be dealing ok." For the next few minutes my friend waffles out loud as to whether she can leave before Bobby comes back. Finally, after I've bitten my tongue sore, she's talked herself round and writes a note in huge letters asking Bobby to call her as soon as he gets back.

We drive to my house while Lillian goes on about how her expectations are meager, yet Tanya and Ben never fail to disappoint. I tune out and think about warm pizza and cold beer. The friend who's been waiting greets us warmly and we sit down with drinks to ride the rest of Lillian's wave of anger. Soon Bobby calls and Lillian has gotten a buzz from the drinks, and we settle down to good food and good conversation. The evening proves exceptionally pleasant, and when I drop Lillian back at her house around 10pm, Tanya and Ben's car is there. When Lillian goes inside she won't say a thing about earlier events, nor will Tanya, Ben or Bobby, who've most likely been having a lovely evening of their own.


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