Author Meg Mitchell Moore chats about family dynamics and the ways that they change — and stay the same — when the children in a family become parents themselves. Not only has the author been through this herself (as a daughter who has grown up to have children) but her new mainstream tale, The Arrivals, follows a family that is undergoing this important change. Today the author has created a quick list of pointers for how to navigate this challenging transition!
In my debut novel, The Arrivals, out May 25 from Regan Arthur Books/Little, Brown, three adult siblings return to their parents’ home over the course of a summer, bringing their grownup problems under their childhood roof. One of the siblings, Lillian, is mother to a three-year-old girl and an infant boy; she comes seeking solace from a troubled marriage and the chaos of new motherhood. Does she act inappropriately sometimes, and expect things from her parents that maybe she shouldn’t? Does she make mistakes? Does she leave her stuff lying around the house? Sure she does! She’s wounded and overwhelmed. Her heart is broken. She’s tired, and she wants someone to take care of her.
As the mother of three young children I have toted my kids to my parents’ house on several occasions, admittedly for less dramatic reasons than Lillian’s. And I have made many of the same missteps. So I have compiled a list below of which I think Ginny, Lillian’s mother, would approve.
1. Your mother is not your maid. I don’t know why I do this, but at my parents’ house I allow myself to produce a level of clutter—my own clutter, my kids’ clutter—that I do not permit in my own home. Half-read magazines pile up on the dining room table; stuffed animals trail from the bedroom to the bathroom; sippy cups lie upended on the counter. Your mother is not your maid. Neither is your father, your brother or sister, or anyone else who might be sharing the house with you. (Do your parents actually have a maid? Mine don’t. But if yours do, that maid is not your maid either.) Pick up your stuff.
2. Other people want to sleep at night. A visit to your parents’ house is not the time to Ferberize your three-month-old. You might let little Tucker or Niblet or Sunshine cry it out in your own home, but don’t do it at your parents’ house. Comforting a crying baby the second he or she makes a peep won’t ruin him if you do it every so often. Is it after 10 p.m. when the tears and wails start? Pick. The. Baby. Up.
3. Not everyone likes Yo Gabba Gabba. In your own home the television and the room where it’s housed are under your control. At your parents’ house? Not so much. Ask before parking your toddler in front of the box for a Dora ultramarathon. Ask before resetting the DVR to tape Nick Jr. shows exclusively. If a small child has toddled off with the remote, locate it and return it to its rightful place before the Red Sox game starts.
4. You know where the dishwasher is. Use it. Run it when it’s full, unload it when it’s empty, just like you do in your own home.
5. If you want a babysitter, bring along a babysitter. Self-explanatory. Your parents want to spend time with their grandchildren. They want to read to them, maybe do a little coloring, perhaps a walk in the woods. A trip to the zoo might be nice. If they offer to go beyond that and you have some old friends you’d like to visit with, great. If they don’t offer, don’t assume your parents are interested in reliving the down-and-dirty-diapers-and-spit-up parts of parenting.
6. Let them enjoy you, and enjoy them. You may be ridiculously consumed with your baby’s feeding schedule and what he’s produced in his diaper in the past 48 hours or your two-year-old’s wretched tantrums and brand-new biting habits. Reach beyond that for conversation starters. You’re an interesting person. I’m sure you are. And your parents are interesting too. Not only do they likely have things going on in their lives that they’d like to share with you, they’ve probably gotten great pride out of watching you grow from a child to a teenager to a responsible and mature adult who can carry on a conversation about politics or movies or literature. Let them see that person!
- Meg Mitchell Moore
You can see how Meg Mitchell Moore’s fictional family copes when babies are introduced to the already changing dynamics of being parents of children who have children. Pick up your own copy of The Arrivals in stores now!