What is it about children that they remind you so much of the worst of you? They react badly to stresses and you remember clearly having the same reaction as a child. They say stupid things, say the wrong things, say silly things and hurtful things and you want to take them by the shoulders and tell them exactly why they shouldn’t be saying them. The reason you have sage advice is because you said stupid, wrong, silly and hurtful things when you were that age and you know clearly what’s going to come of it. You want to hold them and teach them how to avoid the idiotic mistakes you made growing up and save themselves a lot of heartache. You know that the only reason you survived growing up was through the grace of God but, no matter how hard you pray, you still worry that God’s favor may not be enough for them because you’ve seen the tragedy of children who didn’t make it. In spite of your best efforts the children will have none of it. They don’t want to listen to advice, they don’t want you to teach them anything. They’re telling you, “Listen, I have the right to screw up, just like you did. I’m going to do it my own way and, by the way, would you mind sticking around to help me pick up the pieces when I’ve succeeded?”
I understand that my grandchildren are dealing with a lot of things that I didn’t have to when I was growing up, yet there are some similarities. I also lived in a multigenerational household. My grandfather was disabled thanks to the abysmal working conditions in the 30’s and 40’s. When my grandmother couldn’t care for him my mother had them move in with us, which must have been a difficult decision. We stuffed seven people with different needs, ages, and personalities into a tiny house that had two small bedrooms, a cramped living room and kitchenette. My two sisters and I had to share an attic for a bedroom with some old clothes strung on a line as a room divider. It would be broiling hot in the summer and fiercely cold in the winter, yet – we didn’t realize that there was anything wrong with it. Eventually we all moved into the home I’m still living in. We all survived, so I know that it can be done.
The generations dance together, moving in and out of circles, reaching out to hold each other’s hands for a while before turning apart. Sometimes side by side and sometimes across from each other, each following the music they hear. As new dancers come into the circle we teach them the dance knowing that soon their music will call them to move on to other circles. Eventually, some will have to leave to continue the dance in another place. Their shadows remain for a while, yet they are moving to the music of a new dance with the other shadow dancers. And the circle continues.