Bunking With Grandma: Lessons From My Multi-Generational Pandemic Bubble

我们通过发表论文来表彰学生编辑大赛的前 11 名获奖者。这是16岁的Aria Capelli的作品。


这篇文章由来自加利福尼亚州丹维尔雅典学校的 16 岁的 Aria Capelli 撰写,是学习网络第九届年度学生社论大赛的前 11 名获奖者之一,我们收到了 16,664 份参赛作品。

When a sphere of spike proteins suddenly skewered the world, I had a built-in bubble to cushion the blow.

My mother, inspired by her family’s traditional Chinese siheyuan home, moved her parents in with her when she married. Like the siheyuan's multigenerational courtyard-cuddling wings, our own block nestles my aunt, uncle and cousins. From my grandmother, I learned the neat fold and flip of a wanton. From my grandfather, Chinese grammar and composition. Auntie Alex spouts algebra tips, and my cousins enumerate ways to cheat at Monopoly. I double as my grandfather’s iPhone Genius Bar and bolster my grandmother’s spirits during chemotherapy.

Yet only as I watched my peers in single family homes traverse a cruel seesaw of virus risk and social isolation did I fully appreciate our alternative way of living.

Even with a new normal that permits safe sociability, I hope more Americans rediscover the value of multigenerational living. The unextended household is a relatively recent conception; humans have long lived in multigenerational networks. In American suburbia, the nuclear family unit has accelerated an epidemic of loneliness, a homeownership crunch, and simultaneous child care and senior care crises. Research shows that both seniors and young people benefit socially and financially from multigenerational households. Fortunately, such arrangements are proliferating — 20 percent of Americans resided in multigenerational households in 2016, which is the highest proportion since 1950.

Nevertheless, structural barriers to reshaping suburbs remain: My state of California has long suffered from a pox of single-family zoning, while the average household size continues to ebb nationally. American culture still exalts the single-family home, and families shoved together by economic (or pandemic) pressures may revert to the “norm” once those pressures ease.

It’s easy to fetishize individual “freedom,” and crave some measure of privacy, independence and noise cancellation. For young people, living on one’s own is often part of forging an adult identity. But leaving the nest shouldn’t mean permanent exile for fledgling adults. Humans need social connection to thrive, and many Americans idealize the self-determination of single-family living while underestimating the benefits of togetherness.

With the passage of Senate Bills 9 and 10, “single-family” lots in California can now boast four separate dwellings — or a modern siheyuan — and builders increasingly offer flexible, multigenerational-friendly floor plans. To really change how Californians and Americans live we need a more fundamental change in social and cultural expectations. No individual can rescript the American dream or rezone the neighborhood. We could all think twice, though, before casting a side-eye at a young adult who’s returned home to stay in her parents’ basement. It sure beats quarantine!

Works Cited

Cohn, D’Vera, and Jeffrey S. Passel. “Record 64 Million Americans Live in Multigenerational Households.” Pew Research Center, 27 July 2020.

Grose, Jessica. “‘It’s Pretty Brutal’: The Sandwich Generation Pays a Price.” The New York Times, 11 Feb. 2020.

Hafner, Katie. “Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness.” The New York Times, 5 Sept. 2016.

Jackson, Candace. “Opinion | The New American Dream Home Is One You Never Have to Leave.” The New York Times, 13 Oct. 2018.

Kolomatsky, Michael. “Millennials Face a Steep Climb to Homeownership.” The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2020.

Muennig, Peter, et al. “Living With Parents or Grandparents Increases Social Capital and Survival: 2014 General Social Survey-National Death Index.” SSM — Population Health, 10 Nov. 2017.