First granny marks return of extended family

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“I think you have to give everyone their own privacy,” she says. “Mom can go back to her room if she wants. If my daughter is disciplining her children, we make ourselves scarce.”

Torryn Brazell is thinking about putting an addition on her Vienna home with the plan that her mother, Marylynn Phelps, will move from Indiana to live with Mrs. Brazell, her husband and two sons.

Mrs. Phelps, 68, is a government contractor who goes on months-long overseas assignments. Mrs. Brazell thinks it would be great to have her mother live in Virginia in between trips.

“My sons, Ty and Bannon, are her only grandkids,” says Mrs. Brazell, 45. “We want to be together. My mom wants to be able to meet them at the bus stop. The Catholic religion is also very important to her. She wants to teach them traditions.”

Still, shared space and private space will be important. Mrs. Brazell says they will either find a new house with a private in-law suite or build an addition that features universal design in case Mrs. Phelps has any physical issues later in life.

Those are excellent plans, Ms. Ginzler says. Thinking ahead can help save squabbles - as well as money - down the road.

“Start the family conversation early, way before mom or dad gets sick,” she says. “Think about whose house you will live in. What is the physical space like? You can share a roof and have a large degree of independence or you can have limited individual space.”

Another thing to keep in mind: Make sure everyone is onboard, including spouses and children.

“There is no one formula for this,” Ms. Ginzler says. “Each family unit needs to spell things out. You want to talk about everything and make no assumptions. Today’s families are going in all directions: Does grandma think you are all going to sit down to dinner every night? What about bringing her pets? Which room will she take?”

Meanwhile, the Keys say they are “delighted” to have young children, as well as Mrs. Armstrong, in their home.

The one-floor layout makes it easy for Mrs. Armstrong to get around, as well as for young Judah to practice a little indoor scooter riding.

“This is perfect,” Mr. Keys says of having his extended family under one roof. “I am able to play and run around with the kids. We crank up the music and have a great time.”

About the Author
Karen Goldberg Goff

Karen Goldberg Goff

Karen Goldberg Goff has been a reporter at The Washington Times since 1992. She currently writes feature-length stories on a variety of topics, including family issues, pop culture, health, food and technology. Follow Karen on Twitter.

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