Our nest recently re-emptied, I think this time for good, I've been pondering the relationship between adult children and their parents. Specifically, my children and me... and me and my parents.
When I was my kids' age, I was busy living my adult life. I had a husband, two kids, a full time job and a house. Weeknights were about meals, clean-up, laundry, homework, preparing for the next day of school or day care, settling the logistics of who would pick up whom when the next day, then everyone to bed and my time to catch up on stuff from the office. Weekends were even busier, especially once the kids were in school activities.
My folks lived an hour away so seeing them required planning. I called every week or so, went to visit monthly (especially if we wanted to drop the kids off for a weekend). When they'd moved a little closer and my mom was diagnosed with cancer, my visits became more frequent as I took her to doctor visits and chemo treatments and did grocery shopping for her and my dad. But even then, it was all about fitting them in around all of the other aspects of my oh-so-busy life.
They were very conscious of not intruding. They'd raised me to be independent and self-sufficient, after all. So I rarely heard from them unless my mother was really worried about something, such as whether I'd made it to work safely in an ice storm. I rolled my eyes in exasperation at those calls, infrequent though they were. But otherwise, I didn't think much about what my parents might be thinking and feeling about me. They had their life, and I had mine.
They're both gone now. But finally, I get it. My life was all about me. And as respectful as they were of giving me my space, as many friends or activities they had at the retirement community... so was theirs.
I get that even as they "gave me my space", there wasn't a day they didn't think about my brother and me, wondering how our days had been, what we were doing, whether we were happy and safe. I get that parenthood really is for life, even long after the formal responsibility of nuturing, protecting, teaching (and paying!) is past.
Because that's how it is for me.
I'm luckier than my parents, because my kids are better at keeping in touch. They were here Sunday night for supper, and it was such a pleasure just to be with them, listen in on their conversation, be reminded again what interesting, resourceful young people they have become.
I'm glad they are more attenentive to me than I was to my parents. It makes my days more enjoyable now.
And I hope, means they'll have fewer regrets in years to come.
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