I recently asked my newsletter audience about the challenges they face as a parent. This is one response I received:
“My challenge is related to my children. All three are grown and gone several states away. I rarely see them, my relationship with my gay child has been difficult since she was nine or so, and I have so many regrets about our lives while they were growing up – single-parenting, lack of time for them, not really ever feeling competent, etc.
I can never feel like I am a part of their lives, and wish they wanted me to be. I do call often, text and tag them in social media. It’s a balancing act – not wanting them to feel like I’m prying.
It’s not very rewarding, at times.”
I totally relate to this readers situation. My two sons are across the country. I don’t see them as often as I’d like. As they’ve grown older the relationship with them seems to have become more distant. Even in their early 20’s and 30’s, they still called me for advice or just to chat. Not so much anymore. They have their own lives, friends, families and they are certainly at an age when they don’t need their mother’s advice! I still can remember my own mother complaining because I didn’t call her often enough and her grandsons didn’t call. I used to tell her to pick up the phone and call them. The more time that went by, the harder it was for her to do and I don’t think she ever called them. I think she felt it was their “job” to call her.
I try not to go to that place. It is not my sons ‘responsibility to check in on me. I don’t call them as often as I could either. I love that my reader checks in with her children by calling and texting and tagging them in social media. It is a way to stay connected. Though she didn’t say, I’m guessing that she wishes her children would come and visit more often. Neither of my sons have been here to visit in several years or more. I’ve always been the one to go visit them and like her, not as often as I’d like. That is largely what has prompted my decision to move to North Carolina. I will be close to my older son and only an hour and half away by plane to my younger son. I was surprised to hear the excitement in my younger son’s voice about my being closer. I’m excited about being close to Rick and Jeffrey and so much closer to Brian, Lisa and my grandsons. I wish it was happening tomorrow!
The question remains – how do we stay close to our children when they live far away. I wish I had an easy answer. When our children are adults, the relationship changes. No one gives us a manual for how to be the parent of an adult child. And as I said, they don’t need us in the same way we need them. For me, I try to connect via social media, text and phone calls. I find one son is quite responsive to texts and the other to phone calls. I try to connect in ways that work for them. And I fill my life with activities that I can about and enjoy. It helps me not feel so separated from them and it gives me more to talk to them about!
As for regrets, I think we all have those as parents. I could give you a litany of all the things I regret. I made a lot of mistakes and sometimes I can see the results in one or the other of my children’s behavior. What I choose to focus on is what I did right. I’ve made amends to my sons for those things I regret. Even recently, while cleaning out a box of mementoes, I came across a letter my son wrote to me when he was in high school. He expressed his sadness that I was always so busy and told me he felt neglected. Reading that, 30 years after it was written, made me feel so sad. I scanned it and sent it to him along with a couple of other things. I told him how sad I felt reading that even now. He responded that knowing me, he was sure I responded to it and made necessary changes. So, I can focus on how he felt neglected and what I did to cause that or I can focus on his assurance that I heard him and made necessary changes. And the other thing I focus on is that he felt safe enough to tell me. That is huge!
As parents of adult children, we have to find a new normal in our relationship with our children and rejoice in that. What are your thoughts on this topic?