Dear readers if you think maintaing relationships with and staying close to adult children and grandchildren is not always easy you are not alone. Here is my story:
I remember the day I bid farewell to my Jenny, my eldest daughter. She was just 18, and off to the mainland for college from our home in Oahu, Hawaii. I hugged her to me, knowing it was a moment to savor and cherish, and kissed her good-bye.
Sitting at my computer some 20 years later, I’m dismayed that I don’t have a picture of my darling daughter’s face in my mind when we said our good-byes. I can’t recall what she wore, or whether she looked back before she disappeared from view. And it’s not because I didn’t adore her—I did, to my very core.
Roots and wings
Looking back, nostalgically, I think it may have been because of the gift she gave me just before leaving for the airport, a framed poster with the words, “you gave me my roots and my wings.” Her comprehension of what was happening, and its future consequences, startled me with its awareness. She was trying to help her mother say good-bye to a daughter who had given her 18 years of joy. Forty-some years later, I still have her gift in my memory drawer.
I know you’re all familiar with this saying. I know many of you are parents, like myself, and have opened the door to let our children fly. Every word on that poster was a prediction of what was to come. Our responsibility as parents, and now grandparents, is clear: Our children are our children, but not our property. They were born to us, but don’t belong to us. We raise them in our homes but we don’t own their souls. We want to be like them, and want them to be like us, but we must realize that they are of a different generation.
As you are well aware, relationships with our children and grands have chapters. Parents and grandparents grow older, as we have. Speaking for myself, I feel more and more the need to share in their busy lives. It’s interesting because God knows…I am so busy I am dizzy. Yet nevertheless, I feel sad if I don’t hear back from a daughter or a grandchild in a reasonable timeframe.
My husband, Sheldon Good, says: “Don’t be so sensitive. They have their families. They love you. They’re busy with their lives.” I reply: “I know they love me but… I call them back immediately.” And then I think back to Jenny’s poster about roots and wings. And so must you, dear readers, and not feel sad.
Here’s why: When they were under our roofs, we gave them a strong root system that we hope will sustain them through life. We were the shelter from the storm, the unconditional love, the teachers who preached about the importance of family and values.
Under our roofs, we give them strong wings, and that gives them the ability to fly out of our nests and have their freedom. But in truth, we taught them to fly, and to trust in themselves. And in truth, they are doing so with our blessings.
Communication is still key
But now, I urge my offspring openly, and you should too, to use their strong wings to fly back to my nest every now and then.
I say: Please use your strong roots and the values taught to you to remember to text me, to send an email, to place a phone call. It means so much to me, and I miss you and love you. And when I text, email or talk to them myself, I always say, “ I am your unconditional love, your shelter from the storm, your wise teacher. And so I don’t sound too old ,I add, “who’s been there, done that!”
When I am feeling a little isolated and lonely, and longing to see them, I channel Shelly’s wise words: “they are busy with their lives.” Then I get defensive and say to myself, “Well, I’m busy with mine too.” And then I continue muttering to myself, “I want to keep my children and grands close to me for my sake and their sakes. It is my obligation.” And I think of a million and one ways to continue to achieve this goal, and the sadness goes away. Does this sound familiar to you?
Staying close to adult children
We don’t want to stand on ceremony by tracking who called or didn’t call, or who forgot to do this or that, because we need our children and grandchildren. And more importantly, we must remember that it is our obligation as mothers and grandmothers to perpetuate this strong family “root system,” and this must be done with positivity and grace.
It is natural, as we grow older, to feel sad at times, especially if our families live far from us. Selfishly, sometimes I fleetingly wish I had clipped their wings to keep them close. And then I remember how lucky I am to have launched them successfully, and start sending those texts, inviting those close by for dinner, making plans to visit them in far away cities or invite them to visit us. And the sadness lifts and I am glad they have strong wings, strong roots and interesting, productive lives.
Moral of todays relationship story about staying close to adult children: keep nurturing your children and grandchildren with the sustenance they need now to deepen those roots, and keep showing them how important it is to use their wings to find fulfillment in life.