For My Children
April 28, 2016
My oldest daughter (she calls herself ‘the first born’) just left after spending a week with us. It was a lovely week. My husband and I took long walks on the beach with her, we all hung out at the swimming pool (some of us reading and some swimming), we went to the theater, had lunch at her favorite beach-side restaurant and spent many hours simply talking, catching up on all the time we are not together. She and I even squeezed in a few hours of shopping time. The time flew by and when we said goodbye at the airport, it felt like she had just arrived. I am already counting the days until her next visit.
Our middle daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter will arrive for a week’s stay in early June. We visited them about six weeks ago and our daughter always does everything she can think of to make us comfortable. She and our son-in-law give us the living room (and the couch with the pull-out bed) as our room for the time we are there. She bought new sheets and pillows for our bed, cleaned out drawers for our use and laid out clean towels in the bathroom. The first night, she had dinner ready for us. She had worked hard to be certain we were comfortable and we were. That left us lots of time to spend with them and with our granddaughter. We took walks to the shopping center, visited our son-in-law’s family and played games in the kitchen. I am counting the days until they arrive at our house.
About a month ago, our youngest, our son, drove to our house from the Tampa Airport, squeezing in a day and a half with us on his way to a work assignment in Miami. We went out for sushi (a favorite in our family), and talked for a long time. In January, we visited him and our daughter-in-law at their home. They arranged dinner for us, helped us find our way around and met us for lunch. Our son is like Houdini; he always appears when we need him most. When I had a knee replacement, he surprised me by traveling to Bradenton and appearing in the hospital on the day after surgery. When we had a family emergency far from our home, he volunteered his services and was an enormous help. He never left my side when his father was sick. We will visit our son and daughter-in-law in July and I am counting the days.
Even though our three children do not live near us, they have been a huge presence in our lives, even as they have built their own lives. Although they are adults, they are still our children and my husband and I still worry about them, as do all parents. However, the things we worry about have changed to bigger issues: Are they working too hard? Are they eating right? Have they made an appointment for an annual physical or a check-up at the dentist? Are their jobs stable and are they putting money away for the future? We have learned what our parents learned before us and their parents before them; once you are a parent, you are always a parent. It is impossible to let go.
Of course, it has not always been like this. Each of them pulled away sometime during his or her late adolescence or early twenties. Although those were difficult times for us and probably for them, this is normal, something all our children must do to find their own way to becoming adults. We kept in touch and when they were ready, they came back, each in his or her own way and we welcomed them with relief and open arms.
We (my husband and I) are lucky to not only have our children in our lives, but to have them stay close; sometimes as friends, enjoying an activity together; sometimes as confidants, when we share a close moment; and sometimes as our children when we are being parents and doling out (unwanted) advice! What I hope they never become is our caretakers. But then, that’s part of parenting also.
We tease our children that they continue to come home because we live in Florida, just two and one-half miles from a lovely beach. But they continue to assure us that, even though that’s a bonus, it’s us they come to see. This, for me, is the frosting on the cake because my visits to my parents were often difficult and I would count the days until I would be going home. I don’t know what my husband and I did or didn’t do to create this attitude, but I am very grateful.
To our three children, our son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and our very special granddaughter: I love you forever.