Tag Archives: Friends

Are You Only As Happy as Your…

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Last Friday we had dinner with old friends, Larry and Sarah. Old in that we met them before we had children. Also old in that we are now parents of grown-ups.  We have two, they have two; adult “kids” in their late 20’s and early 30’s.

What was remarkable about our evening was that we did not discuss our kids. No talk about their jobs or lack thereof, or their choice of partners/spouses or lack thereof. Or their latest triumphs or set-backs.

There was – being 100% honest here – a brief intermission where we did verbally acknowledge (a) the existence of our adult children and (b) their general welfare.

But we did not dwell on them.

Only a few years ago we might have filled our dinner conversation with the latest news about our kids – so how is it that now we no longer need – or want – to do so?

Instead we had a refreshingly kid-talk-free, empty-nester-type conversation about food, music, books, travel, politics, current events and then back to food again. (My friend, Sarah is a fabulous cook.)

We are still parents, and will perennially be so, but the needs of our kids are no longer top of the mind, crowding out our own. While I speak to, text, email both our kids – sometimes IMHO too often with one of them, sometimes IMHO not often enough with the other  –  I no longer know what they eat for dinner, when they went to bed or what they will be doing tomorrow.

Their details belong to their own lives now. And that is how it should be. Mostly.

Admitting here that sometimes the challenges of one of our adult kids tends to encroach on this philosophy.

And when these mental health challenges are at a high point (or a low point, you get the idea; many ups and downs) these challenges could – IF WE LET THEM – take over our adult lives too. Which could easily cast shadows on the pleasantness of a nice evening out with friends.

Luckily (and truly not everyone gets this) our friends do let us talk about the unpleasant times we go through. And they can offer advice (if we are in the mood to hear it) or just be sympathetic sounding boards (sometimes even better.)

But as empty nesters we are learning – slowly but surely – to set aside our parenting selves and focus on our adult selves as often as we can.

Are you, as a parent –  “only as happy as your unhappiest child?”

I think I once was. Now I try hard not to be.

There was a wise mom in the parenting group I facilitated years ago who railed against this expression.  One time – and this made quite an impression on me – this wise mom pounded her fist on the table we were gathered around to emphasize that our happiness as parents must be de-coupled from that of our kids. Not everyone agreed with her.

Our adult kids retain their power to alarm, upset and worry us. What we do with that worry is a matter of choice and frankly, very hard work. It is a battle to stay afloat on those days when your child appears to be sinking. Battle on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Kids, Baby Boomers, Empty Nest, Family, friendship, Letting Go, Parenting, Relationships, Talking, Women, Young Adult Mental Health

Let Me Tell You about My Grandchild (Or Not)

Is this the New Divide?

Haves and the Haves Nots.

the Latest TipToe Around Subject.

We have our first grandchild – you don’t. So let’s NOT talk about it?

It doesn’t seem so long ago that my group of female friends were thinking about getting pregnant. One by one, in our late 20’s or 30’s, most of us, but not all, decided to have children and created families. Years pass, our kids (finally) grow up and we start the wait from the silent (bite your lip hard) parental sidelines hoping that the life cycle repeats itself.

I am one of the lucky ones. Our daughter got married and less than three years later became a Mom. My husband and I were delighted with the unexpected (to us) news, thrilled to become among the first of our friends to achieve Grandparent-hood status.

Thrilled yes but with a tinge of guilt because just like years ago when some friends of ours got pregnant with ease while others had a much harder time – it turns out that new Grandparent-hood can be a sensitive subject.

This caught me off guard. I (naively?)  assumed that all of my friends would eagerly want to see every new photo and video of our adorable, brilliant and talented grandson a/k/a He Who Can Do No Wrong. And that they would rush to our house to meet him and get an in-close view of his toddler antics whenever he visits. Unbelievably, this has not happened.

I mean, is that right? Grandparent-hood is a VERY well deserved reward for all of the fun and games that your kids tortured you with during their growing up years.  Finally – a product of parenthood that emerges as all pleasure – your first grandchild.

And you are forced to keep most of the joy to yourself? It doesn’t seem fair.

Then I remember how before I got pregnant, some of my slightly older, new Mom friends would say things like “I can’t tell you how it really is” and “you have to experience it for yourself.”

Which I did. But my days of being a new Mom are now a blur. Much of the time I was too sleep deprived, too stressed by the tug of work v.s. family obligations to take delight in our growing babies. When I look back at early photos, my kids do look happy but I don’t see joy on my face, only exhaustion.  I  was too focused on the mechanics of raising kids – when’s the next nap, the next meal, bedtime, does she need a bath, that incessant need to get through and accomplish each task.

Exactly why being a new grandparent is so amazing. You’re not tired anymore! And you don’t internalize your grandchild’s daily needs as you did when you were a new Mom. Instead you get to live in the moment and actually enjoy it while it is happening.

Changing tiny diapers now seems like a privilege rather than a chore. Getting our grandson up from a nap is something to anticipate, not dread. When he holds out his arms to me, I beam.

I want to grab all of my friends by their arms and exclaim about being a new Grandmother –   “I can’t tell you how wonderful it really is” and “you have to experience it for yourself.”

But I can’t and I won’t. I don’t want to rub it in – in case it doesn’t happen for them. Which I hope it will. Because once they have hundreds of new grandchild photos and videos that they want to share, I promise to look at all of them. Or at least at some of them. If they look at mine, that is. Fair is fair, right?

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Filed under 1st Grandchild, Adult Kids, Aging, Baby Boomers, daughters, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Midlife, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Relationships, Women, Working Moms

Road Trip: Part II – An Empty Nester Tries to Escape into the Scenery

 

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The views outside the windows of my friend, Caroline’s, car are spectacular.

Ever changing landscapes that look like moonscapes so unusual are the rock formations that we are seeing at the place where the states of Arizona and Utah meet. The sandstone rocks have names like East Mitten and The Three Sisters and The Thumb. I study the brochure so I can distinguish between a butte, a mesa and a spire.

On Day 5 of our Road Trip we are visiting Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a valley of shrubs and wind and underground aquifers and the iconic rock pinnacles that rise to 1,000 feet in the air from a valley that is already 5,564 above sea level. It is so very quiet here, off-season, only a few visitors; you can almost hear the wind whistle along the valley floor.

Caroline, who is a geography buff, talks about the forces of water and wind that created the rock formations millions of years ago.  No wonder the Navajo people revere this area.  I am filled with a sense of peace and contentment as I sit on a ledge with my face in the warm sun, overlooking the beautiful valley below.

Then my cell phone rings.

I knew it couldn’t last. I recognize the number, one which I am intimately familiar. It is my son, calling no doubt to tell me of some new problem that he needs me to solve. Right now. He struggles with his mental health. While I am sympathetic, often empathetic and love my son deeply, please know that – there are times – and this is one of them  – when I feel heavily weighed upon by his neediness.

I’m on vacation, I want to shout into the phone. Call your father, I want to tell him. (and then feel  guilty because my wonderful husband is at his DC office while I am the one getting to enjoy this amazing Road Trip from DC to Los Angeles with one of my oldest friends.)

I hesitate, then I pick up my phone, which I had turned on for photo-taking purposes only. A minute into the call, just as my son is getting ready to unload on me (I hear it in his voice), the call fails. Thank you to the cell phone gods for the very spotty service here in this remote rural area!

How ironic is it that even in this most ancient and peaceful place the real world intrudes. We can go on vacation to far away places but no matter where we are, the concerns we left behind follow us. I knew that but still naively thought that for a few days at least, I could escape into the scenery.

Tomorrow we head to a place where I will also be greatly needed.  Caroline and I are volunteering at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a 3,000 acre animal rehab and rescue center in southern Utah.  When we signed up for our shift at Dogtown, I had visions of sitting on the grass cuddling adorable puppies ready to be adopted. Or taking sweet older dogs on walks through the canyon trails. Caroline thinks instead that we may be asked to fold laundry or clean out dog crates. I am hoping Caroline is wrong.

Even if you are not a dog person, you have to admit that being needed by an animal is a joyful experience. You are nice to them and they love you back. Their needs are uncomplicated and easy to satisfy.

And if you are a parent, you remember, as I do, how when your kids were young how intensely they needed you. I loved that feeling of being the center of their world when they were little. I welcomed their demands and their insistence that I pay attention to them.

But as I relish my empty nester years, I am happy not to be needed so much.

After all I did to get to this stage of life, I feel, selfishly I admit, that I now deserve some “me” time. Realistically though that doesn’t always happen even when our nests empty out. If it isn’t our adult kids seeking our attention, then we have the demands of caring for our elderly parents. Most of my friends are pulled by their adult kids or their aging parents or both.  “Me” time can be very hard to come by.

So I consider myself lucky to be able – right now, this early spring, at my age (I just qualified for a senior lifetime pass to the U.S. National Park system, in case you were wondering) to have both the energy and the time to go on a Road Trip.

When my cell phone rings again, as it no doubt will, and given my son’s impeccable timing, he will likely call just as we are driving through the Mojave Desert in California, I will try to see it not as a burden.

Being needed is a gift, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

 

 

 

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Filed under Adult Kids, Empty Nest, Family, Female Friends, Parenting, Travel, Women, Young Adult Mental Health