A Parent…

When i left home for university, i was just 18. Other than a few weeks the following summer, i never lived with my parents again. Due to a combination of sheer will, and a bit of luck, i did not ‘bounce’ back. The youngest of the four children in my family, i was the only one who managed to make it to adulthood without a temporary return to the nest. They had worked hard to raise us all, and by the time i got to 18 they were tired. So very tired. i didn’t want to pile on heartache.

With my own children, it was a little different. The Girl moved back in after graduation, while pursuing work in the Foreign Service. She worked full time, saved money, studied for her exams. She was an excellent room mate and citizen of the household. Her cooking and baking skills were greatly appreciated (the best tabbouleh i’ve ever had). She was here about a year and a half before setting out for her life abroad.

The Boy? Bounced back a few times during The Wilderness Years*, while fighting his way through The Gargantuan State University. When he left school, to work full time on the road, he used my place as a mailing address, and would be home for a week a month. We had to revisit house rules, but he became a decent room mate.  When he enlisted in the Army, we both knew his time living with me was coming to an end – and we enjoyed each others company more than ever.

The Girl was really gone eight years ago. The Boy? Five. They are far enough away that time spent with them is rare, and quite precious. When The Girl comes home for a month in the summer, i adjust my schedule to accommodate another person in the household. There isn’t much she can do to annoy me. i know it’s brief. i know she has to go home again. The same with visits with The Boy. The chaos is disruptive, but never in a bad way.

What i’ve discovered is an ache – something new for my parental angst inventory. When they are headed home, or when i’m leaving after an extended visit, my heart simply hurts. It’s physical. It’s not debilitating, and it doesn’t last for more than a week or so… Just a soft blanket of melancholy.

It was my hope to raise independent, functional adults, living lives of deliberate choice. Clearly, in that way i succeeded.

When Mom died, i was surprised to find her calendar notes, carefully tracking my planned business trips, up until the month she died. She always asked questions about where i was headed, and i didn’t give it much thought. i think she just needed to know where on earth her kid was, even though the ‘kid’ was in her 50’s.

Looking back, i realize that the fiercely independent girl who left home at 18, determined to never ‘bounce’, wanting to spare her parents heartache failed. It can’t be avoided.

parenting - the hole truth

Source: The Artwork of Chad Knight(Digital Artist)


*Should be a trademark of kono over at The Asshat Lounge. If you’re not reading his blog, you are missing some of the sharpest, darkest, most honest writing on the internet. 

16 thoughts on “A Parent…

  1. Each of our kids left at least once and came back – most more than once – with the exception of our youngest, Meg, who will probably be with us for a few more years yet.
    Each of them has a different rhythm for keeping in contact too. One is almost daily, one is mostly weekly, another is a handful of times a year.
    I was the kind who could go several weeks without contacting my parents, but my mother would never let it get too long. I remember she used to phone her father religiously every week.
    Since my mother died my contact with my father has become far more sporadic. A handful of times a year, although I make a point to go and see him at least once a year face to face. But it’s pretty much always me who makes the effort to keep any contact at all.
    We don’t have a bad relationship, just once that was never intensely close. It was my mother who kept the family together and when she went, everyone pretty much drifted apart. Similarly I will contact my brother and sister a very small handful of times each year. Birthdays and Christmas, usually.
    I remember someone once saying that while we might all share a lot of the same DNA, personality-wise any particular family will be like you just grabbed a handful of complete strangers off the street and put them all in a house together. Some of these would produce great friendships, and some would cause massive chaos, and some would have little more than indifference – often all 3 with different relationships between the different people.

    • Likewise, my siblings and i communicated in different ways with the parents – i adopted a habit from my ex-husband, calling my parents every Sunday evening. My siblings ran the gamut from daily calls, to monthly, to randomly. With my adult children, i have a great deal of respect for their time at the moment – none of us has much discretionary time when we are raising babies, toddlers, and young children. Adding in the complication that one of my children lives 8 time zones away! A third of the way around the globe! They do their best to keep me in pictures, videos and the occasional video chat – and that helps soothe the ache.

      Strangely enough, my eldest sibling is doing her very best to keep the other three of us connected. i have mostly wandered off – not entirely abandoning the promise to ‘look after them’, but not going out of my way to find casual opportunities to just hang out. Handful of strangers off the street? Not exactly, but perhaps closer to acquaintances that grew up in the same village.

  2. I think when you have a large group (we had a blended group of 5) there is more variation. I recall being surprised when the second one came along that she was so different than the first one. Somehow I thought we would be reproducing clones. The variation is both good and bad.
    Your are certainly correct that once a parent you are always a parent no matter how old those kids have become.

    • Agreed. My son and daughter are very different in so many ways – as are Studley’s two. Taking the time, and making the effort, to communicate in an effective manner is worth it. Still working on that with all four of them! Seven counting spousal units!

  3. I too moved out very shortly after my 18th birthday. I visited occasionally but never returned. Two of my (half) brothers bounced back and forth for a bit. These days I am the glue which keeps the family communicating. A bit.
    If I had children I hope I would have encouraged their independence too, despite the tugs on my heart strings.

    • I always felt that my mother didn’t appreciate my independence. For example, she kept my original birth certificate – not offering it to me until I was almost 40. I had needed it to get my passport years earlier, but being a stubborn little snot, I went through the process to get a new official copy rather than ask her for it. She wanted to keep us needing her in so m e ways, and I fought it. Took us many years to work through that, but I’m glad we did before she died.

  4. Oh how truly you write. Mine left home at 18 and are these days based in Egypt and Singapore. I am fine, positively happy when we are apart as I too know they are living the independent lives we all dreamt of (plus our separatness gives me the opportunity to live my dream too) but when it comes time to leave them after a visit (which is admittedly a month or two) I am getting more emotional (once the taxi turns the corner and they dont see of course!)
    My big one will be in January when we all meet up in Singapore! It will be the first time we have all been together in years!!!
    Keep writing Daisyfae, loving having you back x x x

    • Hello, love! So glad to see that you’re back as well! A good observation – because of their independence, I am also able to live my life as I choose. We are planning a full family summer visit – my daughter and her family will be here in July. Ex-husband and I are going to fly The Boy and his crew here (avoiding a 16 hour drive each way). Those little cousins need to meet… I’m going to be an absolute mess to have everyone under the same roof (even briefly). Looking forward to hearing about your family reunion in January!

  5. I have to keep reminding myself that my parents didn’t know half of what I was doing when I was 29. So although our 29 yr old sweet girl lives a mere 15 miles south of us, weeks will go by with little contact. Busy lives on both sides of the equation. We love hanging out with her and her with us. We will have several days close to Christmas to relax, eat, drink, repeat. Hope your holidays are everything you want. 🙂

    • Same here. i learned to give my parents the highlights – partly to avoid scaring them, and partly to keep my business my own! It is a sign of respect, and good parenting, to let your adult children live their own lives – i know of many 20-somethings who still rely on parents for support in daily decision making. that’s not a healthy end of the spectrum either. Here’s to a good Christmas with your family – movies, Bailey’s in the morning coffee, and all the treats that find their way into your kitchen! 🙂

  6. A few weeks before my 18th birthday i got on a plane and went 2000 miles away to go to school and play basketball. Other than the next two summers it was the last time i lived at home. It never really dawned on my self-centered 18yr old ass how it affected my parents until the boyos came along. Now i have a better idea. Pops used to say going that far away was the best thing i ever did, i left a boy and came back a man, a different person than the one who left, i realize now how much my parents missed me but also how proud they were that their kid took off and never looked back. One day your spawn will know it too, maybe not now because they’re to close to it but someday. You did a fine job lady and believe me when my mind drifts towards the boyos growing up and leaving i get a bit misty-eyed (cuz i’m a cream puff like that). It’s strange how a thing like unconditional love can cause so much happiness and so much heartache but as we like to say, we bought the ticket so we take the ride.

    And thanks for the plug 😉 but darkest? i thought it was all sweetness and light on the lounge? lol!!

    • Deep in the wilderness it can get a little dark. You’ve walked through shit that would have many people doing a lifetime on a therapists couch!

      Fascinating what having your own kids does to the relationship with our parents. i have been deeply touched by both of my children thanking me (and their dad) after they became parents. The Boy and The Girl have both come to appreciate how hard we worked, why we were always tired, and just how much extra effort it took to coach, and do all the extras we tried to fit in… They also get the constant background level of fear – all of the ‘what ifs’ that keep you awake at night. The heartache? i think they’ve got a glimpse, but until those little ones are old enough to leave home for a bit, get into new kinds of trouble, and make poor decisions that are life-changing, they aren’t getting the full blast…

      And the seasons, they go round and round…

    • you won’t lose her. you will lose influence. YOU helped her become HER. what i’m still working on is accepting, embracing, and welcoming the new relationship with my adult children. it’s hard not to get mired in how things used to be, but there is so much magic with our current relationships. but i still miss the fuck outta them…

  7. You referred to that ache in a comment on my blog a couple months back DaisyFae..sorry I never replied.

    I think I need to be starting to prepare for the ache from round about now though. Our boy is fifteen and growing in independence by what sometimes seem like baby steps, other times giant bounds. Last night he went to his first gig (I mean rock concert) on his own (well, with a mate). Just in the concert hall of our small town, but it still felt like a big one, waiting for the text to say he was safely on the bus home.

    • No worries – i’m the most prodigal of bloggers these days!

      Not sure how to prepare. It’s a paradox – we WANT them independent, yet it hurts so much when they spread those glorious wings as sail off! Even for a short test flight/concert! How do you define successful parenting?

      It’s going to ache. Sometimes hurt. When we feel that? i think that’s how we know we did something right…

      By the way, i’ll be walking across England (Hadrian’s Wall) in May! i might try to find you via email to see if you’ve got recommendations on where to find a pint or three!

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