Yesterday we wrapped up the visit with our family. We gave our final hugs, said our good byes and drove away. Now we are at a hotel in Detroit, trying to rest and regroup a bit before flying home this afternoon. (HOPEFULLY the flight home will not be quite as challenging as the ordeal it took to get here!) It’s early morning now. My husband is sleeping soundly…I’m trying to be quiet to allow him all the rest he needs. After a few days of fishing, geocaching and generally running helter skelter with our wild tribe, he needs it.
The fishing adventure was a real highlight. Although the bass and the bluegill were biting like crazy, my avid fisherman husband caught very few. Grandpa spent the whole time baiting hooks, unraveling tangles, replacing lost hooks, throwing back fish, and keeping the little ones from casting into the trees. It was pretty hilarious. But throughout I just soaked in the feeling of strong memories being forged that will keep us in those kids’ hearts even though we live on the other side of the country and generally only see them once a year.
Both of our sons keep asking us to consider moving back to Michigan. They wish we could be around to be a more integral part of their children’s growing up years. Some days I like to dream about that. But honestly, I don’t see it happening. We are deeply connected to our lives in Oregon. Our season of living in the Midwest ended a dozen years ago. There are clearly things I miss - our family topping that list. But having woven a sense of home where I am now, I’ve grown accustomed to the losses.
There’s just no telling what the future will hold. But right now I don’t feel like coming back to Michigan is going to be my destiny. We may or may not not stay planted where we are currently once my job ends next year. However, a return to the Midwest would not be my first choice.
I've been thinking a lot about the concepts of home and family and what they mean to me. Watching various aspects of my sons' current lives gave me much to ponder about. I want the very best for them, of course. But best according to whose values? Theirs don't always match mine. I still have much to sort out to understand what it means to have a healthy, balanced relationship with my adult children. What can be or should be my relationship to them now?
My younger son and I talk on the phone all the time. We have long convoluted conversations about ideas and hopes and dreams. We are very close. He and I think alike in many respects - although the paths we've chosen for how we live are quite different. My life is deeply rooted in my faith. He currently has no particular spiritual path. As his mom, that has been difficult for me. While I respect his right to believe or not believe whatever he chooses, my heart aches for those seven kids that are growing up without the influence of knowing they are children of God. I do all I can to respect his right to raise his family his own way. But it hurts me to sit at a table for meals where no one says a prayer to give thanks. I know I cannot impose my beliefs and that to do so would alienate the relationship I cherish. But in my heart of hearts I believe that to not give a kid a strong sense of the love of God is every bit as neglectful as sending them out into a snowstorm with no shoes or coat. How can they possibly make it strong and safe in this chaotic fallen world without the guidance of the Holy Spirit??
My older son, on the other hand, HAS chosen to remain active in church. So we share a common spiritual heritage and can talk about things like callings and conference talks. But our common ground ends there. Unlike the constant contact I have with his kid brother, my number one son will go several weeks at a time without talking to us and when we do call (or he does) the convesations are more guarded. So I tend to walk more on egg shells around my first born boy, careful to not say or do anything that he will perceive as being intrusive, judgemental or out of my league. We both love each other value the family bond. But for some reason our way of relating to each other seems more fragile, more work, less certain at times.
My relationships with the two boys (now young men) are so entirely different.
I love them both very, very much. Still, sometimes I think having some distance between us is not a bad thing.
There - I said it. I don't necessarily WANT to live in close proximity to my kids. I sometimes think I SHOULD want that. But I am not all that sure that I do. If I lived close I would have a front row seat to the drama of their lives. There is nothing more heart wrenching to me than watching my kids go through painful or difficult things and not be able to do a darn thing about it. LIFE is complicated. They WILL have struggles. I know that. But knowing that from twelve thousand miles away and watching it unfold before my eyes are two different things.
Because my own parents so entirely abdicated involvement in my own life I tend to go overboard in the other direction. It's easy for me to want to rescue too much. It's easy for me to want to FIX every problem the boys have. I know that's not in their best interest or mine, so it is something I work on every day of my life to overcome. But to NOT reach out and provide solutions takes so much effort it is exhausting.
From the little things to the big....there are so many issues I just don't have the answers to.
When I come to visit should I pitch in and do the laundry or should I keep my mouth shut and accept that there will be piles?
When I know they are struggling financially how or when or why is it ok to offer help and when do I stand back and watch them do without?
When they have something that I believe is a problem but THEY don't, or something THEY believe is a crisis but I perceive as trivial - how do we talk about it or not talk about it?
With no role models of what it's like to have a healthy relationship with parents I'm left flummoxed with so much uncertainty of which way to be that it gives me vertigo.
Families are complicated. I'm fortunate that my own, for the most part, gets along. But having that buffer of distance may be one of the reason we do.
There are days I want more than anything to be closer so we COULD build bonds across the generations. Some days I do ache for that. But other times I don't. I will miss them all terribly as I head back home. Still, I am ever so ready to go home.