Writer Judith Viorst said, “Eventually we will learn that the loss of indivisible love is another of our necessary losses, that loving extends beyond the mother-child pair, that most of the love we receive in this world is love we will have to share...”
It’s as common as summer heat and winter flu, but is it inevitable? Can this sense of distance be measured if you’re the only one who notices it?
Many of my friends, those of a certain age at least, often talk about parent-adult child relationships with a vague longing for something they can’t quite define. An undercurrent of wistfulness runs through those conversations, and it matters not if the child lives across the country or in the same ZIP code. That perception of being left out of the loop is real — real enough to dent the heart and cloud the soul.
He never tells me anything.
Why doesn’t she call more often?
I hear from him only when he needs something.
If we could only spend more time together.
She doesn’t ever ask for my opinion.
His friends are more important.
I so understand those concerns. Even with decades of mothering behind me, even knowing I have a loving relationship with my grown-up kids, I struggle with the best way to stay relevant in their lives. They’re busy with careers, with houses, children, spouses — with, quite simply, the business of being a grown-up. So am I, and I don’t expect to top the list or take center stage.
And yet … yet. Sometimes I feel I’m sitting in the nosebleed section in the stadium of their lives, decent seating but not good enough to see the details. Does this desire make me (gasp!) meddlesome? Am I being too greedy? Is it selfish to expect confidences from those who once shared our fridge and dining table?
During a recent conversation, a mother of two sons asked me how often I heard from my own four boys … uh, correction: men. She also wondered if my daughter was any more forthcoming than her brothers. Sporadic calls and surprise announcements had made her feel out of touch with the very people she most loved.
I knew exactly what she was asking: Is this normal? Should I worry? Am I doing something wrong?
So I told her how, at a family reunion a couple of years ago, I handed out coffee mugs printed with CALL YOUR MOM in Helvetica bold. It didn’t surprise me that two of the mugs were left behind, still cocooned in their bubble wrapping.
While each of my kids is different, the frequency (and depth) of our conversations depends on how busy they are at work, how much free time they have, what’s new in their lives, and if they need something from me. Two of my sons are downright taciturn, and teasing out any nugget of information, however unimportant, requires finesse. At some point I texted one of them: You didn’t hatch from an egg. Not my finest moment, no, but it worked, for a while.
The youngest is chatty, usually calling several times a week and even putting his dog on the phone. He has been gregarious since he was a day old. The two oldest, on the other hand, are like weather vanes, their availability determined not by gender but by the winds of current circumstances.
I’ve tried, in my own over-eager way, to conform to the changing landscape, learning from mistakes, recruiting daughters-in-law and availing myself of myriad ways technology has enabled communication. I don’t offer unsolicited advice. I don’t call at bedtime or Saturday nights. I don’t pester with questions.
Well, usually. Almost always. Most of the time.
I should be better, of course; more consistent and less annoying. But I’m a work in progress, a skyscraper under construction. And perhaps it’s that adaptability, that willingness to learn, that desire to do whatever it takes that matters most this particular Mother’s Day.
Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at email@example.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.