Every parent has, at some time or another, the desire/wish to be alone and without any responsibilities in regards to his/her offspring. It can be overwhelming at times and the 24/7 nature of it can be enough to put some over the edge. One thing I have learned is that although one thinks that at a certain age, that the heavy responsibility might end, it doesn’t. Responsibility is, perhaps, not the right word for it because it becomes, at some point in time, a responsibility running between parents and offspring.
As a part of the sandwich generation, I have felt this heavy responsibility with my mom. She is almost 89 and has finally made the move, earlier this year, to a nursing home. Having lost all desire to be mobile, she is in a wheelchair and needs help at all levels. The bad part of her situation and that of my in-laws has been the fact that they are living longer, but have not always planned for that, and the result is a huge stress on our generation. It is not always that they didn’t plan, sometimes they couldn’t have, or they just didn’t know it was necessary.
Anyway, one day as I was working from home, another interesting thing happened, since after an over 30 year career of leaving the house, no one ever believes you are really working when you are at home, my son dropped over for lunch. He was working in the area and thought the most cost-effective time-wise and otherwise means of lunching would be to “go home to Mom and Dad’s” I had a momentary, extremely fleeting thought of, “Am I ever alone?” I immediately realized that I needed to kick that thought out of my head. How many people would give their “eye teeth” to have the chance to lunch with the offspring? Even talk to the offspring? I decided to enjoy the moment and I thank my lucky stars that my sons are omnipresent in my life at these moments. That is a true blessing. My wife and I are less than crazy about calling them, dropping in on them, etc., because of our own experiences with her parents, in particular, who felt it was their right to “drop in” anytime. When they did, it was to the blaring honking of their car horn. They had, unsuccessfully for the most part, tried to train us to run to their car upon their arrival to help them out and deliver what they had for us.
I recall the great joy when our first son was born and the subsequent joy that ensued with the birth of each successive son. I remember as well the ramifications of the births in my life as perceived by others. It was truly a learning experience.
Both my wife and I were not horribly “boy” oriented in terms of having kids. Each of us had an older sister and I was not the typical sports guy. Not that I was a couch potato, I was always active. With the birth of my third I even decided that I had to take a more active approach to exercise. Some people were surprised by the ease with which we related to having three boys and how much we enjoyed the experience. The boys managed to move us in many different directions. One that surprised me was the scouting experience. I had never gotten beyond cub scouts. I was frankly very embarrassed at always having to explain that my father was dead and found scouting activities were like putting salt in an open wound. With my boys, however, I ended up being the troop advancement chairman and oversaw all three rising to be Eagle Scouts. This was not pushed by either Mary Kay or me; we guided, supported, and tried to keep them from too many activities, no small accomplishment in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Another funny moment was when my brother-in-law, in seeing the athletic accomplishments of our oldest in swimming said, “Is he really yours?”
I remember the reaction to the birth of my first son by Frank, our neighbor, who had a daughter. Frank had tried to take me aside and explain the birds and the bees to me as he was concerned that we had no kids. He felt I didn’t know how. When my son was born, his jealousy over my first being a son almost put our relationship over the edge. I had to explain genetics to him. When his second was born, he apparently stormed out of the delivery room as his second was a girl!
My children have been a great joy, not without moments of wonder as to why you had children in the first place. Trials and tribulations, but the most overwhelming aspect is the fact that it never goes away. The minute you think one is launched and free, he returns home to live! The pantry is really well stocked, especially now due to my “Hausherr” status, that is one of my fortes anyway, and mysteriously, or not so mysteriously, the pantry is raided every so often. Even my wine bottles disappear. I have to say that this is okay. This is how I view family, we are all in this together, the journey isn’t always easy, and we should all help each other.
It is fun, now that they are older, having someone to confer with regarding little things that need fixing around the house. They have taken the things that I learned as a do it yourselfer, and gone way beyond me in scope. I had no one to teach me, had to learn it all on my own, and it is gratifying to see the payoff.
One of the scariest and most interesting things to see in my sons is the mysterious mixture of good and bad traits that they have received from me and my spouse. There are some traits that one would hope would disappear, but they don’t and we have to learn to work with them. It is especially scary when you see your own less than wonderful traits reappear in your offspring. It does give an interesting focus when you need to talk to them about it and the insight you have from living with the trait all your life.
It is funny as well that when you think you are having no luck getting through to your kids about something that you, in fact, do. A neighbor who was a confidante to one of my boys said, “You may think they don’t hear you but he came down to talk to us and told us exactly what you said and do.”
My favorite time (and it still is) with them is in the car when they are your captive audience. I recently had an opportunity for this when I drove cross country with my youngest so that he could have our 1996 Isuzu Trooper in his new home in California. He had just come off an unpleasant relationship and was heading for divorce and this was a great time to talk heart to heart.
They are great work, they are a joy, they are family! They are to be treasured and loved as much as you can. Life is short!