Katie Katie Parsons is the creator of Mumbling Mommy and is a freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. She works from her home office on the east coast of Florida. Most often she writes about life in a combined family of five children and what it's like being a full time work-from-home parent. Feel free to pitch guest post ideas or just drop her a line at katie@mumblingmommy.com.

I stood at the end of my driveway, baby in my arms, sobbing as the white compact rental car carrying my parents disappeared with a right hand turn at the end of my street. For months I had looked forward to their visit — planned for it, talked to my kids about it and created an extensive list of home improvement items for my dad to work on when he arrived.

Breakfast with Grandpa

The week had come and gone too quickly; the meals I’d planned had been eaten, my kids had read stories and gone on numerous park outings, and nothing was broken or in need of repair in my house anymore.

My husband tried to comfort me with a hug and my littlest decided it was a good time to start giggling and trying to pinch my nose. I hugged back. I giggled too. But I was a disaster inside. I cried a lot that day. And the next.

I have not always been close to my parents, at least not in the way it would seem based on this narrative. It was not uncommon for weeks, even a month at a time, to go by during my college years with no contact between my parents and I. They were busy. I was busy. We caught up quickly when we did talk. Emailing and texting were options, but my parents were not quite up to speed on those during my early adult years.

I went to college three hours from my hometown; just close enough to visit on occasion but far enough away that I did not head home every weekend or break. I remember an officer from Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on a beach in Fort Lauderdale calling my mother at work to verify my age (I had left my I.D. at the hotel and was drinking a beer on the beach). When the ATF officer was done, she pushed the phone my direction and said, “Your mother wants a word with you.” I waited for my mom to lay into me about drinking, or having law enforcement call her at work, but instead she simply said, “You’re in Fort Lauderdale?”

Of course she was not thrilled that I was drinking, or that she was called out of a meeting because I had been too lazy (or too scatterbrained) to take my I.D. to the beach with me. But she was more concerned that I was far, far away from Indiana and she had no clue prior to the phone call. At the time I thought her concerns were sort of silly. I mean, who cared if I was in my apartment in Muncie, or on a beach in Fort Lauderdale? I wasn’t missing family dinner or anything. Now that I’m a parent, I get it. Nothing is more unsettling than your child in a strange place without you — particularly when that child is wearing a bikini and drinking beer with strangers.

When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest, I was actually living in Florida and was single. I considered not mentioning it to my parents at all during the first trimester because they were so far away, but spilled the news to mom on the phone one night early on. I expected a lecture, similar to the whole ATF fiasco, but I got support and a vow for non-judgment instead. It wasn’t until we were celebrating my daughter’s first birthday together that my mom admitted she had not actually been as indifferent about my “choice” in the pregnancy as she had let on.

Down time with Grandma

“I was on my knees every night, praying for the life of my grandchild,” she said. “I knew it was out of my hands.”

I tell this story here to illustrate just one of the many moments since I have become a parent that have strengthened my relationship with my own parents. Another one was when my normally “mind my own business” dad told me not to act wishy-washy with my daughter’s biological father and to draw a boundary in our lives that included him on the outside if he claimed to not be “ready” for fatherhood.

The fact that my parents have always picked their moments to give me input, especially as an adult, makes those moments more vivid and meaningful in my life. As the momentum of my life has forged forward, I appreciate my parents more and have come to view them as my friends and members of a necessary support system in life.

So I cherish the time that I get to spend with them in person now, partially because of the 1,800-mile distance that is normally between us and partially because I feel like I have squandered time with them over the years that I will never get back. I imagine I will feel the same way about my time with my own kids at some point, when the ticking of time’s clock becomes even more apparent to me.

Every time I see my parents I am also very aware of the fact that they are aging. This is not to say that they look “old” but when months have gone by between visits, I notice the extra gray hairs on my dad’s head and the way my mom increasingly forgets things. The passage of time as it relates to my parents is not gradual, or something that is happening day by day; it happens when I am not around to see it and makes each new visit more distinct. Months go by between in-person meetings, highlighting the changes taking place.

I remember celebrating milestone birthdays with my “old” grandparents that my parents have reached and passed. My husband and I are already thinking ahead to building in room in our future homes for any of our parents that may need to live with us one day. I know that these times are still in the distant future but they are coming. I am disheartened in the knowledge that the largest segment of time I will spend in my parents’ everyday lives will likely be at the end of them. If you find this talk depressing, I’d have to say I agree with you. I often feel like my heart is in two places, and I think that is common with adult children that live at least several hours from their parents and siblings.

My saving grace is technology. Before the Internet, and Skype, and text messaging, I’m sure we would have paid long-distance rates to chat once per week or sent a letter here or there. But the technology exists for us to be part of each others’ lives each and every day, even if it is a short text or a picture with no caption. I envy friends that post status updates about running to the mall with their moms, or dropping off the grandkids so they can go out with their spouses. I often wish I could just drop in to see my folks for no particular reason, except to say “hi” and maybe have some dinner.  But I will say that the conversations we do have, either by phone, in person or through a text/email thread, are not taken for granted by either side.

I’m also comforted by my own family — the one that see and live day in and day out. The family unit that feels natural to me based on my own upbringing exists and after a few years of lacking that, I am especially grateful. I know that the relationships I am building with my kids today are a building block in the adult interactions that we will have one day. My hope is that when the time comes, I have the means and resources to visit my kids (and potential grandkids) wherever they end up. I also hope that they always consider me an integral part of their lives and happiness, even if I can’t be there in person all the time.

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Category: Grandparents

Tags: adult children