I left NYC years ago to raise my daughter in the suburbs. I thought a backyard and some more space would be better than the chaotic rush- rush of the city. My adult daughter has settled in the city, chose to live in a 2 bedroom coop with two kids – a boy and a girl, and is sending my grandson to one of the most crowded public school in NYC. There are over 1,100 students in the elementary school. She has managed to find a community of friends, near a playground and park, and is staying put. And all these years, I held out in the suburbs hoping she would settle near us but secretly longing to be back in the city myself. I want to be able to walk to a Starbucks, hop a train, and go to Broadway. And yet, here I am, stuck in the burbs because I cannot afford the city. My daughter is stuck in the city because she cannot afford a decent home in the suburbs. Can anyone explain this?
Life is ironic by design. Your body is ready to reproduce years , even decades, before you are financially and emotionally ready to be a parent. By the time you are in your sixties and have gotten over how unique you are and you have fought for you independence and hopefully gained it , that is exactly when you want, no need , closeness and nurturing.
You turn to your kids and they squirm because they are all about establishing their own independence and they do not want to be burdened by your needs.
If you are in my socio economic bracket, you probably left the suburbs after your kids were born but before they had to go to school. You could not afford to stay in the city and ensure a good education for your child. If you are like me, you learned to appreciate the relative peace and quiet, the backyard, the pool in the summer, the local beaches and parks.
But ironically just as your house is done to your liking, just as maybe your mortgage is paid off or at least you can count down to that day, you wake up and want to chuck the whole white picket fence thing and move back to an apartment in the city. You want to walk everywhere. You want your super to have to shovel the snow and get your walls painted. You are willing to give up the two cars and rent one when you need it. You want to go out for breakfast coffee, You want to sit in cafés and people watch. You want to be part of a cultural Mecca and hear lively discussions about the work other people are doing.
But you have grandchildren. And you want them to come for the holidays. And you want them to move somewhere nearby so you can be useful again to your family in a meaningful way. You want to pass culture down and your kids can’t do it because both of them are working and they don’t have that to give. You are wiling to fill that void. But your children want their independence.
Of course I am talking about my situation. But I would be happy if you shared your experiences.
Do you know the commercial where a young mother is holding a cell phone and walking out of a house? She asks her mother about the house that had been on the market. It might even be the house next door. (PLEASE do not ask me what the commercial is selling. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast and besides whether it is a realtor or a phone company or dog food, it it irrelevant to my point!). Her mom tells her the house sold. The daughter says: “I know” and walks out of the house, up to her mom, kisses her, and lets her know that she was the buyer!
Well, that has become my favorite commercial ever since my cousin’s daughter moved into an apartment in the same condo building as my cousin. Why did her daughter do that? So that when her oldest gets dropped off from school, he can go directly to his grandparents and she can continue to work carefree for the rest of the day.
Am I the only mom who is wishing and hoping that will happen to her? I go to open houses in our neighborhood and pray.
I remember how hard it was to be a single mom, raise a daughter, and work two jobs.
Every time I call my daughter, I ask her if there is anything we can do to help. And every time, she tells me she is fine. That is how I know she is not yet mature. When you are truly mature, you can’t believe that anyone else is actually OFFERING help and you don’t hesitate – the definitive “yes” just pops out and you feel such relief and gratitude.
I have this theory that you take the average life span and you divide it in half. The first half you are just growing up and the second half you are an adult. Prehistoric man lived maybe thirty years. So, they became became adults when they were in their teens. Since we are living on average into our 80s, we can’t expect our “adult children” to be really mature until they are middle aged!!!!! I don’t know you feel about it, but my theory explains an awful lot of ridiculous behavior!
The thing that got me started thinking about my “stuff” was a conversation I had with a complete stranger while we were standing on line at the Marriott in Birmingham, AL. I was there visiting my step children. Out of the blue, the woman in front of me on the line for breakfast omelets started telling me that she was in Birmingham to clean out her mother’s estate. She could not believe how much stuff she had to go through. She said she wished that her mother had given her a manual full of stories because she could not fathom the reason behind the items. What did they mean to her mother? To her they were just junk. She could not make heads or tails out of the clutter and she did not have the time to go through all of it. She had to get back to Texas to work.
When we got home, I looked around my tiny beach cottage home. I saw all the paintings that no one will be able to store even if they wanted to. I saw my furniture through the eyes of my daughter and step children. I have Ethan Allen traditional pieces alongside garage sale chic. Every item has a story. But who had time to tell the story and who had time to listen?
And besides, the adult kids all want West Elm. They aren’t interest in our stuff.
Now, I will not lie. I am vain. But surely, you have figured that out, because it takes a certain amount of vanity to blog.
I used to imagine that what we had tried but had not accomplished in our life, would get accomplished in our death. I imagined our children – my one and my husband’s three – would come back to our house after “the funerals” and would stay and go through our stuff and talk and connect and find out who we really were by going through our stuff. I imagined “the girls” fingering my jewelry and dividing it up. I imagined them choosing which paintings and photographs they would take back with them and keep. I imagined “the boys” going through my husband’s sports collectibles and equipment and dividing them up. I imagined them sharing the photographs and swapping stories.
We are Jewish and we sit shiva for seven days. Surely that would allow enough time for all this bonding that never took place during our living years, to take place.
Then I remembered that my step children are not Jewish. They live far away. They have their own children and their own lives and they work.
So the question is: Do we do the children a favor and start getting rid of the excesses and NOT replace the stuff that we sell or give away or throw away? Or do we burden them by making them go through decades of our lives?
ADULT CHILDREN has to be an oxymoron. And it is confusing…very confusing.
A young colleague of mine once joked that her mother would still be breastfeeding her if she could.
You want your children to be independent but you also want them to want to live nearby. You want your children to be strong but you want to help them. You want your children to be self reliant but you don’t want them to be too proud to ask for support.
It is tricky. You love to shower them with things you never had and with support you never got. But you don’t want to smother them. You don’t want them to conclude that you don’t believe in them. But it really gives you pleasure to help. And you want to be part of their life. You have so much more experience and they are working and you have the time. However, when you help, you do not want to be taken advantage of, abused, or taken for granted. And you do not want to feel that you ARE the amazon fulfillment center or THE HELP. But you do want to be appreciated and loved.
A friend of mine answered “Yes” when I asked if we are trying to buy our children’s love. And I thought – that was refreshingly honest. I felt happy: Thank Goodness, I can afford to buy a piece of my children’s love and Thank Goodness, I cannot afford to buy all of their love!!!