I don’t want to be irrelevant. And I’m not alone.
I’m 61. My kids are married with children of their own, and a common thread among my friends is that we don’t want to be irrelevant. We are afraid that our children will move on and leave us behind. Physically, emotionally. That their lives will be full and complete without us. Maybe that’s the way it should be, but they would be missing so much without the upper layer, without the wisdom, support and love that we can provide. We are the older generation now.
When my dad was dying, he said, “Your life won’t change much without me.” How wrong he was. When I was living in Philly, he dropped by our house every day. Every day on his way home from work. I loved it! After moving to Maryland, we saw each other monthly on weekends. After my parents retired, they visited during the week and my dad enjoyed going to my son’s scout meetings and events and my mom enjoyed picking my daughters up from school. My kids have fond memories of time spent with my parents.
Dad was wrong. He was and is sorely missed, not just by me but by my kids. I missed out on having an everyday relationship with my parents after I moved.
Maybe that’s why I’m holding on so tightly, so dearly to my children. I know what the loss is. I know how different my life was near my family and away from my family.
We understand change must happen. We get that our kids want to start their own traditions in their own homes. We are thrilled when we are invited and included in their activities. Being included is not something I ever take for granted and when I am included, I am aware how special it is. My kids do an admirable job of including me when they can.
This past Sunday evening, for example, I was invited to join one of my daughters and her family to see a light show. What joy to see their faces, to experience this with a new generation!
Yesterday, I babysat my granddaughter, thrilled that I can be available to make my daughter’s life easier. When she and her husband came home, they decided to visit Santa with the kids and invited me! What a gift to be able to participate in something so classically Christmas. I miss my babies and this gives me the opportunity to enjoy this tradition again.
I have friends with children who live across the country. If they want to see their grandkids, they must do the travelling. The onus of building a relationship is on them. Our grown kids are busy with their lives, work, school, lessons.
Doesn’t every mother want all of her kids under the same roof? Don’t we all long for big family gatherings?
Part of letting go is realizing that my kids do have a life outside of me and how they spend it is not up to me. I don’t get to choose what I will be included in and what I won’t. I can ask, I can hope, but ultimately, it is not up to me.
Relevance. My daughter thinks it means I’m worried about being forgotten. Maybe she’s right. Maybe it’s within me, this insecurity, this doubt that I have a place in their lives. It makes me want to hold on tighter, which creates the opposite of what I want. Not being included can bring up lots of feelings for me!
Over the past several years, my kids have taken over the holidays. They all enjoy entertaining and I support them in this. My daughter Ashley has been hosting Thanksgiving, my son Kevin, Christmas Eve, Becca the pre-Easter gathering. Part of the changes that have occurred as the children have grown and married is that we no longer get together on Easter. We have to share our kids with the in-laws. Why didn’t anyone give us a lesson on sharing our kids?
I long to set the table with my gilded Lenox plates, my crystal goblets, my gold chargers like I used to. I long to be THE family gathering place. At the same time, I understand passing the baton. My mother refused to give up the holidays and it resulted in us not spending them together any more. She refused to visit us on holidays.
It’s been an ongoing issue with my own kids to have a summer holiday BBQ. I am guilty of wanting to recreate my childhood cookouts with cousins, aunts and uncles and horseshoes. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to gather my chicks for Memorial Day (one has standing plans with the in-laws) 4th Of July or Labor Day. Don’t care which one. Just pick. They are not biting. Acceptance.
I raised my kids to be independent. I gave them basic life skills that would ease their transition into adulthood –how to write a check, how do divide their money into tithing, saving and spending, how to make their bed and do the wash. In short, how to be responsible for themselves.
But I didn’t anticipate that independence meant moving on. Changing traditions. Family vacations without me.
I joke that my kids take vacations without me and I took them on all my vacations!
I want some traditions that my grandkids can say, “I remember going to Grandmama’s for that!” Remember the Pumpkin Carving at Grandmama’s? Remember Christmas Eve at Grandmama’s?
Relevance. I want to be relevant in the lives of my children and grandchildren. I want to continue to be a part of their story. Want I really want is the security that things will never change, that they will always be close to me. That they will always want to be close. And that’s not realistic, is it?
How can I stay relevant? By being available, by letting go, by having my own life outside of my kids and grandkids, by being focused on me and by carefully planning the occasional family gathering, letting go of the outcome.
For now, I am grateful that they include me. Grateful for the time they are available to me. The rest is not up to me.
The Italian Grandmama
4 thoughts on “I don’t want to be irrelevant.”
Nice! Well Initially I was surprised to see the modern family system in west. I belong to South Asia. There is no such system of baby sitting and daycare in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh etc. because the grand parents of both sides of parents are the best and free baby sitters. What my parents said, that they were busy in their jobs when I was a kid, and now via my kids they are enjoying those missing days. In US, being very close to child care system, I have noticed the attitude of kids who are with single parent, only with parents and those who have grand parents, uncle, aunt etc. The best trained kids are those who spend time with their close relatives like grand parents and uncle aunts. The single parent kids are most confused because either they don’t have father/mother and they gets confused when they see other parents, or if the parents have a conflict, both of them try to be in good book of kid and spoil her. The old family system, that includes relatives as family members, specially grand parents was the best system.
Thank you for your insights! Love that grand parents are so involved in daycare in South Asia. What a great example we can learn from!
Wonderful post and fabulous insight that comes to me at a time when I really need to hear it. I have raised 4 sons to be independent and strong. I got my wish but I was not prepared for what comes with that. Three of the “boys” are married and have kids. Being married means 3 daughters-in-law and their families…sharing and comparing. Not so easy as I never “do what their mother’s do”. My traditions that my boys loved are not “their” family traditions. I have to accept (as you so eloquently stated) that it is their choice or when, where and how much I am included (or not) I am sad at what I feel my grandkids are missing and I am most fearful of being forgotten. I see how daughters strive to keep their family “alive” but boys…not as much. I hope I can read and re-read your post when I need the little reminder to accept the time I do get and not let the fear and / or sadness of what “is not” consume me. I need to be mindful, live in the moment and find joy and validation outside of being mom / nanny. Thank you Italian Grandma for sharing your wisdom with all of us.
Thank you for your beautiful response to my post. To be relate-able to others is what we hope for when we write. That others can relate to our experience. Letting go is an ongoing process.