We have two sons. One is a newlywed living and working in Seattle. The other has lived and worked numerous places in the world, currently in Portugal.
We see our Seattle son several times during the year, mostly where he lives, but he does come to Spokane from time to time as well. He and I go annually for a long weekend to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Our overseas son comes home once a year for about a month, and we sometimes visit him wherever he might be located in the world at the time.
With one, the visits are shorter but more frequent; with the other, fewer visits, but of longer duration. When this began to emerge as the pattern for how we would be interacting with our sons long-term, I wondered if it would change the dynamic or impact our closeness with either of them. It didn’t.
There was a time – pre-Facebook, pre-email, pre-cellphones, pre-a-lot-of-stuff – when being face-to-face in the same room was needed to remain close and in contact, with long-distance phone calls (on land lines) and long letters a poor second-best. And while today’s technology does facilitate more frequent contact, it still doesn’t make up for occupying the same space and giving in-person hugs.
When we see Sam, it’s usually for a quick dinner and short visit while we’re in Seattle for other matters. And because we see him a good bit, we are aware of more of the details of his life than we are with those of our older son’s. With Sam, we text or email or have quick talks quite often in between visits, when we update things we’ve talked about when we were together. And some phone calls, usually while he’s in creeping traffic on the way home (also known as traversing the slow-rolling 520 parking lot), can meander into new subjects as well.
Because we’ve met and shared holidays with a bunch of Sam’s friends, we also interact with them (thank you, Facebook), so that’s another link to him.
When Carl comes home, he sets up a mini office in the house, so he doesn’t miss a beat with his work, which he can do online – allowing him extended time with old mom and dad. Hence, he gets a longer look at us and the lay of the land, and, I’m sure, can formulate good and deep observations about what’s what with the old folks. He and his father go for hikes and, most years, take a little trip someplace, usually where it’s warm, where they spend a few days doing guy stuff. And he helps with some projects around the house or with Bruce’s work.
We have some extended conversations with him about the world, politics and life in general. He has a most interesting world perspective, having lived or traveled in places from China to Madagascar, Nepal to Peru.
We find that our texts with him are shorter than those with his brother. Recently he texted that it was 70 degrees in Portugal, and he was wearing shorts and flip-flops. I sent him back emojis of a snowman and a shivering smiley face. And we chat every several weeks or so over WhatsApp.
The quality of our relationships with our sons, I believe, is good. And I appreciate that it’s not a universal given that this is how it works out for parents and their grown children. How and how often we communicate with each of them is different, but each style is significant and meaningful to us. It’s been molded to fit their lives and ours, and both of them take the time to give it the attention they understand that we need.
We are in a bit of a transition now. As Bruce and I are moving up through the years, our sons have requested that we keep them better informed about some specifics relative to how the march of time is affecting us. We’ve taken care of the necessary paperwork regarding living wills, power of attorney, our wishes, etc. – and they have become more mindful that mom and dad are and will be having more issues and may (hopefully not) need more of their hands-on attention.
They live their lives happily where they are, as we do in Spokane. And we remain mindful and happy that we are parents with grown sons, sons with their own busy lives but who still stay in caring touch with us – expressed in their own different styles.
Clearly, one size doesn’t fit all, but however this thing works, it’s a good fit.
How fortunate are we.
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