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Opinion >  Column

Front Porch: Getting along with loved ones a blessing, not always a given

I realize that my husband and I are very fortunate in that we really like our adult sons and the kind of men they grew into. And, if I read the signs right, I’m pretty sure they like us, too. That’s not always a given.

We love our children, absolutely, but it’s possible to do that while also not liking them all that well.

A good friend of mine had a daughter who she was immensely proud of, for her drive and for her accomplishments, but who, she confided to me, was the most trying person she ever knew and simply difficult to be around. My friend said she pitied the poor guy who ever fell in love with her, and even tried to warn off, to no avail, one of her daughter’s suitors. My friend died before her daughter’s third divorce.

A relative of mine living in another state has a son who ran afoul of the law early on and made choices and took advantage in ways that broke her heart. She loves him with her whole broken heart, but doesn’t like who he is. There were times when she had to remain distant from him.

While any of us can be disappointed in the choices made by our adult children or individual moments of hurt, we can still like them, enjoy their company, look forward to their visits, appreciate their senses of humor and know they can be relied on.

What a gift that is.

Our sons lead very different lives from ours. Our older son knows himself well enough to know that he is more interested in the open road and travel and meeting new people and having new relationships than attempting to settle down. He is a freelance writer and has lived all over the world, speaks many languages and has had many amazing adventures.

Our younger son works in the arts, which means he does a whole lot of different things to make a living – acting, teaching theater classes, singing, directing, voiceover work, doing characters for books on tape, art by commission, creating comic books, as well as some outside-the-arts “regular” work here and there. He and his husband live in Seattle and are raising a special needs Dalmatian.

In recent years, my husband and I, together and separately, have done some traveling with our older son – sometimes to such not-far-away places as Chicago or San Antonio, but once to Madagascar. When the two of them go on their own, and I stay home, they enjoy the same outdoors activities and have, at least until my husband’s recent back problems, shared the vigor of hiking, kayaking and other adventuring. Our younger son and I often attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival together and Shakespeare our brains out over a few days – six shows in three days.

The best of it all is in those casual conversations that take place at our home or one of theirs, out on a boat, while driving and wherever possible. Conversations about everything and nothing. Reminiscences, future plans and as much laughter as possible. You have to really like one another to do that with ease and comfort over extended periods of time.

We’ve chatted with them individually about possible scenarios concerning their parents’ advancing decrepitude. What to do and who will do it if either Bruce or I are left alone and/or under what health conditions one or both of them might need to step in. And while I realize circumstances of the moment can dictate changes in the best thought-out plans, we know our sons will be flexible and adjust as needed.

We trust them with the information we give them and feel safe that they will see to it that we are well cared for, should the need arise, though we hope that if a lightning bolt comes down from the sky, it takes us both out at the same time so that we don’t linger on and on and that our sons don’t have to be our caretakers.

I am at peace within myself knowing they not only can, but will. I think you have to like your children well enough to trust them with such things.

As I mentioned, we are fortunate indeed in the sons that grace our lives. But as is true with so much in life, there are clouds that roll into even the sunniest of skies. As much as the affection flows freely between the generations, our sons are not close with one another.

I wish that part of the family dynamic had worked out differently.

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