August 24, 2008

Weekend Visit with All My Daughters

So far, I have mainly shared some struggles with my daughters in childhood and adolescence. Talking too much about their present lives seems a violation of their privacy. I might have given the impression that everything is lovely now that they have grown up. It's more complicated than that. Often I try to avoid thinking about disappointments and hope that once they become mothers, things will change. I discipline myself not to nag them about calling or visiting so infrequently. Certainly my relationship with Anne, my oldest, has become even closer since she became a mother.

All four of my daughters and their guys visited the first weekend in November. It wasn't planned far in advance; it just happened. Two are in Boston and one is in Chicago, so I don't see three of them nearly as much as I would like to. Marriage and in-laws complicate holiday get-togethers. Three of them aren't celebrating Thanksgiving with us for the first time. I know Anne is disappoined that Michael doesn't see more of his aunts and uncles.

The visit was great. Everyone lavished love and attention on Michael, who was his usual friendly, happy self. For once I didn't try to do more than I could manage without resentment; my injured knee helped to lower my and everyone's expectations. We had cold cuts for lunch and pizza for dinner instead of our making lunch and dinner. No one complained that our house wasn't up to the standards of their true loves' mothers. The girls didn't act like a bunch of selfish brats who will always expect to be waited on, who complain about the house but never lift a finger to clean. I did not have to question my whole childrearing philosophy. Had I raised ambitious members of the new ruling class or decent, helpful human beings? Their husbands/boyfriend helped clear off the table, loaded the dishwasher, made coffee, because their moms obviously trained them better. I was lavish in my appreciation.

Often it works better for them to visit one at a time. Returning to their childhood home often seems to evoke mass regression. My husband grew up in a civilized English home with only one sister. He finds it overwhelming when all 4 of them are talking at once, interrupting each other. Rose got married in 2002; Anne and Michelle in 2005. Carolyn met her true love last year. Having 4 guys around is delightful and brings out the best in everyone. Three years ago I created a family email list including me, my husband, my ex-husband, the four girls and their four guys. Six months ago, when Michael was born, I started describing his development in a photo blog. Everyone reads all their email and the blog, so we stay connected with each other's lives.

I am jealous of mothers whose children live nearby. Rose does want to come back East from Chicago as soon as her husband, an economics professor, gets another tenured position offer. Michelle and Carolyn are probably in Boston for good. I recall asking a library patron if her children lived close; she said, "no"; one was in Manhattan (20 miles away), one was out on Long Island (25 miles away). At the time Anne was in Niger and Michelle was in Australia on business. My uncle warned me if you send your kids away to college, they will never move back close to home, and that seems to be true.

No comments: