Parental Life Cycles

By Elaine Marze

 Some friends and I were discussing how challenging it can be to keep up with the twists and turns in a parent’s life cycle, and how we have to change with the cycles or suffer the consequences.  As young parents we just didn’t see what was ahead. It snuck up on us. One day we were a busy, growing family, and the next we had an empty nest, and not too much farther down the line grandbabies probably came into play with subsequent joys and challenges.  

An acquaintance recently found out she is going to be a grandmother, and she’s not very happy about it. She wasn’t ready to let go of her adult daughter and competing with a son-in-law for her daughter’s time stressed her out but thinking about competing with a baby  really upset her.  

A baby WILL cut in on private time with her daughter, but it balances out because she will probably get extra bonding time with her new grandchild by baby-sitting if she’s lucky and willing. Remember how when our children were young, and they eagerly followed us around begging us to play with them? Recall them trying to help with whatever we were doing to the point that they could be nuisances? Those years when our babies picked us flowers and gave enthusiastic hugs without being embarrassed are engraved on a momma’s heart. Not only did they need us but they wanted us with them, and they would squeal and run to us as if it had been weeks instead of hours apart.  We showered them with love, thinking that such mutual feelings would last forever … then these babies grew up, left us, probably married and established their own lives, separate from ours. The whole parenting scenario changed.

Moms and dads go from a life devoted to their children to being emotionally if not physically distanced. No matter that we’re happy they are successful, independent adults, it’s empty nest for us, and we can’t help missing what used to be.  We are on different paths now willing or not. Our beloved offspring are making their own rules, trying to establish that they don’t need mom and dad’s advice anymore.  This is where some parents have to resort to asking or maybe begging their adult kids to come home for a visit, a dinner, a holiday, but especially after the “kids” marry it is even harder to compete with their friends, activities, spousal demands and work schedules. While older parents understand all that they still deal with feelings of loneliness and abandonment.

Some baby boomers complain about how their adult children don’t have time for them, but they watch on social media as they make time for friends, vacations, parties, etc. that doesn’t include them, and this may seem an unjust recompense for all the years of love and sacrifice spent raising these beloved children who no longer need mom and dad. But, then comes grandchildren! Here is an opportunity to once again see love and even hero worship in the eyes of a child who asks nothing more than to hang out with us, excited to help us garden or ride a golf cart or wheelchair. The hugs and kisses, the fascination with our wrinkles, turkey waddles and softer laps is our second chance at the special kind of love that only comes from a child. Grandkids can and should help fill the void left by their parents depending on distance, accessibility and willingness of young parents to share their children with the grandparents.

Every parent has to learn that the fellowship we have with our young kids will not be the same relationship we have with them as teenagers when they are pushing boundaries and struggling for independence, sometimes with serious riffs in the parent / child relationship. We let them go while hoping and praying they’ll come back home where momma and daddy will be waiting anxiously or they will break away.  Either way the cycle has changed. Then when you find your way through all the rough waters of teen years and early adulthood and establish more of a parent-child friendship, along comes grandbabies and the cycle revolves once more. Grandparents have to submit to their kid’s rules and authority where grandkids are concerned. To have the opportunity to spend time with the precious offspring of our offspring, most of us strive to pull in our parenting claws and opinions and just wallow in the joys and adventures of grandchildren. The proverbial circle of life for parents, my version.