M and I had dinner last night with C, A, A’s mother, stepfather, and older brother. It was a casual meal and a relaxed evening.
The more time I spend with them, the more I like and appreciate my future sister in mother-in-lawhood. She is a kind and gracious woman, but more importantly – probably MOST importantly – she loves her family with the same sort of fierce, every-fiber-of-her-being way that I understand and recognize. My C is accepted by her as part of her clan, and is now part of that protective circle that envelopes families. For that alone we are kindred spirits.
We were talking about our kids last night, about the trials and tribulations and all the stuff that happens getting our young shuttled safely from newborn infants to young men and young women who are able to fend for themselves and be productive members of our society. A’s mom remarked that when her eldest son – now a handsome young man of 30 seated at the table with us – was just starting high school, another mother of 3 boys with the youngest starting his senior year – told her to savor the moments, because in a blink the kids are grown and out of the house.
It is so true.
Preparing for my meeting last week with the financial planner, I suddenly realized I am only 13 years away from being eligible for full social security. Despite my daily number crunching, I had somehow lost track that retirement – once 30 or 40 years away – was now less than 15. For M is is in single digits at 9. For whatever reason it shocked the hell out of me, something tangible and freaking terrifying. I need only look at my children to recognize that the years have passed and they grew up and evolved into these terrific people. Everyone is right – the big milestones seem to happen so suddenly, in a blink.
As we chatted and continued to get to know one another better last night, I recognize that A is part of our family, accepted and welcomed by us, for better or for worse, with enthusiasm or reticence. But any reservations M and I may have about either of the kids’ significant others are mostly based in our natural anxiety as parents. Are they ready for this commitment? Have I done enough to prepare them for this phase of their life? Are they going to be okay without me?
Dinner with A’s parents was a congenial, bonding exercise, and I certainly hope for many years of celebrating whatever milestones that bring us together. Because our family villiage is expanding whether we are ready, whether our households are 100% in order. Talking about weddings and marriage and the future is exciting and upbeat, yet I am at least enough a realist to recognize that life is not all sunshine and rainbows. But I know my daughter is equipped with the tools to make wise choices, and the more time I spend with A’s family I feel equally confident he is was as well. M and I are very different people in this regard, where I remain optimistic about their future together and M will likely always have a trace of worry running through his veins.
I once had to explain to C that where she perceived M lacked confidence in her choices, it was actually M unskillfully expressing concern that he had somehow failed preparing her to make those choices. It was quite the ephiphany for her and made a profound difference in how she perceives him; she is generally less defensive in responding on the occasions he voices concern or disagreement. For his part, M also feels somewhat limited in his role as stepfather, wanting to be careful to not overstep boundaries where her father prevails, and it makes him clumsy in what or how he talks to both kids. C is the more reactive of the two with M, because his approval matters more than she cares to openly admit. No matter how well or how poorly we communicate it in the moment, we want our children to be happy and successful, and sometimes that has to include letting them make painful mistakes.
What I viewed last night over a happy, relaxed dinner is C’s growing ease with A’s immediate family and finally, truly understanding that M and I both love her and want her to be happy. Just because we express it differently does not dillute its purity or depth.
In a blink we became family.