We have a few things going on with close friends this week, so I feel a little distracted and frazzled trying to help navigate from a geographically challenged position. But things always have a way of working out for the best, but it reminds of interactions in the last few weeks with my kids, friends talking about their kids, young friends who are still kids. The world and families remain a complicated place.
Let’s begin with my kids, though.
C and A are doing very well, and from what C has told me in text and on the phone, their life together is good. I believe her. While I am her mom, she truly does not have a single reason to lie or to try and mislead me; I am always going to turn myself into a pretzel rather than judge her for the sake of passing judgment. If she needs help, I’m here. If she needs a sounding board, my phone and my text and my availability are pretty much at her disposal. If she needs a pet sitter, I’ll be calling a boarding kennel and paying the cost. (See? I’d likely be a horrible grandmother anyway.)
A’s family is a different story. They are quite confrontational and just lately here their narrative has been that A and C are “abandoning” the family, and it is simply unfair and untrue. C takes the brunt of the blame in such conversations with A’s brothers, and it frustrates A to no end that he is continually having to defend his wife against their attacks or to explain, again and again and again, that he and C are (1) both working full-time on different schedules, (2) C is picking up part-time shifts at vet hospitals for their house goodies fund (they recently purchased their first home), (3) trying to save their money for house goodies, pay off A’s student loans, and saving for C’s return to school next year, and (4) spending much of their limited free time putting in the sweat equity on their home. Family members offer to help, but then they want to debate the kids’ choices – everything from the color of the paint on the wall to how they arrange the furniture. It is complete and utter madness to me. The few times I have been over to help C with something, we talk about future plans for tile and flooring, and while her choices differ from my own, it is her house and will be lovely. My goodness, the idea of trying to get her to change her mind – from this lovely oyster bisque (really pale gray) to M’s preferred blinding white would never occur to me … until she and A were telling me about A’s aunt (an interior designer) trying to tell them all the mistakes they are making in the color palette, etc. At that point I was horrified. This is their first home; they could paint zebra stripes in garish fluorescents and it should not matter to anyone else.
And I truly feel for them, because A’s family is so freaking huge and there is a constant barrage of phone calls, texts, invitations, etc. from various branches. They all talk to each other about everything, are chin deep in each other’s business, and seem to be stricken stupid that C and A wish to not share all their personal information and business and let decisions about their lives be made by majority vote. C does not mean to bring it home and share it with her mother, but it happens. M and I try to maintain Swiss-like neutrality, but honestly we understand their desire for privacy and autonomy about their personal lives and business. I could also care less if A’s family blames me for the kids’ choices to seek non-family business resources, but my strong opinion is that if you love your family you do not do business with them, period. Had they chosen another route – hiring various uncles to broker their mortgage and be their realtor – I would not have objected strenuously or said anything more about it. My daughter asked, I expressed my opinion, and I trust her judgment to do what is right for them.
So last night when I got a phone call from my first sister in mother-in-law-hood, I should have known it was not going to be about a reception/bbq for the kids or that she was calling to discuss logistics and details. Nope, she was calling to complain that she “never” sees the kids and wondering if I had the same issue. Ummm … no, not really; we are all busy people and get together whenever we can make it work. The conversation was interesting, if not always agreeable. I love my kids, including the ones marrying into my family, and I respect their right to lead independent, autonomous lives including keeping their private lives private. Ours is a tiny family of 6, total, and maybe 20 if we count all the others on their dad’s side. My sister in MIL-hood does not understand my perspective, and now I’m not even sure she likes me much as a person, but that’s okay. I did not really like my own sibling all that much either. And what is important – our kids are in love and happily married. Truly, that is all that matters to me as far as the joining of our families.
Then on to G and K.
The wedding is in about 6 weeks, and all is mostly going well. But there is pressure from K’s family – from her aunt stealing my dress, to her mom not being able to find something she wants to wear that K actually likes, to her other aunt being batshit crazy. I think this may be normal behavior for brides and grooms planning a larger event. And then every dress I have purchased – there have been more than a dozen now – have been met with some level of chilly reserve from K. The one I like the most and feel is the most flattering on my person … I think she either dislikes it’s casualness or feel it is somehow wrong for me. While I encourage open and directness, K seems reluctant to tell me that she hates it or whatever has her hung up. Not to worry – I have another 6 on order in different styles and shapes. But still, it makes things awkward if she desires inclusion and is not able to share honestly. I am not going to take it terribly personally if she speaks her mind, and for the bit I might take personally I will get over it quickly. At the end of all this, the day is all about her and about G; if she think the dress is wrong and she’ll hate looking at wedding pictures forever, that’s fine, I can keep looking. Without honest input, though, I am floundering in the dark.
Not that what I wear should matter to either of them. However, if K has a strong enough reaction to be weird with me about it, I would really prefer to hear it than have her be weird about it.
M and I are also hosting a bbq the Saturday after the wedding for friends of ours and theirs who may not be able to attend because of the limited guest list. Several of our friends are volunteering to help with the food prep, cooking, and clean-up, so the kids’ and their guests do not have to worry about it, and I am happily, graciously accepting the assistance. However, K is getting wound up about it, worrying about food and food allergies, and all sorts of other things like where all the cars will park. On one side of us the house has been vacant for quite awhile year and the son who manages the place said it was fine for us/our guests to park in the driveway (3 cars wide). Our other neighbor will be out of town that week (I know because we are feeding his cats) and also said it was fine to park in his driveway for the party. Again, I am not sure if she is actually concerned about these things or feeling a bit powerless about an event in their honor. I left that issue with G, because it is his party as well, and if she wants to do something different, just speak up; I am so not going to be offended. G assures me it is just the wedding stuff going on, lots of decisions, lots of stuff and details to cope with deal with, etc. I am leaving the door open, though, just in case. Believe me, I would be fine with not having 60 people descending on my home for an afternoon. I also know several people are planning to uber or car pool so they can imbibe, so maybe the car situation will not be that awful.
So right after typing out those paragraphs, I get a call from K reminding me that I am meeting she and G at the venue for the final details meeting, and did I want to join them for dinner afterwards? You betcha! She also apologized for being distracted about the dresses and the bbq details (completely unnecessary yet still appreciated) and told me about the latest chapters in the batshit crazy wing of her family and her escalating anxiety about them crashing the wedding. She broke down in tears on the phone and just broke my heart! I promised – I SWORE – it would be okay, we would MAKE it be okay on the big day, and I texted M that we may have to bring some big burly men friends to patrol and keep watchful eyes out for the crazy wing in K’s family. In the bigger picture, the dress, the post-wedding celebrations matter do not matter at all. As a family we will do anything and everything we can to make this event go off without a single glitch or unwelcome crashers.
*sigh* I hate drama, and I really hate that it is visiting my son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law.
And finally, the “let me let go” issues of a couple of close friends. Different ladies and varying degrees of the same challenging: cutting the apron strings with their young adult children and trusting them to manage their own lives without unwelcome influence and input from their mothers. I feel for them, the moms, because it can be kind of difficult to transition in these hands-on mom roles to mom as a distant thought in the life process. While my advice is to simply step back and trust them and the lessons you instilled in raising them, it is hard. For me personally I can remember the defining moment with my son, when he exasperatedly suggested I let him enjoy some independence. Had he doused me with cold water I could not have been more shocked, but he was right. I needed to let go, even if he was still living under my roof. Not much changed in reality – he was still living at home at that time, coming and going as he wanted and needed, but common courtesy continued to dictate that he leave me a note or text about his approximate schedule or if he would not be home at all. M was on the truck a lot, he and I were working through The Troubles, and G and I became more like roommates until he moved out on his own.
But because I have never been a helicopter parent or overly controlling in the first place, my ability to step back and let my kids go off and learn to adult was easier. I know both C and G have made mistakes in everything from finances to poor choices in relationship partners, but if they never have opportunity to experience consequences how will they know what is a mistake that is going to be painful to repair (and therefore should not be repeated) and what is just life that mommy will clean up for them? It puts an unreasonable and unfair burden on children to have all their whims catered to and to never actually endure any repercussions from poor choices.
Saying that to some of my friends … well, one would think I was suggesting they tell a naked toddler that he/she is grown-up now and to go fend for him/herself, and then lock said naked toddler outside in a blizzard. Nope. We are talking about college-age children who are unable to breakaway. The LaBrea tar pits have nothing on these clinging mothers and it is causing a lot of strife and discord in otherwise close and happy families. We are friends, I know they are hearing me, but actually putting the reasonable advice into action is proving … paralyzing. Empty nesting is apparently terrifying to them. I told M that I am either the most uncaring mother to ever walk the earth or these ladies need to develop hobbies other than trying to micromanage their children’s lives. While I already know getting them interested in joining a gym, taking yoga, or even getting a pass and trying either/both with me is unlikely, but I am a born again true believer that exercise will help with both the anxiety and the accompanying depression. And obviously cannot stop talking about it here either.
Because according to friend J, I am a “bolt of f**king positive lightning constantly setting his f**king ass on fire.”
I am actually not, most of the time, setting his ass on fire. But hey, whatever works to get him off the fence and making decisions. If M offers to fly across the country to help you out, by now friend J should know the offer is genuine and we absolutely mean it. We are not over here wringing our hands hoping you decline a polite offer; we do not issue hollow offers of assistance. When M says he can fly out and help you out, I am sitting here with my finger on the mouse waiting for you to say something so I can book the flight and rental car options I have already researched and am ready to purchase.
Love my kids, my family, my tribe of friends. We all have our issues at any given moment, but it’s nice to have sounding boards, help and support when we need it most. Believe me, I have been on the receiving end of that match or lightning strike more times than I care to admit. And I would not change a thing about it.
Happy Wednesday! I was driving home from the gym this morning and thinking the sky is such a pretty blue today, and it does not feel like it will be too hot. Small things, small favors, because I will be in our new office space for a meeting and there is no a/c right now, so not too hot is a huge gift. It will still be hot in there, but not sweltering melting kind of hot. That alone makes me ridiculously happy, even if I was already in my regularly scheduled good mood.