The hardest thing about becoming an empty-nester is recognizing that, as a parent, you’re no longer indispensable.
Sure, your adult children love you, and they’d miss you if you weren’t around — correction, WILL miss you WHEN you’re not around. But it’s not the same as when they were little and literally couldn’t survive without you, or even when they were teenagers and needed you at least for gas money and yearbook dues.
That said, there’s great satisfaction in seeing your children grow up to be honest, responsible adults. Of course, when that doesn’t happen, it isn’t necessarily the parents’ fault. I’ve known wonderful parents whose children became members of Congress.
Here are some key indicators that you might not have done a completely horrible job as a parent:
Your children actually like each other. After all the crying and whining of childhood, the petty, prepubescent bickering, and the cynical brinksmanship of teendom, it’s refreshing to find that your kids like to spend time together, without you.
Perhaps one of the main reasons they like to spend time together is to laugh at you behind your back. (Rumor has it, your youngest does a spot-on impersonation of you screeching, “What are you trying to do, air condition the entire neighborhood?”)
But at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that, if nothing else, at least you provided them a basis for unity.
They like to visit — but not too much. This may seem counter-intuitive. If your kids love you, and you did a good job as a parent, they’ll want to spend as much time with you as possible, right?
Not necessarily. If you did a good job as a parent, then they all have happy, busy, productive lives of their own, totally apart from yours. Also, as independent adults, they’re kind of done with the whole parent-child dynamic, to which any extended visit eventually and inevitably reverts.
So yes, they like to come see you—for a couple hours once a week, or maybe a week-long visit once or twice a year, if they live far away. That’s normal and healthy. Anything more might actually indicate an unhealthy degree of dependency, perhaps even a predisposition to socialism.
They do a good job with their own kids. Perhaps the greatest joy any grandparent can experience — and the greatest compliment any parent can receive — is to see their kids doing a good job raising their own children.
No, they won’t do it exactly like you, but at least half the time, that’s probably a good thing. Yet when you observe that your grandchildren are happy, healthy and reasonably well-adjusted, you have to be proud of the job your kids are doing — and you can justifiably take some of the credit.
After all, who do you think taught them parenting? The same people who taught them not to air condition the entire neighborhood.