Family dynamics change all the time as children grow into adults, marry, have children, and those children—in this case, my grandchildren—grow and change. Over Thanksgiving I had a chance to reassess my place in the family structure.
In Austin in October I had a minor meltdown one night when all my kids gathered in the kitchen, and I felt left out of the loop. So I sat at the end of the kitchen island, read my book, and—yes—sulked. Later, I blamed it on my hearing aids. But I’ve had lessons in adjusting the aids, and the other day I picked up on a conversation across the kitchen, to the amazement of one son and one son-in-law.
This time I had the same problem—I sat at the kitchen table or sometimes the pass-through to the family room for informal meals and to read. My son Jamie, the host, kept saying, “Mom, if you want to be involved, go sit on the couch,” or “Mom, everyone’s taking their food outside; if you want to be involved, go out there.” For several reasons, I didn’t.
For one thing they all move about, so I’m likely as not to find myself alone on the porch in ten minutes. More importantly, I’m happier eating at a counter rather than out of my lap. And—whoa! the big revelation!—much as I love them, I don’t always want to be in the center of their circle. When they are all together, they watch sports on TV, loudly; they talk about contemporary books and music foreign to me; they play (loudly again) a wide variety of video games which delights the grandchildren and dismays me. Where are my conservations about books and ideas and politics and world events? I’m happy as can be knowing they’re there, occasionally wandering over one by one to talk to me, For instance, when Jamie cleans the kitchen in the evening (he’s compulsive about it) we have good visits.
And then there’s cooking. I’m used to being the one in charge but hey—this is a daughter’s kitchen or a daughter-in-law’s, and all the other second-generation girls are in the kitchen. Too many cooks—I trip over them. and get in their way. So I do specific things as asked, and when they call out, “Juju, advice please!” I’m there and on hand. I guess we have to all accept a new role for me. I don’t exactly feel like a senior matriarch who needs to be sidelines but maybe in some ways I am. The picture above was meant to show off the beginnings of the holiday feast but since I was in my customary spot at the kitchen table. The results is a picture in which I look—gulp yes—matriarchal.
Life changes, and we all move on. What we make of it is up to each of us.