As the holidays approach, I get sort of sentimental about Christmases gone by. I remember the days when I automatically expected my grown children home for Christmas. Sure, when they married, we alternated years with in-laws and frequently we went to Santa Fe, but still they sometimes had Thanksgiving and/or Christmas in my house. Those days are gone—my family has grown too large to fit comfortably in my house; their houses are larger, and I admit dinner for sixteen is an effort for me. It’s all part of changing family dynamics that have been on my mind lately.
I raised four children, as a single parent from the time they ranged in age from six to twelve—those years I call the “casserole years” when I was in the car chauffeuring more than I was out, years when I was still at the core of their world and I knew almost everything they did (okay, there were some stories I heard years later that singed my hair).
I remember what a great shock it was to me when I realized that my children, now scattered across Texas, were communicating with each other without going through me. One would tell me the other was traveling, and I would bristle: why hadn’t they told me? Or some such similar thing. I thought I was Telephone Central, just as I thought I was Holiday Central. But I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that they have their own families and their own loyalties—they love me, but I am not at the center of the universe.
Today I have seven grandchildren. Each in his or her own way shows me affection, but I know it’s not the same as when my children were those ages and I was the center of their world. I remember babysitting Jacob one night when he was maybe eight months old. He woke with a bad dream, so I rocked him and he clung to my chest tightly and eventually went to sleep there. I hadn’t had a baby sleep on my chest and so look to me for comfort in years and it brought tears of joy. But if his mommy had been there, he would have gone to her—no question about it. And I know as much time as I spend with Jacob and as much as he loves me, his parents are the center of his world. He’ll ask, “When are my mommy and daddy coming?” I can never nor would I ever intrude on that relationship. I’ve had my day and it was wonderful. Now I’m grateful that I am still so much a part of the family and still so loved by my children and grandchildren.
IF you ask me my priorities in life, I’ll tell you always I’m a mom and a grandmom first, then I’m an author, and my third role (in order of significance) used to be that I was a publisher. Today I’m grateful I have an independent life that doesn’t depend totally on my family—I rather imagine they’re grateful for that too.