I call my mother almost every day. They are not long phone calls. Sometimes only a couple of minutes. Sometimes we talk multiple times in one day.

There are of course periods where we talk less. She goes on vacation, I go on vacation, we go a couple of days, or even maybe a week, without talking.

It’s usually palaver. The human verbal equivalent of monkeys grooming each other.

Did you hear… ?

Do you remember… ?

Where did I put… ?

Have you seen… ?

I have to tell you…

Why didn’t you tell me… ?

Just a quick question…

I hadn’t realized the extent to which talking to her really is a deeply embedded part of my daily routine and until recently I would have cringed at the idea of being described as someone who calls her mother everyday.

Of course, there are days and times when she calls me and I think, “Oh, not now!” But that’s usually rare, the result of her calling when I’m trying to get the kids to sleep, dinner on the table, groceries unpacked, or have some long awaited quiet time with my husband. But for the most part, I really don’t mind.

On the other hand, I have some cognitive dissonance about this because my mother and I have such a fraught relationship over food. My teenage years weren’t the most harmonious and I absolutely couldn’t wait to leave for college and live on my own. Every time I had to “come home” for the summer or part of a vacation it was hard to step back into the shoes I’d left behind; into the role of “child”.

I’m seeing that for me, part of growing up and becoming an adult is realizing that my role is actually that of “daughter” not “child”. I mixed them up for years, to the peril of my relationship with my parents. This is where my sister and I differ. I’ve learned that distinction. I can’t say that I’ve fully integrated it into my emotional reactions to all things, but the intellectual awareness is there now and just that knowledge is bringing me peace. My sister’s inability to understand that is driving her 3,000 miles away from our family. My brother’s inability to understand that drove him to cut of contact with everyone in our family. My understanding is allowing my parents to move in (albeit on a part-time basis) with me, my husband, and my children.

This August will mark the twenty year anniversary of my leaving for college. It will also be when my parents “move in”.

Part of me thinks that twenty years of being on my own is not enough. Part of me still panics a bit about “living with my parents”. But reflecting on this has made me aware that the fear stems from not wanting to revert back to the role of “child”. I must gently remind myself that “daughter” and “child” need not be synonymous and that I am the one in control of my role.

I love my parents. I’m lucky in that respect. I estimate that I will, in all likelihood, outlive them by about 30 years.

How annoying to be in mid-life and have my parents living in my house!

How devastating to know that I’ll spend 30 years missing them and wishing I could call my mother once in a while.

In the end, this is really a very fair compromise.

 

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