I have a case of parent/grandparent envy. My friend Jo has her work cut out for her in the next few weeks.
Her daughter (the mother of Jo's twin grandsons who have just started kindergarten) has to leave on a business trip. She'll be gone for three weeks--a first for the young family. Jo already has plans to entertain the twins on the weekend--she's thought of lots of fun things to do with them that will take their minds off their mother's absence. Even though her daughter and son-in-law live almost an hour drive away, she plans to perk up the twins' weekdays with several drop-by visits late in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Jo's son and daughter-in-law are expecting their third child. Last week, her DIL was put on bed rest--her blood pressure has been soaring. The baby is due in six weeks and the third-time mother-to-be now spends her days lying on the living room couch, laptop on her belly, telecommuting to and from her job. The two older kids--both in middle school--need to be picked up from various activities. Jo and Larry--grandma and grandpop--will help out there. Jo also has been cooking meals and delivering them.
When Jo and Larry, who both retired a few months ago, laid out the coming weeks, I felt a twinge of envy. Not about the additional time they'll get to spend with the grandkids--though that's a nice benefit. It's more about the feeling of being needed.
Of course, my children don't live close by--both live in other cities that are a long drive or a one-hour+ plane ride away. And I'm still working, albeit with very flexible hours and the ability to grab my laptop and work anywhere. When my children have had emergencies [a daughter-in-law in the hospital] or a known need [my daughter and son-in-law both traveling for work at the same time], I've managed to get there to help out, happy to do so.But if there were needs like Jo and Larry's grown children have, it would be hard for me to do all the nice little things--bring over dinner; cheer up the twins--without making it a big trip, an expensive one, too.
When we parents live far away from our grown children, our children find other ways to cope. Friends pitch in. Their help may not come with the loving care ours does, but it fills the need and our children help their friends out in return. It's what Paterfamilias and I did when we moved away from our families.
There are times when being so far away from my children leaves me with an empty feeling. There is something profoundly comforting to feel needed by your grown children and to be able to do something about it.