Time Passages

Connor's getting his first teeth! Both of his lower central teeth are starting to show, and you can easily feel them with your finger...

This was on my son’s Facebook page last night, and I when I read it aloud to my husband we both made the appropriate “awww...” sound followed by a deep sigh.

“The next post will read 'Connor’s getting his driver’s license,'” I said wryly, “and then ‘Connor’s graduating from college,’ and then ‘Connor’s getting married...’”.

Yep, time does fly, and although it never seems like it when you’re knee deep in diapers it really is only an eyeblink before children are no longer children, but adults and off living in some ridiculous place like Dallas, Texas. (Or Burlington, Vermont, or Los Angeles, California, or Seattle, Washington - parents of these, you know who you are.)

I have to admit, I’m not enjoying this long-distance grandparenting thing. Whenever we’re lucky enough to get a new video, I watch it over and over until the iPad battery runs dry. When new photos pop up on Facebook, you’re liable to see me carrying the iPad around the house, clutching the image to my heart.

And yes, I have been known to kiss the screen.

As much as I love watching this adorable little guy growing up, it makes my heart ache that I’m not able to see it up close and personal. I imagine when I look back on it years from now, when Connor has in fact graduated from college and gotten married, I will count it as one of the biggest mistakes regrets of my life - that somehow I didn’t find a way to be closer to him.

People tell me you can’t follow your children all over the place, and experience has proven this to be true. (Case in point - our lovely little plan for a Florida retirement with our family just down the road.) I suppose we could pick up and move to Texas, that maybe my husband and I could find work there to sustain us for the next few years until pensions and 401k’s kick in. But our son is young and life is unpredictable - he could very well find other opportunities elsewhere, in any part of the world, and there we would be once again.

Psychologist Eric Erikson talks about developmental stages we must successfully pass through in order to live a fulfilled and happy life. During middle adulthood (ages 35-65) he believes we must be concerned with “generativity,” which comes through caring for others and producing something for the betterment of society. Family and work, then, in somewhat equal measure, are the tasks to navigate in these years.

But as we get closer to the end of this stage, our relationships and activities change - children leave home, careers wind down, and it becomes more difficult to find meaning and purpose. Failure to successfully navigate this stage leads to “self-absorption and stagnation."

That sure doesn’t sound pretty to me, but I can see how it could happen.

Most of the women in my family have spent the waning years of their middle adulthood helping to raise their grandchildren. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and many of my aunts, have all been lucky enough to have a least some of their children nearby. I know that’s not the norm, especially in the 21st century, but I wish it were.

Being around children is one of the most “generative” activities I know of - what else is more reflective of "caring for others and producing something for the betterment of society”? It’s a sure and certain remedy for self-absorption and stagnation, and one of the best ways I can imagine to navigate this passage of life.

I only wish it were available to me.