I’ve always had an open door policy for our kids’ friends (at least the ones we like!) but lately our front entrance has become a revolving door. Our boys were home for the Shavuot weekend, bringing our family back to its number of five. They trudged in with their bags of clothes, dirty and clean comingling. They ate the food I prepared, slept in their old beds, interacted nicely with their sister and livened up our lunch and dinner conversations.
I am so happy when they return home and so sad when they depart, but I’m getting used to this irregular pattern. They have different schedules and often come home at odd times. I try to pick them up at the train station to lighten their load though they’ve already schlepped their bags on NJ Transit and the LIRR. It’s really just an excuse to see their faces and catch up on their news a bit earlier.
Last week I drove myself back and forth a few hours each way to bring my son’s stuff home from his dorm. I left him with a wheelie bag and his backpack so he could stuff the last of his belongings in for the trip home via the Israel parade. We meet up at the endpoint where we cheer for our daughter who is marching. This is another bittersweet moment; after three kids’ worth of middle and high school, she is the last of our kids participating as a HAFTR student! I hope she’ll continue marching in years to come with her future college or with her Israel program, or simply hang out watching from the sidelines and be counted among the tens of thousands of spectators for this wonderful event.
After the parade, our house is filled to the gills with goods and detritus collected during the past school year. Our son’s friends visit and our home is joyfully noisy and messy…for a week. Then it will be packing and shopping time again, this time for camp, and out the door we’ll go for another drop off, one less kid at home for another month. Then it should be reasonably peaceful here until he returns and it’s time to get serious about our daughter’s impending year away in Israel. Organizing, packing, check ups, weighing and reweighing the bulging single suitcase allowed for the journey, and then another airport drop off.
I dread this sendoff, the lump in the throat and irrepressible tears, while trying to look supportive and casual about what’s happening. I know this third time around that it will never be the same after the long taste of freedom she’ll get overseas. The kids will come back for varying periods, but home will just be their base. It took me a long time to understand and treat our boys with the hospitality and love of a mom, but also as comfortable visitors, working guests who help with what’s required but are also independent. It’s a fine balance which we’re still figuring out together.
I roll out the welcome mat with an open heart but realize I can’t hold them hostage and they can come and go as they please. I try not to enter into the upheaval of their rooms, but make sure they know to leave it in decent condition. I cherish talking and sharing and offer suggestions/advice and try to curb my disappointment when it’s private time. I indulge them as the children they will always be to me, while giving them the respect they deserve as adults.
Kids return for longer stays for many reasons, requiring a balancing act on both sides. As much as we love them and provide a safe haven, we hope they become independent. As parents, we are pulled in opposite directions, wishing our kids to remain adoring and adorable forever, but gently pushing them out against our instincts, praying that they soar and succeed. We survived this when we dropped them off at their first day at pre-school, when we taught them to drive, sent them to college, and on and on with each new challenge.
I can picture my dad peering through the window for me late at night and I relate to the worrying my parents endured. Though I didn’t have a cell phone, there were pay phones and I was expected to check in. Though today we’re so connected via so many methods, I still usually wait up to hear the front door open and don’t comprehend “out of sight out of mind.” I wonder how it was for my grandparents who lived in such different times. Or for my great grandparents who sent my grandparents off to the New World knowing they would never see their faces again. I find that concept mind boggling.
My cousin just became a dad again and, even as the umbilical cord was cut, the invisible connection from parents to baby became taut and visceral. As I loosen the hold on my own kids, I long to nuzzle my cousin’s newborn and relive for a few moments the beginning of the fulfilling and challenging adventure that is called parenthood.
Miriam Bradman Abrahams is Cuban born, Brooklyn bred and lives in Woodmere. She organizes author events for Hadassah, reviews books for Jewish Book World and is very slowly writing her father’s immigration story. She is teaching yoga at Peaceful Presence Yoga Studio. firstname.lastname@example.org