Warmest Regards: Ever-changing family relationships
I’ve been reflecting this week on the way parent-child relationships change through the years.
When our kids are young we parents have the big job of helping them be prepared to go out in the world and make their own paths.
We try to give them as much guidance, as much protection and as much helpful knowledge as we can.
After all, it’s our role as parents. We’re supposed to know it all — or at least know where to find the information we need.
I think that’s one reason why mothers often talk with other mothers, gaining knowledge as they compare notes.
Well, like they say, a funny thing happens along the path of life.
Kids grow up and often we realize our grown children are the ones teaching us.
I remember my dad telling me if parents are lucky, each new generation is smarter than the previous one.
“And, that’s the way it should be,” he said, as he pointed out the advantages his children had that he never did.
He was talking about education, of course, but “book smart” isn’t all there is. Even though my parents only had a grade-school education I thought they were so smart in many way and I tried to learn from them.
I did notice after I graduated and went out into the working world my mom and dad seemed to turn to me more often for my advice.
I will never forget the time my mother needed surgery for breast cancer. When the surgeon gave her a choice between a lumpectomy or mastectomy, she turned to me and said I should decide because I was “more informed.” Fortunately, it all worked out fine.
Now, as the years go by I notice I’m relying more on the advice of my own two daughters.
And when I don’t listen to their advice, I’m often sorry. In the past few weeks that happened in two big instances.
When we started to get word of a major hurricane headed for Florida, my daughter Maria started looking for ways to get me out of harm’s way.
Knowing that I hate to drive in heavy traffic on major highways, Maria came up with what she thought was the perfect evacuation plan for me.
“Drive to Sanford and take the auto train to Virginia,” she said. “I’ll be there to pick you up to take you to Andrea’s.”
It was a good plan, one we all would enjoy.
Alas, I didn’t listen to my terrified daughters who wanted their mother out of the hurricane’s path.
As I endured the scary days before Hurricane Irma left us, I wished I would have been on that train out of Florida before we were huddled in the dark wondering if we would survive.
I realized too late it wasn’t necessary to put my family through all that worry.
Next time I’ll be more inclined to take that good advice to leave the state.
On a lesser scale, I also made a mistake when I didn’t follow my daughter Andrea’s home remodeling advice. She does quite well in her role as an interior decorator, and her Wild Chairy creative furniture is often written up in decorating magazines.
So I was especially pleased when she came to Florida for a short visit and offered to go with me to pick out tile for my bathroom.
As we walked through a flooring store as big as a football stadium I had a chance to watch a first-rate decorator in action. There was a lot I learned from her during that trip.
But I didn’t learn enough. I didn’t learn what she meant when she cautioned me not to pick busy accent tile because the main tile had its own pattern.
I don’t have her ability to know from just a few sample tiles what the finished effect would be. So when I went back with my husband the next week to buy the tile, I didn’t take Andrea’s recommendation for the flooring.
I thought I picked something with more of a wow factor — until I saw the finished floor, that is.
My daughter was right. The overall effect is “too busy.” I wish I would have listened to her decorating advice. There’s no sense having an expert in the family if I ignore her professional opinion.
Of course, once the bathroom was finished Andrea tried to make me feel better by saying it was a pretty room.
Tact is one of things that help us flourish.
I will say that it’s nice to see adult children come into their own. It’s even nicer to know I can count on them in so many ways, just as they counted on me while they were growing up.
Relationships aren’t static. Instead, they constantly evolve. Mom and dad might not always know best. But they don’t have to when their adult children have grown into smart people capable of making their own decisions.
Isn’t that what we parents work for during the formative years of raising children?
We want them to be able to function well as independent being. It’s a bonus when they are adults and we parents like what we see.
And it’s an even bigger bonus when we know we can count on them for valuable advice.
And sometimes, but not always, we’re even smart enough to take it.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.