My Son is 35: The Tectonic Plate Shift of Families
There used to be four of us. Birthdays, vacations, anniversaries –- two parents, two children. Now it’s different. Four has become seven. Two sons, two parents, one wife, one girlfriend and one mother-in-law. When your kids find worthy life companions, you don’t argue or complain about the normal being other than the old configuration, almost never hanging out – just the four of you. This is the way life is supposed to be and I’m not complaining –- really, I’m not. Just a little bit nostalgic.
We’re here in San Francisco for our elder son’s 35th birthday –- astonishing on its face since I’m not sure when I myself stopped being that age. He lives in London with his new wife, and they came to town on business so we all converged here for the celebration. So that’s one of the “more:” a lovely, loving wife for our lovely, loving child. His sweet brother lives here, so does his wonderful girlfriend. She’s the second “one.” The third: our daughter-in-law’s mom lives in town, too. So here we are, a movable feast of seven, gathering in restaurants and hotel lobbies and ice cream parlors and wandering around the Mission.
Like a kaleidoscope, we split and recombine. One night the girls are not available, and the four of us actually have dinner together. I feel guilty about how good that feels –- laughing over old memories and movies and books and friends. Another time we’re five –- another time, two. Our family now dwells on a tectonic plate sliding up and down, left and right, as we combine and separate and merge once more.
What’s the big deal about all this? Well, it’s another thing to learn, that’s all. He’s 35 and mastering the new arts of marriage and in-laws and combining all that with amazingly high-pressure work and with the two of them being thousands of miles and many time zones away from the rest of us. His brother, too, is far from us, but at least in decent telephone-time-zone distance. He and his brother are learning to live without constant phone calls and frequent reunions.
And us? We’re learning, too: grace, as the parents of sons we now share with the women in their lives, and gratitude, at the way they care about our guys; appreciation for the ten or fifteen minutes of one-on-one time walking or picking up a car from a parking place or hitting the cash machine. And love for these new women who populate our lives.
So, this birthday is a landmark in many ways. Mostly in celebration of the birth of this remarkable child, who has become such a spectacular man. He transformed our lives, and us, and was and is a gift beyond measure. But also of the slow, steady turn of the earth, the changes that make families just as much as the memories do. The balances change, new characters arrive, locations shift and time passes –- and, literally, a rainbow emerges over our shoulders. And with it, the constant of family, of joy, of laughter –- and of love.
Of course, there are other issues with adult kids’ birthdays:
Our own editor, Denise, gripes that she wants lists from her kids so she can get them what they want, but it’s tough to get them to comply.
Florinda offered a lovely recollection of her newly-minted college grad’s birthday –- different circumstances, but familiar feelings.
I actually wrote another post I’d forgotten on my younger son turning thirty. This life of change is really something, no?
Cynthia Samuels, Managing Editor, CAUSES, Care2, Partner Cobblestone Associates, LLP Blog and Media Strategies and Content Development Don’t Gel Too Soon