I have been avoiding writing about this topic because then I have to face it, and I'm not crazy about parts of it. But, changes in family relationships are an inevitable part of life after 50, and ignoring them won't make them go away. So, here goes!
Obviously, my relationship with my children has changed this year. They both graduated from college in May and became "official adults". Mitch is now an RN working in ICU, plus doing cornea removal for transplant, and volunteering for a Regional Rescue Team and local Rural Fire Dept. His time is at a premium. Amanda set off to explore the world before she settles down. Part of my epiphany on our mother/daughter day was understanding her desire to stretch her boundaries.
While these changes have been a joy to watch, they have also been painful. These two people have been my focus for twenty-four years. They are part of me in a way they will not understand until they hold heir own child. I got my identity from being their mom, and it was my responsibility to care for and protect them. Even when they were in college and relatively independent, I still "mothered" them - gave advice, fixed problems, did whatever made their life a little easier.
That dynamic has changed - as it should. I can only mother when asked. When I try to step in and do things for her, Amanda reacts with, "Mom, I got this. I'll figure it out." Mitch mentioned trading vehicles - something we agree it's time to do - and I immediately started researching models, prices and trade-in value. His response to my overstepping was silence. Both methods get the point across - "If I need your help, I'll ask."
My relationship with my parents has changed also. They are in remarkably good health in their late 70's - praise the Lord - but there is a slow shift in roles. They have always been my safety net. Just as my children can call on me when they can't handle something alone, I have always known that my parents stood ready to catch me if i fell. And they still would, I don't doubt that. The shift has been in my willingness to ask. They have done their share of worrying about me and mine. They deserve to be worry-free at this stage and I need to give them that - at least as much as it is within my control to do.
I'm feeling like a peeled banana. Things are being stripped away and, as natural and inevitable as the process is, I'm left feeling "exposed" and searching for a new cover - a new identity. Yes, I am still a wife to a wonderful husband, but there is a lot of space now for me to be me. But I'm not sure I know who that is. Certainly not the young woman who started this family 32 years ago. Not a librarian. Not the daughter who depended on her parents. Not the stay-at-home mom or the wife of an up-and-coming manager. Not even a friend (but we're not going there today, that's a post of it's own.) So who am I?
I think a large part of my recent obsession with creativity has been a search for identity - I'm a quilter or an artist or a seamstress. However, I'm not proficient enough at any of them to really claim those titles and, even if I could, applying a label doesn't change the contents.
The answer to "Who am I?" is this: "I am a child of the Great I AM." I know that title is the only one I need to be concerned with, but to be honest, I'm still floundering. How does that relationship affect my other relationships? As a pastor friend of ours would say, "What is the application?" As a Christian, I am called to serve, but how do I serve my children, my husband and my parents in this new phase of life?
If you're reading on to see how I answered that question, you're going to be disappointed. I don't have a clue. But, there's no choice but to keep searching for the answers, and for my place in this new life.