I am in a long distance relationship. Staying in touch is easy, thanks to text messages and Instagram, but ultimately, it leaves me unsatisfied.
It’s not what you think, however. There’s no romance, but there is love. There’s no daily “I love you,” but there is affection. There’s no sharing of daily moments, but there is a connection.
I’m in a long-distance relationship with my adult kids
Yes, I am in a long-distance relationship with my three adult children, ages 25, 29 and 33.
And long distance can be tricky.
My daughter likes to text, but she doesn’t like to talk.
My oldest son likes to talk, but doesn’t know what to say.
My youngest son used to call me, but now that he’s settled into his life, he needs to be reminded.
I want to respect my kids’ boundaries
I don’t want to be a nagging Jewish mother, so I try to keep boundaries. But honestly, it’s hard sometimes. I worry about them. I know they have their own lives; they are independent, but I miss being part of their everyday lives. I want to ask them about their break-ups, their jobs, their friends. I want to know how they spend their days and what they continue to dream about. I want to know if they are happy.
They feel so far away—actually, they ARE far away, 3000 miles to be exact. Somehow each of them ended up in California, and I am in Buffalo. Different time zones make communication and travel challenging. My empty nest would feel more comfortable and not so empty if they lived closer, if they could come to dinner once in awhile or go for a hike with me.
Little things make me happy. Recently, my youngest son asked how long to cook chicken. I felt needed! My daughter asked me to edit her latest article for Yoga Journal. I felt needed! My oldest son, who has been married a year, doesn’t really ask me for anything, but I know the day will come when he will need some advice. So I patiently wait!
Here’s the thing about long-distance relationships: They take a lot of work. My mostly grown-up kids don’t have a lot of free time. My oldest son is a Division 1 basketball coach; he travels all the time, between recruiting and games, and he virtually works all the time. My daughter is a self-employed yoga teacher who also travels, leading retreats around the world. And my youngest son, my baby, has a traditional job with little time off.
Long-distance relationships require planning and creativity
Here’s another thing about long-distance relationships: They take planning. And my millennial children are not the best planners. I’m not even sure they know what the word means. In planning a visit, they wait to see what airfares look like every week and then don’t book them. When they finally decide their plans, the flights are too expensive.
Or the timing is off.
Take Thanksgiving, for example. It is my daughter’s favorite holiday, but this year she can’t come to Cleveland, where we gather at my brother’s every year. She is in a wedding in Nashville the week before, and she can’t afford to fly back East right after she gets home to San Francisco.
When my father passed away last February, my oldest son was coaching a basketball game in Oregon. He flew home on the red eye, landed at 10 a.m. and just made it to the funeral at 11. He flew back out to Oregon later that day to catch up with the team, who had a game the next day in Washington.
Here’s another thing about long-distance relationships: They take creativity to sustain them. It’s a balancing act, a juggling of four different lifestyles, the need to be flexible. When I visit my kids in the summer, when I am not teaching high school English, I try to see each of them, all in the period of a week. I fly to San Francisco to stay with my daughter on an air mattress in her living room; we take the train to Palo Alto to see my oldest son; then I fly to Los Angeles to see my youngest son.
Sometimes I get lucky and I get to see them more than once or twice a year. When I attended a writing workshop in Aspen, I managed an extra trip to San Francisco. I was leaving out of Denver, so I was already halfway there!
I know this is how it is supposed to be. They are independent adults, and I am proud of them for their accomplishments and for the lives they have built.
I just wish we weren’t in such a long distance relationship!
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Amy Rumizen is a freelance writer and teacher with three adult children (23, 27, 31). I have written for the “Women’s Voices” column in The Buffalo News, Buffalo Magazine, and Motherwell.com. Amy was also the Dance Critic for The Buffalo News. She is currently writing a series of essays about mothers and daughters.