When my kids were little, my role as a parent was clear. It was up to me to love them, feed them, teach
them, play with them, read to them, keep them clean, and keep them safe. Now that they are young adults, my job description is less clear and my list of responsibilities is quite a bit shorter.
Some days this leaves me feeling a little obsolete. I think this is one of the hardest things to
adjust to when your children leave home.
Yet when I look back over the years since I left home myself, I’m
reminded of how many times my parents and my husband’s parents were anything
but obsolete. For example, during our
first winter in New Hampshire when we were reluctant to turn on our heat since
we weren’t sure our minimum-wage jobs would cover the bill, my husband’s
parents drove for nine hours to bring us a trunkful of firewood for the
fireplace in our bedroom. A few years later when our oldest child was our only child, he took a bite of soap while he was in the bathtub one
day. The soap left such a bad taste in
his mouth he refused to eat or drink anything else, and almost before we knew
it, he ended up in the hospital with dehydration. My husband and I were sitting there by his
hospital bed feeling lost and alone when we heard footsteps
coming down the corridor: my dad's familiar shuffle accompanied by the click-click of my mom's Sunday heels. My parents had driven up from Pennsylvania to take care of us while we took care of our son. Later on, both of our moms
came to cook and clean and care for us when our other children were born and when we moved from
one house to another and when I had surgery for thyroid cancer. So I’m thinking maybe my job description now
is this: show up when they need you. This week, for me, it meant editing a May term paper via email for my daughter, providing phone
support to my younger son who was in the midst of buying a used car on his own
for the first time, and helping my older son assemble furniture and unload
couches for his new apartment. I’m not
sure what it will mean in the future, but this I know: I want the job forever.