There are many variations of the adult child/parent relationship, some of them satisfying and others not so.
Ideally, families remain as a unit and when the children leave the home, they are not really gone. They stay close in touch; the family is tight. There may be frequent phone calls or if they are near, weekly visits. Even if the children have moved far away, still they are often in contact and the family is very much involved in each other’s lives. When there are grandchildren, you play an important role in their lives, perhaps continuing to care give and be like a second set of parents to the children of your children. This situation is ideal, the big happy family so many of us have longed for.
But more often than not in our complex society, this may not be the case.
In still other families there may be serious alienation, with bad feelings between you and your children. In extreme cases the breach is so strong that you are no longer talking. This situation may have come about from a long-standing, ongoing feud, or maybe a recent fall out. In some cases, it could be caused by a difficult son or daughter-in-law who has introduced a rift into your own relationship with your child. Sometimes the cause of the separation is the children simply do not approve of your choice in a new partner.
Whatever the reason for this estrangement, it most likely is up to you, as the more mature and experienced adult, to do everything possible to heal the relationship; sometimes family therapy can help.
In the fourth and perhaps most common case, your grown children are independent, busy with other demands and responsibilities. They have “a life” and sadly you are no longer a really big part of it. You have raised healthy children who know how to take care of themselves. They do not carry the same burden of guilt you yourself may have grown up with, and sometimes you might wish they had just a little, as a motivator in becoming closer to you!
If this is like your family now, you probably see the children occasionally, but it is almost always you who are the one making the call and initiating the effort. It is clear you are not really high up on their list of priorities. When you do get together, you love it, having a little piece of them, but you may feel sad and wistful when you have to separate. It seems it is never enough, and you want more. But, you will take whatever you can get of their time and energy. You understand this is how it has to be. You do know your children love you and would be there if there were a big need, like a crisis, but right now “they’re just not that into you.”
Whether there is closeness or distance between parents and children of any age, it’s good to keep in mind the wise words of Khalil Gabran.
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
If you were able to look further down the road to a time when inevitably you become aged and probably less able to care for your self, you might see the roles reversing. Your children now are called upon to be your caregiver, to make the decisions for you and watch out for you.
What goes around does come around, in this cyclical nature of life.