Guest blogger NorEastMom: I want my MOMMY! Is separation anxiety normal for a 37-year-old?
My mother and father went to Europe 10 days ago on a cruise. My two sisters and I were thrilled that they were able to make this trip, especially with my father being disabled. My mother prepared well to ensure that he would have all the necessary items and supports in place, and they were extremely excited about the adventure, since they had never been to Europe in their 65 years.
Still, being that they live two miles from me and I see them all the time, I have been worried ever since dropping them at the airport. So far, we haven't heard from them, and I notice myself continuously thinking: Are they okay? Why haven't they called? Did they pack enough sweaters? Upon realizing that I must be totally enmeshed with my parents, I call my sisters to discuss how I apparently never left the nest and must be in a state of arrested development. I needed sibling confirmation on this.
"Hey, have you heard from mom? What's up with that? I'm worried sick." Both sisters, on separate phone calls, voiced the same anxiety. Wait a minute, these are the two siblings that live on the other side of the country ... they are going through the same thing? "I never realized how much I call mom. I keep dialing her number only to realize she's away for another whole week," my sister Meg replies. This makes me feel more normal until I think, maybe none of us have left the nest. Which builds into the next fear ... with aging parents, how will we ever function independently without checking with Mom first?
I know that when my mom is around the corner, I touch base every two or three days and get together maybe once a week. I know I feel very lucky to have them nearby. My kids have a set of grandparents to be spoiled and adored by. At times, my parents and I can even fall into a lovely friendship moment, like last month when we drove to the mountains on a hellish road trip filled with crushed Goldfish crackers, crying, bathroom stops and seat switching. We arrived at our destination, put my kids to bed, then the three of us stayed up laughing until 1 a.m. for no apparent reason. It was really nice.
The funny thing is, my sisters have confessed feeling guilty about being so far away, and also feeling somewhat jealous that I have our parents so close. If these were measurable traits, I would guess that my guilt about wishing myself far away from my parents sometimes -- and my jealousy of my sisters' distance -- would balance out perfectly. After all, we were raised in the same guilt factory, therefore we should have equal parts. That same place manufactured unequal parts of love, connectedness, communication skills, coping mechanisms, with side dishes of protective denial. Which all brings me back to my point: Are we too connected? Have we left that system successfully -- or am I in denial?
My friends all confirm that their moms are often the first person they run all decisions by, including parenting, marriage, and work. Fathers, siblings or uncles act as touchstones for those that don't have close relationships with their mothers.
Something about us humans feel secure when we can touch base with our roots, check if we're still ourselves, process with the most trusted elements of our world that we are still doing the life thing right. Of course, we all can see when this system goes monumentally wrong: Families can collude around a whole lot of dysfunctional beliefs, and only members who reach outside for more functional frames of reference really grow psychologically. In other words, checking with crazy people to see if your crazy is ... crazy. This phenomenon can be best demonstrated by the Bush administration.
Luckily, for all our craziness, my family functions pretty well. So what if we all use my mother as our personal advice source? Why not utilize that wonderful and loving resource as long as we can?
It's a privilege not everyone has.