E.T. Call Home (Who Cares if E.T. Calls?)*

In case you've been living under a rock and missed the memo, I have four grown kids. Two girls, two boys. They all left the nest at various ages, for varied reasons, and in completely varying states of mind. When they moved out I had a couple of rituals. First, the shopping. Second, "the talk".

The shopping was easy. I took them to the grocery store for their first go-round of basic shopping. I bought them staples that always cost a lot but get you by for awhile. Things like flour, sugar, salt, pepper, basic spices, along with canned goods and pastas and enough to know they weren't going to starve the first week or so.

"The talk" was as varied in nature as the kid I was talking to. Mainly, the jist was we love you, but we're not gonna bug you. You're an adult now and we think you should be treated as one so I won't call you – you call us. I never wanted to be the mom that bugged the hell out of their kids to call home or to come see me. I did try and let them know that this wasn't from lack of love or interest, just a desire to give them some space.

My kids have, for the most part, moved in and out through the years. Sometimes back home for a couple of days when they were having relationship troubles, sometimes for months when things fell through and they needed to re-group. I always wanted to be the kind of mom that was there if my kids needed me – for anything. My parents weren't like that and I remember what a helpless, hopeless feeling it was when they weren't there to turn to.

Anyway, when my youngest daughter recently moved out on her own again she mentioned my phone rule and said she didn't mind if I called or even stopped over. I did tell her that being a single, attractive young woman out on her own I might want to keep a bit more contact with her. Like… daily? My reasoning being a.) she's not living with anyone who would notice if she didn't come home without reason and b.) have I mentioned she's attractive? I accept all forms of proof of life – a typical text message conversation between us may go something like:

me: are you alive?

her: no. i'm dead in the alley by the dumpster

me: okay. as long as i know

So, yes, she too has the smart-ass gene. However, that is considered proof of life. I also consider it to be proof when she blogs. So, one child taken care of.

Youngest son farms with Hubs so he's pretty well under the microscope on a daily basis. Hubs not only knows what he's doing and where he is, but has probably told him what to do and where to be! If he isn't working, he's more than likely doing something related to his race car and can be found in or around the shop, the race shop, or watching someone else race. Occasionally his fiancé gets him to do something non-race related, in which case we're probably aware of it, too.

Now, the older kids I don't keep as good track of as I should. Mostly because they went out of the house under "the talk" and have been surrounded by other people.  My eldest, my daughter, is married and has a child and I don't have to worry that she will end up missing and no one would know. I know she's busy and I try to stay out of her way. She and her husband were the ones who got me hooked on World of Warcraft (thankyouverymuch) so when the i-net is cooperating I'm often able to 'chat' with her online while we play. That's been fun. Offline, I just hate to bug her. I try to get together with her at least once a month to talk and if we're lucky and organized enough we can get together in person and play and talk and laugh and eat and catch up on every little thing.

My eldest son is the one who recently got married. I have barely spoken to him since the wedding. We saw them in August when they came for Hubs' birthday, but haven't really spoken to him since – except the occasional photo message or text message. I get information 'through the grapevine' for what is going on with them, but hate to call. I always feel I'm bugging them. I know they both work hard and when they get home they just want to relax (don't we all?) and I hate to call and pester them about what's been going on in their lives. Still? I am interested. I really DO want to know. I felt better when I knew they checked the internet more often and read my blog – at least I felt they knew what was going on with me. Now? I'm overdue to be calling them and trying to figure out when I can call that won't feel like an inconvenience.

Last, I'm the worst one to talk about this. I can go for weeks without talking to my own parents in person. I'll e-mail them (which, half the time my mother loses the e-mail in the spam folder then writes to complain I haven't written for … weeks when it was actually just a couple of days). I try to go see them at least once a month, but it is a chore and I'm not comfortable doing it. (Yeah. You've heard about it, and probably will again.) My mother-in-law's phone calls get screened by me (thank God for caller ID!) but I really shouldn't do that. She almost always has some urgently burning question that I'm to drop everything and respond to – while she apologizes in 300 words why she shouldn't be calling me. Hubs said it once perfectly: The woman has more words to say less than any person we've ever met. Also, Hubs sees her pretty much every day so I'm not worried that she's going to disappear without anyone knowing either.

So… here's your quiz for the day.

  1. If you have grown kids, do you call them or do they call you? (Or do you just have a face-to-face relationship)
  2. If YOU are a grown kid, do you call your parents or do they call you? (Same as above – face-to-face?)
  3. Is the communcation strained or easy?

* If you don't know who E.T. is, you are too young to be reading this blog. Go away and tell your mom or dad about my site.

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Middle-aged. Anti-social. Mom. Grandma. Town-raised farmer's wife. Iowan. Want more? Come read the blogs.

27 thoughts on “E.T. Call Home (Who Cares if E.T. Calls?)*”

  1. Hi Sue, You and your hubby both sound like wonderful, caring parents and I’m sure your children know this too. Even though my kids are still very young, my answer to your first question would be, it would be fine both ways. You both should call each other. Even though you may be feeling that you’re bothering them, they won’t think you are and they’ll be happy to hear from you.

    Again my answer to number two is the same as one, visa versa. I also thinks it’s nice when children call their parents, cause their child’s phone call will often make their day brighter, depending on the contents of the conversation.

    The communication between my dad and me is pretty easy. We both call each other. If he’s the one who starts calling me more than I’m calling him, he becomesa bit upset and lets me know it.

  2. I talk to both of my parents individually by email a couple of times a week.

    Since I live alone and travel all the time, I could be dead for a couple of weeks before anyone notices. That has always been a concern of mine; particularly because I have dogs. Each night, I make sure there is enough water down for them to last at least a week, just in case. I still can’t get them to go up and down the stairs for the bed, which concerns me, because I am not sure that they will jump off the bed if they need water. It’s really high, and they may actually break a leg.

    I don’t care if I am not found for a couple of weeks; that is more common than you might think for single people. I just can’t stand the idea of my dogs dying because no one found me.

    My parents could probably last about a week and a half without hearing from me. My brother could go a couple of months. So, I guess, worst case scenario, I would be dead right around two weeks before anyone comes knocking.

    I figure that’s okay. I don’t like the idea of it, but that’s the way it is.

    In addition, I think single people need to take extra care. Most parents wouldn’t know what friends to call if their child died. So I have the dead list, which my brother keeps. It’s a list of people that need to be contacted if I die. He also has the list of where everything is kept, and of course, he is executor of my will. He is also on my bank account.

    I am only 34 (35 next week), but singles need to take extra measures in the event of their death, like what I have mentioned above.

    Specific arrangements for pets need to be made as well, so dogs don’t end up at the pound.

    For example, my vet and I have an agreement, but we are friends. She takes my dogs, and if she dies, I take all the damned cats and her bird. C’est la vie. I think she has the good end of it. πŸ™‚

    Plus, my brother knows how much money to give to the vet to care for the dogs until their demise.

    Anyway, that’s how I handle the “what to do if Michelle dies and isn’t found for two weeks” scenario.

    Now, if I can just get the dogs to use the stairs.

  3. I live two minutes from my mom and about 20 from my dad. In all honesty, I can go weeks without seeing or talking to my mom. She is one of those people who is always going, doing something. She rarely sits still and has no desire to talk on the phone. We swing past each other’s houses or pass each other on the street and wave sometime, and that’s how we know we’re still OK!

    My dad I talk to more. By habit, he’s just a bit of a lonely person, so he wants to always be over here, calls a lot. That’s fine. It’s when he stops by unexpected that it’s hard to deal and drop things, because, like you allude, we’re adults with our own kids and we are running around or catching up with our own lives. Not that I’ve pushed him out, and not intending to do so, but I can find it hard to come to a halt with whatever may be going on.

    My kids, of course, are young. There are days I’d like to release them to the wild with “the talk” and a few staples (!), but that seems to be frowned upon. So I sometimes live for bedtime and the quiet that comes with it!

  4. Hello Sue,

    your children are lucky to have you as a mother.
    I passed the “You make me smile” award on to you.
    I got it from Granny J. you can see it on my blog.
    Please give it to some of your friends.

  5. I call my mom about every other day. Sometimes she calls me, but it’s usually for a reason. I wouldn’t mind if she called “just to chat” but I usually take care of that. The communication, though, gets better and easier as the years go by. It really never felt “strained” between us but now that I can look back on the years, I can see it’s gotten better.

  6. My parents are both gone, but when they were alive we kept in close contact even though we lived hundreds of miles apart. Painfully so as they grew older. I never minded, well not often and not alot but of course it upset me to see how old they were getting and how much care and attention they required. I went to visit as often as possible, first because they retired on the Colorado River and it was like a weekend getaway for me. Then it was as often as possible because Mom’s delusions turned evil and was scaring everyone and sadly she became more than a handful for Dad.

    My brother and SIL live a block over and I love them both very much, but we hardly talk or visit for weeks at a time, then there is a flurry of interaction as if to make up for the fact both houses forgot each other. And lately they have been making unannounced driveby visits which I am not sure how to react to yet. It isn’t like my days are so pressing that I can’t stop what I am doing for a couple minutes, but more importantly I am a hermit, I enjoy it for now and that is partly because my social skills are not the sharpest or maybe my social skills aren’t fine tuned because I fdon’t use them alot but either way I am just coming up to social consciousness reacting favorably to their visit when they pop up off the couch and say “Well we were just passing by” “Just thought we’d drop this off” “We are on our way to…” and just like that, poof they are gone and I am left alone with my two cats suspiciously prowling the perimeter to assure themselves the intruders are gone.

    My cats will survive me if I should pass for any reason. I too keep their kibble bowl well stocked and they have a months supply of water in a bowl built for a Mastiff which I change every day. Plus I have a commando trained McGuyver Cat and she can break into the kibble bag with ease (she has had field training in that specific area).

    Lastly my housekeeper will in all likelyhood be the one to eventually find me if no one else. Maybe not on the first visit or so, but rest assured she always makes sure to change the water bowl for the cats and after another week she may wonder why the bedsheets haven’t any signs of use since her last visit.

  7. My parents are gone, but:

    * When I was in college, I spoke with my Mom often. I was the kind of kid that always let my parents know where I was and what was going on, so it seemed kind of natural. Mom died between my 3rd and 4th years; it left a huge hole in my life.

    * My Dad used to call the house at the worst possible times…I swear, the man had radar. If someone dropped the milk on the floor, the phone would ring. Dad. Every freaking time. So I didn’t talk to him as often as I could have, because this phenomenon was very real.

    I’ve wanted to call my parents often. I miss them. Trust me, your kids won’t mind if you call, even if they act like it. Someday, like me, they might even wish you’d call when you drop the milk, because they miss you so f**king much.

  8. Wow.

    My mom died when I was 16. I lived a year or so with my stepdad until I convinced my dad to buy a house and let me move in (he had a tiny apartment). My stepdad married one of my aunts (aunt by law. My uncle, mom’s brother, died the year after she did).

    I have not spoken to either in 7 years. I saw them at my dad’s funeral.

    I have two half brothers. We communicate at Christmas now that I no longer have any of Dad’s money to give them.

    My mother’s family wrote me off when she died. I haven’t spoken or heard from any of them in over 25 years.

    My dad’s family isn’t the communicating kind. Never hear much.

    No children.

    My mother-in-law calls or is called at least once a week when she’s traveling, and when she’s home, we see her at least once a week. After we move, it will go back to the once a week call.

    I have a friend in Ohio who would wonder where I was if she didn’t hear from me for a week. I’d hope my husband would notice. The cats might, right around dinner time.

  9. If YOU are a grown kid, do you call your parents or do they call you? (Same as above – face-to-face?)

    My mom and I email more than anything and maybe talk by phone a couple times a month. We email almost daily though.

    Is the communcation strained or easy?

    Most of the time it is easy, except when she bugs me. Ha!

  10. My kids haven’t left the nest yet but I think I would like it to be a relationship where either of us could pick up the phone just to say hello. I probably will continue to be a pest.

    My parents did the you call us routine and it makes it feel like they are done with parenting. Although my relationship with them isn’t strained it is not as close as I would like it to be. It would be cool getting calls from them too instead of me always having to call them.

    Take Care

  11. Sue, like you, my two sons know that I am here for them at anytime.

    One of them lives in another state, and he and his wife both work, so our family contact is less than I would like.

    Sometimes, quite a bit of time goes by without contact, but when we do talk on the phone, it is for hours.

  12. Uh… we just talked about this the other day so I guess I don’t need to repeat myself. Oh, and you should just call Older Brother. As long as its not late, they don’t care. He gets off work at 3:30, for cryin out loud.

    P.S. This counts as proof of life for the day.

  13. Kids are 5 & 13, so I won’t count them as grown up, although the 13yr old certainly would argue with that.

    As far as communicating with my own parents (and in-laws), communication with both is multiple times per week, initiated from both ends. I realize I’m in the minority here, but I’ll take it as long as I can have it. I love it.

    And it’s very very easy; not strained at all. I’m lucky that way.

  14. I haven’t spoken to my mother in over 4 years, and don’t intend to anytime soon.

    My daddy, on the other hand: He’s my bestest friend in the whole, wide world. He’s the smartest old man in the world, and he loves to hear from me! However, he never calls. I kept my local-to-him number for over a year and a half when I moved to another state, so it wouldn’t be long-distance, but he never called. Then when I gave him my new number, he complained that it would be long-distance. heh
    He’s my biggest fan, my staunchest supporter, and my whole world.
    But I call him about once a month.
    Sounds weird, huh?
    But that’s just how it’s always been. I got the procrastination gene from him, so he totally understands and never hands me ticket to guiltville. He’s just always so happy to hear from me that I can’t help but feel guilty.
    Communication is very easy with my dad.

    Again, I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from my mother again, but if and when I do, it won’t be easy.

    If I had kids, I’d probably be a Catholic mother and hand them that ticket to guiltville every time I spoke to them, even if it was daily. I just can’t imagine pieces of my heart running around outside my body and not knowing their every move.

  15. Just returned from the biennial family visit. Parents, brother, sister-in-law and assorted family members. We moved 2000 miles away thirty years ago and that’s the way it’s been ever since. The Only Son lives five minutes away and we see him only slightly more often than the rest. We were never accused of being helicopter parents. But none of our conversations are strained.

  16. LOL! I DO know who ET is πŸ˜‰ My in-laws are seen or heard from nearly every day. My hubby works with his dad and my MIL watches my gal. We have a very good relationship with them. My own parents are another story. My relationship with them is more like yours with your parents. For a time in my 20’s there was great animosity; a long story. For a couple of years we deliberately had literally NO communication. I thought it would be this way forever and thought I’d want it to be so. Now. Peace and forgiveness has come, but true closeness has not. Doubt it ever will. Weeks, months even can go by without speaking or seeing each other. Benign neglect. I’m okay with it. I do hope when my daughter is grown we have a respectful close relationship, where I give her her space but we want and are able to talk and visit and remain involved in each other’s lives.

  17. My parents live in my backyard. Literally. I have a guest house back there and they’ve lived there since they retired and moved here from Minnesota. But oddly (?) I rarely talk to them in person, maybe once a week or so. They’re the early to bed sorts, as most oldsters are, and I get home late. So I communicate with them much more regularly via email.

    My mother-in-law hasn’t been spoken to by either of us for going on ten years now. Daisycat has quite completely disowned her.

  18. My kids are 4 and 7 – therefore I must fit in the grown kid category.

    I wish my mom would have had this theory. She called all the time at least every other day to check in on me while in college. After I got married it was bad…I think it was the – “our baby daughter got married syndrome.” Now I’ll send an email once a week and will call her every two weeks, due to the wonderful thing called Caller ID I don’t answer her calls unless I have the time and the energy to talk to her.

  19. I’m a grown(ish) kid and I talk to my parents a bit… it’s never strained, I’m quite a talker. Now they read my blog which is ever-so-convenient as they know exactly what I am doing. I figure they can leave a comment if they want me to get back to them πŸ˜‰ hehe

    Right, seriously, I talk to my mother quite a lot. I’ve been busy with school lately and haven’t got around to calling her to whinge much… I think she was missing it so I got a little text message the other day saying “Are you still alive?”… it took me a while to reply but when I did I figured out that she was feeling a bit lonely. So I called her. And we had a great catch up. And she’s coming down to see us this weekend! Yay!

    Not quite sure where I am going with this rambling comment. I guess what I am trying to say is, if you want to talk, then call! Especially to the ones with the grandkidlet. Perfect excuse. Or maybe this blog post will spur them on to call you more often?

    Right. Enough rambling. Sorry for this not making a whole lot of sense!

  20. P.S. Aw! Emma is so cute – “I just can’t imagine pieces of my heart running around outside my body and not knowing their every move.” πŸ˜€

  21. What was the question? I misread part and saw “when we were in prison” …lolol

    You are a kick ass Mom πŸ™‚ Don’t ever doubt that.

    As for contact, well my parents always called once a week when I first moved out. This continued for years unless I was in a relationship. Then they sort of backed off. But we kids use a grapevine approach. We called, all of us or one of us, at least once a week. We all came home for holidays too. If the parents were out of the loop on a sibling, we filled them in. As my parents got older they felt they had nothing to talk about and hesitated to call my siblings. I always encouraged them to call anyway. Then I called my siblings regularly and guilted them into phoning to “share their life at least…christ, mom and dad sacrificed and worked damn hard to raise you, pick up the damn phone at least you twit!” That always worked. πŸ™‚

  22. I live on the other side of the world from my parents now but I still speak to my mum at least once a week and we text each other daily sometimes despite the time difference! Your post really resonated with me because it was only once I fell in love that I realised how hard it is not knowing where someone is when you love them! Thank ye gods for the miracle of modern technology and now everyone is just a cell phonecall away. I plan on micro-chipping my daughter when she gets older (kidding – or maybe not wouldn’t it be great to be able to see where they are on a handheld GPS?)

  23. Wow! Sorry I’m behind on my blogging this week.

    I see my parents once a week, we call each other during the week if the need arises or if there is news to share. But usually it’s just Sunday dinner. My parents also travel a lot so right now, they send me emails about all their adventures on the latest European cruise their one.

    As for The Boy, well, I hope we grow up to have a nice balanced relationship where we are both in each other lives but have enough space as well.

  24. No kids of my own but I am a grown kid…a sometimes very guilty feeling grown kid. My Mom lives with me and my husband (which can be VERY VERY VERY trying sometimes!) and my dad spends his summers in Tennessee and his winters here….but when he’s up in Tennessee, I hardly ever call him…he is usually the one who calls me. My bad…I know…but sometimes it just gets So dang busy!!!

    Still…makes me feel VERY guilty over the whole thing anyways.

  25. i pretty much speak to my mom everyday. at times it’s been like five times a day. we, “I,” needed a break from this kinda rough schedule.

    i feel guilty most of the time because my mother is alone and i’m an only child and it has pretty much been just my mother and i. so, you know, the pressure is usually on.

  26. I thought it was “E.T. Phone Home”!

    My mom probably calls me more than I call her (I never talk to my dad except when I’m visiting). I’m not a big phone talker and she doesn’t like e-mailing or chatting much. It’s hard to talk to her because she doesn’t work and doesn’t have much going on. So it’s basically her bitching about my brothers and dad and I couldn’t care less. I love her, but I have A.D.D when it comes to that boring shit.

  27. I don’t have kids myself, so I can’t really answer #1, but I think I would try to be conscientious of not being a pain in their ass.

    My mom and I don’t talk that much, now that I moved to Seattle. She was really high maintenance when we were both in Hawaii and it was too much — so much so that I guess I went to the other extreme and kind of blew up so now she will barely contact me. Our conversations kind of depend on what mood she’s in and whether she wants to play nice or nitpick (and that goes with in-person stuff). If my mom were always friendly and fun, then I might be inclined to talk to her more but she can be pretty critical and overwhelming so I’d rather just avoid it.

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