On Sundays, my husband and I have a ritual, which I suspect is shared by many parents about our age, and which takes most of the day to complete: Facetiming our young adult children.
In general, we try to be circumspect with the number of times we call or text our children, who are in their early 20s. We don’t want to be overbearing or repetitive or smothering. But we do want to feel close to our children and their lives. So we’ve all agreed to make Sunday calls a priority. (Plus, they’re still on our family phone plan so they have some sense of obligation to answer our calls.)
It sounds easy enough. Multiply 3 children by 30 minutes = 90 minutes. That should leave plenty of time to garden, exercise, grocery shop, read, do the crossword, cook, entertain — and the list goes on. Start in the morning, 9 a.m. or so, for efficient time management …
And there’s the first roadblock. Each kid lives in a different time zone and has a different waking time. And each has made it abundantly clear they don’t relish being woken on a Sunday to chat with parents. So, we plan carefully.
We start at about 9 a.m. with child #1. She is studying in London, which is five hours ahead of our time zone, so we can be sure she’s up, at least. But is she already busy? Better text and find out.
Can you talk?
Nah, not now. I’m on the train.
Ya, I should be home by 5. My time.
Let’s see, that should be noon EST. Ok, that should work.
It’s still too early to call the other two. We do some gardening or go to the gym or occupy ourselves otherwise until 11 a.m.
Child #2 lives in Denver (Mountain Time), which is two hours behind us, so it’s only 9 a.m. his time. But he gets up early for work during the week and has found he can’t sleep in on the weekends anymore. So, we reach out.
At breakfast. In an hour?
Nope. Talking to your sister then. Two hours?
Hockey game. I’ll call after.
Do you have an idea when that will be?
Around 2. My time.
Ok, around 4 our time, then. That should work. Moving on.
Child #3 is at college in upstate New York, so the same time zone as us. But we do know he loves to sleep in on Sundays. I’ll go to the gym and hold off until noon to check in. No, wait that’s when we’re booked with Child #1. We decide to use our current window and check in now with #3.
Forty-five minutes of silence. I’m regretting not going to the gym.
He’s our monosyllabic offspring.
Can you talk?
Going to brunch in 10. I’ll call later.
Ok, so to recap … no time to do anything before child #1 calls at noon. We enjoy her call– a nice leisurely discussion of, among other things, rain in London. Then, I jump in the car and zip to the store.
Come home, unload and wait for child #3 to call at 2-ish, which in reality becomes 2:45 because he forgets and we finally call him. We talk about a variety of subjects like how classes are going and how cold and dark upstate New York is.
Hang up, get a few things done, just miss call at 4 from child #2. After three more attempts we finally connect and talk about many things, including hiking in the snowy mountains in Colorado.
Finish that call and check the clock. It’s close to 5:30 and already getting dark. The day is almost over.
But we’re feeling good — the kids are well and happy and we’ve learned a little more about their life away from home, all the while being aware that there’s a fine line between being an interested parent and being a nosy one. This week, at least, we didn’t cross that line. We listened to the stories they offered up for general consumption, we pried a little but also remained wary for signs we were pushing too far, we gave advice when asked, and we filled them in on goings on at home.
And that’s a typical Sunday for these empty-nesters.
Julia Wilson is currently pursuing a Masters in Fiction Writing at Johns Hopkins University. Her essay was previously published on the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop blog.