Chacos column: My parents are stalking me
My parents have been following my brother and me around the country for years now. They’ve tried to be nonchalant, but I’ve seen through their shady reasoning and flimsy alibis. I’m not buying, “There’s better property tax in your state” or “We were just looking for a warmer climate.” They’re hunting us kids down to get to the grandchildren, and worse, I think they want to be our adult friends.
I left home at eighteen, meaning I said goodbye to obligatory household chores, weeknight family dinners, and guilt-laden events. I was free from family-movie nights and weekend trips to boring, historical sights up and down the east coast. I no longer had to load the dishwasher the way my mom insisted. I was liberated.
Over time, my parents found ways to infiltrate their childrens’ budding independence by employing subversive mind games to make my brother and I spend time with them. They would pick up the tab on family vacations and make delicious meals that warmed the heart. To make us think of home, they would send pictures of the family dog looking ridiculously adorable. Their dubious tactics didn’t fool me for a second. They wanted us to be their comrades but we were too cool to hang out with them willingly.
Then I moved out west and started a family of my own. My brother eventually did the same. The addition of grandchildren seemingly blinded my folks from the healthy distance we craved. Wherever we went, our parents soon followed in a moving truck filled with old photos and tchotchkes they were hoping to unload on us. We were doomed.
Finally, the inevitable happened. In a most obvious turn of events, my mom and dad moved in down the street from me, a mere stone’s throw from my sovereignty. We now share the same neighborhood and I can’t even walk the dog without bumping into my mom getting the mail. My brother finds this amusing.
Then something changed. My mom would call to check-in and hear something in my voice prompting her to walk over and visit for a bit. She would quietly fold the laundry, fill the dishwasher (albeit her way), and help the kids with homework. Sometimes my dad would join us at the dinner table, with food from his weekly trip to Costco, and share stories we’ve heard a hundred times before while my mom took the opportunity to passionately focus on her grandchildren’s table manners. I’ll admit, their psychological warfare was working. I wanted them in my life.
Some thirty years after I disavowed my parents’ regime, I was surprised to find myself adopting a similar parenting style with my own family. For example, there have been weekly tutorials on how to properly load the dishwasher hosted by my husband. We eat as a family most nights and try to light candles on Friday evenings. I find it all comforting, yet eerily annoying, because I’ve stolen my parents’ routines and traditions and they’re not even smug about it. I’m cautiously optimistic I’ve been spared our family’s favorite saying, a rousing, “I told you so,” yet I see those words in the way they watch me watch my kids.
However, serious encroachment aside, I would have balked at the move a few years ago when I believed autonomy from family meant success as an adult. Now I see things differently. I’m learning to cherish the beauty in our multi-generational family dynamic, and quite honestly, I don’t have much of a choice. My parents are now part of our lives in a way I didn’t know I wanted and didn’t know I needed. Most importantly, I could never deprive my children from being near their grandparents. And, although it comes with its own set of issues, I’m warming to the thought that my parents are already a part of our circle of friends. I’ve had to let my brother know to brace himself for the inevitable. One day soon, he will want mom and dad down the street, too.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, Colorado balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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