Monday, October 01, 2012

Parents and Kids

When the kids were little, they were my territory. I staked them out.
I nursed them. I took care of them when they were sick, when they were scared, when they were tired.
Earl worked a lot of hours and I stayed home with the kids, setting the rules and the expectations. Of course, I also bore the brunt of that -- the exhaustion, the feeling that I never wanted to be touched by anyone because I was so tired of clingy hands grasping onto me.
When he was home, Earl helped -- giving me a break but I wasn't really good at letting him take control. I felt everything was carefully balanced and one misstep could send everything sliding.
Now that that the kids are young adults venturing off into the world, I'm working a lot of hours, so when the kids need something Earl is the one to step in.
What does that mean?
Well, so far, that means that he travels to New York and Paris and Florida to help them.
I know. I'm sitting here thinking that I kind of grabbed the wrong end of this.
Earl is the one who traveled with Grace to visit the college in the Adirondack Mountains that she eventually chose. 
Earl has made close friends at a bed and breakfast in Grace's college town. He stays there for free now, playing with the grandkids and chopping wood before heading to campus to relax in adirondack chairs. Just last weekend he went there again to visit her for family weekend.
Then the two of them drove across the bridge to Canada and stayed for the night.
Last year at this time, he traveled to France with Grace to deposit her with some friends. I tease him about what sacrifices he has to make for the kids each time he gets his passport stamped. Sometimes I think he helped them choose their colleges based on places he wants to visit.
Last spring, Earl and Spencer ventured down to St. Petersburg, Florida to look at a college. Guess where Spencer ended up going?
Both of us took off work in August to get Spencer settled into college, leaving him there in the humidity and the sandy soil with crazy Dr. Seuss trees growing all around him.
And I didn't think either of us would be making the trip back to Florida any time soon. It is a 16-hour drive. I just thought Spencer would fly home for holidays or go to my parents' house a few hours away if he couldn't fly home.
But Earl has 8 vacation days left and my parents are buying a new house. They've offered to give us some furniture if Earl wants to drive down and get it. (I figured we were stuck with our old furniture for the next 6 years until all the kids finished college.) Earl is lured not just by the offer of a better mattress for our rickety bed, but he could be in Florida for Spencer's 19th birthday at the end of the month.
So once again, he is willing to make the sacrifice, to set off in the car alone, leaving behind the crisp autumn air to drive through the love bugs that hover over the heated highways in Florida during the fall. He'll stop in St. Petersburg to pick up Spencer and spend a long weekend with him at my parents' new house -- screen-enclosed pool along the golf course.
That's just the kind of guy he is -- willing to sacrifice for the kids, whether it's France, Canada or Florida, he'll go the distance for them.
I tease Earl about "the sacrifices" he makes for the kids, but I do feel fortunate that he's in a job where he can take time off and go to the kids. That's part of the price I pay for staying home with them when they were little. I'm now working two jobs that don't pay me if I don't show up. So I stay and work while he travels.
But there's more to it than that. I know when Grace is homesick and talks of missing her bed, her cats, her parents, that if I went, it would be hard for me to leave her and hard for her to let me leave. Earl takes a more no-nonsense approach. He's there to comfort her, to make sure she gets some sleep and eats healthy for a few days. Then he leaves her to the business of studying hard and finishing college.
With one kid up north and the other far south, who knows where Tucker will end up when he graduates in two years. He just asked me to RSVP for a college reception for the University of Alabama that's being held here in Columbus. I know one thing though, he and Earl are not going on a road trip to California or Hawaii to look at colleges next year.


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