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November 15, 2008

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

4 My son's been out of college for almost two years. He lives 3000 miles from me, and about 1000 miles away from his dad's hometown. He's got a good job, his own apartment (no roommates!), his own activities and interests, and I expect that at some point he'll have another girlfriend (or two, or three - hopefully not all at the same time). He may not have a full slate of adult responsibilities yet, but he's getting there - he's got the proverbial "life of his own" now.

I was never a parent who wanted my kid to stay little forever; my job was to raise a future adult. The future is now, and along with it is a time that I've both expected and dreaded. I've been trying to prepare myself, and the rest of the family, for awhile now, saying, "We can't just assume Son will come out here for the holidays any more. It's going to be a new decision for him every year."

He hasn't quite made the decision yet, and I'm trying not to press him for one, but some signs are giving me the feeling that this will be the year the decision is "no." And even though I expect it, and I've tried to prepare myself, it turns out that I'm really not that prepared for how sad that makes me after all.

My family has always been pretty far-flung geographically, and there have been many years when we couldn't all be together during the holidays. Work responsibilities, the challenges of traveling with small children, the cost of plane tickets, obligations to the in-law side of the family - any or all of these have contributed to not having a big family gathering, and we've accepted that and made do. And there were years when I was the one who didn't come home for Christmas, especially when my son was little. I felt that my parents should be understanding about my need to start my own traditions, with my own young family...and I think they were, but now that the shoe's going on my foot I'm getting a sense that they may have had some very mixed feelings about it.

I've known parents of young children who can't imagine the day might come when their kids are somewhere else on Christmas morning. And maybe it won't; I've known families who've never lived far apart, or who have had the resources to bring everyone together every year no matter what.  But I'm not from that kind of family, and therefore my son isn't either. The thing is, the holidays have been my only real time with him for the last five years, and if I won't have that this year, I'm not sure when I'll get that time next.

I know it could be worse - there are plenty of other situations a 24-year-old guy could be in where he can't come home for Christmas, and we don't have to face that. Besides, coming out here isn't really coming "home" anyway, technically speaking. When his dad and I got divorced, he and I both left home (him for college, me for California), and "home" was Memphis. Going "home" would mean spending the holiday with his dad and Dad's second wife (I can't bring myself to call someone six years older than he is his "stepmother," but that's another story), and that's another place he may not be going this year. It's that whole "life of his own" thing.

I've been getting used to long-distance parenting over the last few years, and as I said, this is something I expected eventually, but it's not something I was looking forward to, either. But I have to remember that I'm still Mom, even if I don't get to see my kid for more than a year at a time. I grew up; he has, too. And I've already warned him that if he doesn't make it out here for Christmas, he just might be subjected to a visit from his California family next year.

An original Los Angeles Moms Blog post

Florinda Pendley Vasquez has been a mom for 24 of her 44 years (and a stepmom for two). She blogs at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness.

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