****This is a very thoughtful post, but let’s have a funny video for levity!
If you’re lucky enough to have one or both of your parents in your life, you should give them a ring on the phone today. If you don’t, call a sibling, a cousin, or your close long-distance friend.
I say this because I know for a fact that I don’t call my mom enough. After I moved to New York City in the beginning of the summer for work, my mom was trying to contact me twice as often and I was returning the calls less and less. I was busy all the time and constantly surrounded by people so I didn’t want to be bothered — at home my mom was worried about her little girl moving to the city alone and she was anxious to hear how things were going. I know, I sound pretty heartless for not calling her back, but let’s be real here, most adults probably don’t call their parents as often as they ought to. I’m no exception.
The weird thing is, you would think I’d be the type of person who calls their mom all the time. When I was 17, my dad died unexpectedly, and a lot of people who experience the sudden loss of a loved one talk about going through some sort of transformation in which they cherish every moment with their loved ones because, “who knows when it will end?”
I’ve always been one to push back on the idea of the sudden transformation after one of those supposedly formative life events. After I lost a parent, I was sad, angry, confused, surprised, and … still myself. I still laughed at funny TV shows, and I still forgot to eat all of my bananas before they went brown, and I still went to parties with my friends, and I still visited my dad’s parents house where I always get scolded for walking around in the backyard with bare, dirty feet. And I still didn’t learn to appreciate the sound of my mom’s voice on my voicemail, even though I would kill to hear my dad’s.
It has nothing to do with the love I have for my mother. It has everything to do with the fact that, no matter what happens in life, it’s so easy to sink into a routine and forget to cherish the people you love.
It seems to me that my mom would be happy if I called her once a week, and normally, when I’m away at college, I do. But for the month I’ve spent in New York, I’ve been so caught up in the whirlwind of activity and change that I created a new routine for myself that didn’t include her. It didn’t really break through to me that she was feeling particularly neglected until she started texting me every morning saying she loved and missed me. Then, this morning, she said she really missed me. Something about that “really” set an alarm off in my brain. She was upset and she had every right to be.
If you’re an adult who calls your parents a couple times per month or less, your parents are probably upset too — even if they don’t say so. Imagine, you spend 18-22 years raising a child and then, you only hear about their lives once a month. You know that they’re busy with a life of their own now, but it still hurts that you can put so much energy into growing someone, only to watch them remove you from their circle as soon as it becomes inconvenient. It has to hurt.
So, make an effort. If you don’t have a phone call with your loved ones scheduled into your weekly routine, find a way to make it fit. Even if that means you have to leave your apartment and go to the park so you can have a conversation away from your roommates. Even if you have to squeeze the call in while you’re elbowing people out of your way at the grocery store to get the last bunch of green bananas. Find time, make time, schedule time. Save your family from feeling neglected.
And save yourself from neglect too. If you’ve had a close relationship with your parent in the past, but you’ve stopped talking to them as often as you used to, a call home for some parental connection can leave you feeling emotionally nourished in a way that your partner or your work friends can’t provide. You can also get answers to the questions that are best answered by parental wisdom rather than Google, like: What should I put into chocolate chip cookies to make them taste more like the ones grandma used to make? Or when do I know if I’ve fallen in love? Or can you just give me a really good pep talk?
In addition to answering all your questions, parents tend to give out a little unsolicited advice too. We often roll our eyes when our mom advises us to lay off the sweets or our dad reminds us to get to bed early for our big day tomorrow. But the truth is, you were probably already thinking it before your loved one even said it, and it ends up being an affirmation that you need. Studies have even shown that talking on the phone with your mom can reduce your stress level.
If all of those selfish benefits aren’t enough to get you to pick up the phone, then just remember this: Having parents, or someone equally close is a blessing. One day, your close loved one will disappear from the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That loss could change you, or maybe you’ll stay the same. But don’t wait until they’re gone to start really assessing whether you cherished them enough when you had the chance.