Ask Ann Cannon: How much mothering do my adult children need?

Ann Cannon

Dear Ann Cannon • I am so grateful to have children who are now raised, on their own, and very independent. My problem is in knowing how much they want me in their lives. I would love to spend more time with them, chat and offer advice when asked. They do ask for help when it’s needed, but sometimes I wonder if I could be more of a presence in their lives. I don’t want to be in their face and have them wish I would go away, but at the same time, how do I know how much they want me around? I realize each child is different and circumstances change with time, but I don’t want to be asking them over and over. Do I just let it ride like I have been and just make sure I’m there when they need me? How should I go about this?

Mama in a Quandary

Dear Mama • Because I am in the same stage of life that you are, I’d be interested in having our readers who’ve already navigated this new territory share their ideas with us.

NOTE TO READERS: Share your ideas with us! Thank you!

Meanwhile, think about setting up a regular time to get together with your children. My neighbor has her adult kids over for dinner nearly every Sunday, for example. Or offer to take your grandkids for a few hours every Monday (or Tuesday or Wednesday or whatever) morning. Standing invitations such as these will increase the possibility that you’ll have regular contact with your kids if they live in town. Otherwise, stay in touch by FaceTiming or Skyping on a regular basis. Sometimes I find conversations via FaceTime frustrating, but they’re preferable to no conversations at all. And there’s no doubt that my granddaughters who live out of state know me and my husband better than they would have otherwise.

Although you say you hate to keep asking your children over and over about their preferences, I would still check in with them. Tell your kids that while you don’t want to be intrusive, you’d definitely like some degree of regular connection. Inviting them into the actual conversation will help them understand how YOU feel while allowing them to give input at the same time. And when something stops working — regular picnics in the park, for example — don’t be afraid to make a change.

One more thing: Everybody is busy, so choose not to take things personally if plans don’t always work out.

Dear Ann Cannon • My father-in-law has had a total knee replacement and we agreed to exchange houses with him and my mother-in-law since ours is one level and they live in a three-story condo. The problem is that the surgery was nearly six weeks ago and they are not making any moves — including doing his prescribed rehab — to move back home. They are lovely people, but we are getting weary of living between two places.

Homeless Near Seattle

Dear Homeless Near Seattle • Recovering from knee surgery is a tough business — it often takes longer than people assume it will — and it was very kind of you to accommodate your in-laws this way. At the same time, it’s tough when you start feeling like loved ones are unintentionally taking advantage of your generosity, right? I’m sorry.

If I were in your position, I’d get the conversational ball rolling right away by asking your in-laws what their plans for the immediate future are. The question alone might cause them to assess the situation and acknowledge that it’s time for them to move forward. If it doesn’t, you can always be more direct and let them know (kindly) that you would like to be back in your own home sooner rather than later. Or you can decide for now to let things be — as you long as you can manage to not be eaten up by resentment.

Best wishes!

Ann Cannon is The Tribune’s advice columnist. Got a question for Ann? Email her at askann@sltrib.com or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.