Family Reunion

Tracey Columns

Recently, nearly all of my extended family came together for a long overdue family party. It was a grand celebration and an opportunity to catch up with everyone. (Understandably, one set of parents opted to leave their 10 month old twins in the Bay area with their maternal grandparents.) It was a weekend  full of laughter and memories, good food and good cheer.

I listened to the stories, as these six young parents compared notes on how they were managing their eight children, who ranged in age from those tiny twins to teenagers.They all laughed at their circumstances, from diaper changes to teen curfews, agreeing on their levels of exhaustion and the price of everything. Common complaints were heartily acknowledged … the never-ending housework, the lack of any enough “down” time. There were discussions about loading up mini vans and stretching the almighty dollar. I appreciated their current circumstances, pleased with how well they were raising their children in spite of the many challenges young parents face today.A few days later, I got to thinking about how different a party of boomers is!

Hang out with the fifty something crowd and you’re likely to hear people laughing about aching knees and backs. Our bodies are slipping, gravity is taking over. Though some try, it’s pointless to deny reality! Depending on the group, a brave soul may also bring up the celebrated “Colonoscopy Club,” of which smart Boomers are proud members. Typically, the room erupts in knowing laughter as someone politely recounts the procedure. But the common consensus? This test really isn’t so bad, especially when you consider that it can save your life!  (As they say, please don’t risk dying from embarrassment. Call your physician!)

Boomers have their own definition of fatigue. While we may have the  opportunity for uninterrupted sleep, it seems many of us simply can’t sleep because our biological clocks are whacked out! How frustrating is it to wake up at six a.m. on a Sunday morning, when finally, after years of setting the alarm, you could actually sleep in? And then there are those random Friday nights when, at all of 10:00 p.m., you look at each other and wonder out loud if it’s really too early to go to bed?  Finally, there are those Boomers who simply can’t fall asleep, or stay asleep once they do.

You won’t hear many Boomers discussing saving accounts for college tuition down the road but you sure will hear talk about paying off student debt. Whether it’s the second mortgage they took out or the loans they co-signed, college seems to be an expense many parents are shouldering these days.

Too bad because when you find this particular conversation on the tail end of retirement planning, a real conundrum surfaces. Many of today’s Boomer parents need to be getting ready for their golden years, just as they are getting a child or two through college. It takes a magician, and real fiscal constraint, to figure out how to stretch their dollars.

But listen up, younger generation. In spite of what you have just read, it is safe to say that many of us, once referred to as being “over the hill,” are finding this phase of life to be very rewarding. Sure, we may wake up at six but we also get to roll over and go back to sleep! Want a weekend away? All it takes is one little bag and we’re gone. And about those children of yours?  Grand parenting appears to be the best of both worlds. Boomers are able to delight in those tiny souls … and return them to their parents at the end of the day!

Admittedly, that weekend I had a few pangs for days gone by. Just like my nieces and nephews, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our children as they were growing up. But how wonderful it has been to discover that as we continue to enjoy our adult children, we also are able to enjoy a life that we can call our very own.

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)