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The question

My son and daughter really don’t make a lot of contact with me. They are in their mid-30s with full-time jobs and young children under the age of 5. I take it personally. I know they’re busy with their lives but feel as if I don’t matter. This probably is not a healthy way to feel but I’m stuck in this mode. We do talk but certainly not enough for me. I hold back from calling too often because I don’t want to overwhelm them. I work and I’m always busy with projects at home which I love or visiting with friends so I’m not one to sit and dwell on things, but my children’s lack of interest in me bothers me a lot.

The answer

First off, I want to say I feel your pain. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth” and all that. Especially now around the holidays, when you want to gather the clan around you.

I had two kids who recently flew the coop. And already I don’t hear from them nearly as often as I wish. And I’m feeling like, “What am I, chopped liver? You never call or text?”

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On the other hand, I think the fact they more or less don’t need me any more means I did my job. I raised them from tiny tots who had to have their drawers changed for them to apartment-dwelling, semi-independent entities.

Congrats, Dave! Now I can relax and take it easy.

Which is strictly a fantasy, I know – the job of parenthood is never truly done. But maybe that’s where you could come in. In a single word: “Babysitting.”

To me the operative phrase in your question is where you say your kids have “full-time jobs and young children under the age of 5.”

I remember those days! It was horribly preoccupying and I beg the forgiveness of everyone who wondered: “What happened to Dave? Why hasn’t he been in touch?”

And I know I’m not the only one, or even the worst. Some people have a kid, or two, or (in my case) three, and suddenly they vanish for several years.

But if you were to babysit, you’d kill two birds with one stone. You help alleviate their stress and also insert yourself into their lives.

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My mother became a huge part of our lives when we had little kids. She would always say of my wife and me (because we both worked), “You’re two people doing the job of three.”

But the truth is she was that third person. She was at our house at least two days a week. In emergencies (“Mom, I’ve got a meeting!”) she would answer the phone after a single ring and come flying over in her convertible like some kind of septuagenarian superheroine.

She thus became a huge part of our lives. We had a million cups of coffee. I think she and I spent more time together than since I was a kid.

So there’s that option. But I know it’s not a road every grandparent wants to go down. A lot of grandparents think, “been there, done that, I’m not chasing any kids around any more.”

Which is fair enough. If you don’t want to go the babysitting route, then I would just speak up and tell your kids you’re feeling neglected.

It doesn’t have to be confrontational. Just let them know you miss them and wish you could be a bigger part of their lives.

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And maybe plan a visit. A quick one, I’d say: surgical. A friend of mine said something funny the other day, talking about his sister visiting her family for five days: “Who needs to do anything for five days?”

Might seem odd to some. But me, I see the sense of it. Who needs to do anything for five days?

Beyond that I would say don’t be afraid to “impose.” You’re their mother and that’s a sacred thing. They’d have to have hearts of stone to say no.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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