06/30/2011 07:38 EDT | Updated 08/30/2011 05:12 EDT

Mothers and Daughters: Picking Up the Phone

I had always wanted for my kids to call me because their heart wanted to, not because they felt they had to. I wanted to be a joy to them, not an unwanted obligation. But maybe they were feeling that I didn't care about them anymore? Was I being a bad mother?

It is my turn to write the blog and it is hanging over my head like a sack full of bricks.

A million things spring to mind. Things I want to say, words that want to be spoken, but I am editing myself. Don't want to rock the boat, disrupt this delicate balance that we have arrived at. Just want to bask in the fact that Emily said in last weeks blog that her childhood was magical and she would take magical over happy any day. Want to linger in the joy that reading those words brought to me.

I try not to dwell on the other parts, the different homes, schools, names. Try to resist the urge to justify, clarify, explain, correct. We remember things differently, it is not important.

So, what to write about?

Images arise, and I shut them down. Too intimate. Too personal. I want to be truthful, but at what cost?

I don't want to write a mother/daughter blog today. I want to crawl back in bed and pull the covers over my head.

I called Emily last night. I didn't expect to get her. She doesn't like phone calls. When I was visiting her in New York last month, we were eating an early dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the Village and her phone rang. She took it out, looked at it, "Oh god, it's her again," she said, snapping her phone shut and tossing it back in her purse. "Why does she call me? She's not even my friend. Not only that, she knows I don't like talking on the phone."

And I felt embarrassed, kind of ashamed, thinking of all the times I've called her and she hasn't picked up. And maybe she had been busy, or out with friends, all those times, but maybe she was looking at my name coming up on the screen and was tossing my call back in her purse too, with a clenching angry feeling in her gut.

I would leave a cheerful message, keeping my voice casual, light, like it was no big deal, like I wasn't longing to hear her voice, to make contact, even if it isn't something that makes her happy.

Many times her voicemail would be full, so leaving a message wasn't an option, but even when it isn't full, Emily told me a couple years ago when I had finally tracked her down, that she doesn't check her voicemail. However, knowing this, still, if there is space, I leave a message.

It's a tricky thing, and I'm not quite sure what the correct balance is. I don't want her to feel abandoned, like I don't care. But I also don't want to be a burden, an unwanted intrusion.

One of my friends insists that her daughters call her every day. She was in town visiting, we had run into each other by accident, recognized each other instantly, even though it had been 15 years since we had seen each other last. We made arrangements to meet up for dinner. Dinner was delicious. We ate copious amounts of food and drank a bottle of red wine, catching up on old times, memories of being pregnant with our first children, new mothers together. And then we moved onto now, how the children were doing and so forth and somehow the subject of phone calls and their frequency or lack thereof came up.

"Are you kidding me?" she shrieked. "A whole month or two can go by where you don't talk to your daughter?"

"Well, I call," I said. "But you know how it is. Kids don't answer the phone." I could feel that my face had turned all red, was glad the restaurant was dimly lit.

"Every day," she said, slamming the table with the palms of her hands. "My daughters have to call me every day! You don't stop being a mother, Meg, just because your children are grown. You are letting them down by allowing them to decide these things. You need to take lessons from me, learn to become a Jewish mama. You demand these things. That's what keeps Jewish families close."

And as my friend talked on, so emphatic, I wished I had been raised Jewish and my children too, where there was a right and a wrong and a known set of expectations. "You set down the rule, Meg. Your children must call you every day. It doesn't matter if they resist, doesn't matter if it makes them grouchy. What matters is, you are talking to them. You are a part of their lives. You are being a bad mother, not insisting on this!"

I mulled my friends words over the next week. Was I being a bad mother? Was I letting my children down? I had always wanted them to feel that I was loving and supporting them and their choices, for them to call me because their heart wanted to, not because they felt they had to. I wanted to be a joy to them, not an unwanted obligation. But maybe they were feeling that because they were grown and had left home that I didn't care about them anymore?

I decided to give my friend's advice a go. A modified version of course. Every day was a little extreme, but once a week... That would be lovely. I'd get to hear from them, share in their lives and more importantly, I wouldn't be letting them down.

I rewrote the email several times, read and reread it, trying to get just the right tone before I sent it.

The response was not... uh... the one I had hoped for.

I retreated, nursing my wounds, upset at my friend for her bad advice and even more upset at myself for taking it.

Instead of bringing us closer, the rift widened.

This was two years ago, but lately, there has been a shift. A bit more contact, but still, I feel cautious, clumsy. Don't know what the right amount of contact is? Don't want to call or email too often, to be a pest, but don't want my children to feel cut adrift either. Want them to know that I am here, loving them, always.

So I guess that is why I don't want to write a blog today, why I want to stop this mother/daughter blog train in its tracks. Don't want to open or explore any more boxes. My daughter picked up the phone last night when I called. And we had a short but very lovely chat.

As a matter of fact, she picked up the phone the time before when I called, too, and she seemed happy to hear from me. And I'm loving this moment, this breath of time, where things are shifting, and I want it to stay. Don't want to mess up.