Nobody steals a scene on Seinfeld quite like George’s parents, Frank and Estelle Costanza. And of course, nobody makes George more miserable than them. They are a crazy, absurd set of parents.
In one episode, George has to make his weekly call to them, and it’s a task he finds so onerous, he has to prepare things in advance to talk about. The twist of course, is that George’s parents dread the calls themselves. And every Sunday with the calls, they finally complain.
In reality, this is precisely backwards. Why is George checking in? That’s his parents’ job.
If we can reiterate our philosophy here: Your kids owe you nothing. You owe them everything. After all, why should they foot the bill for a decision you made and they had no say in? You chose this life…they did not. What does that mean? It means as your kids get older there’s none of that, “Why don’t you ever call?” nagging. Because that’s your job.
That said, if you want the kind of relationship with your kids where they do call and check in and share what’s going on with their lives, it starts when they’re much, much younger. When you can’t just expect them to open up and share with you. When you have to check in with them, as we’ve said, because they don’t know that they’re struggling or that there’s anything worth sharing. Kids simply don’t have the experience or the perspective yet to know one way or the other.
So you have to reach out. “Just being there” is not enough. You have to seek them out. You have to gently pry them open. You have to help them realize their own feelings, you have to be more than there—you have to be proactive.
Help them. That’s your job.