On Raising My Children Among Family When Family is Far Away
I want to do all I can to make sure my children grow up feeling close to my parents and siblings even though they live so far away.
I was sitting at my computer this past Saturday afternoon while my 16-month-old napped and my 11-year-old worked on his science project at the kitchen table. I had been feeling unmotivated and unfocused, unable to write or get on with any of my other work-related projects. So I opened up Facebook and proceeded to scroll through the newsfeed. It was another gorgeous, sunny Southern California day outside so naturally the pictures I was seeing from locals on the feed were those of people hiking, people eating al fresco, at the farmer’s market… and there were also a lot of pictures of people, friends of mine, having barbecues with family, shopping with their mothers, and getting manicures with their sisters who were holding their nieces on their laps.
My kids and I were having a pleasant day so far. We had just had lunch at one of our favorite spots down the street after a productive shopping trip to Target, and we were planning on hitting the park to enjoy the glorious weather after the baby woke up. It was a great day! And I was feeling grateful. But, I was feeling a bit down somehow still. I had no problem identifying the source of my funk. I was wishing I lived closer to my mom and dad, my brothers and sister. I was missing them, wishing my children could be spending time shopping with my mom or sitting on my sister’s lap while she got a manicure.
I grew up living right next door to my grandparents with my other set of grandparents only a 10 minute drive away. My childhood memories are full of sleepovers at grandma’s house, tending to the garden with grandpa, playing catch in the backyard with my grandparents after having Sunday dinner with them. I grew up playing often with cousins and climbing on and admiring my aunties and uncles.
I have lived far away from my family since graduating high school. I moved out for college and my path has not taken me back, yet. Likewise, my husband has lived away from family since going away to boarding school in England. Though it’s been tough to live away from my family all these years, we still remain very close and try to see each other whenever possible. But now, having children, I find myself missing them more and more.
I miss them when my baby daughter is doing something unbearably cute, or when my son is kicking a ball around in the garage. I miss them when we’re having a lazy Sunday afternoon. Or when my toddler points to one of them in a photo. The gobs of time I spent with my grandparents, with my aunties and uncles growing up helped shaped who I am today. It helped give me a strong sense of family and value the importance of their influence.
I want that for my children. I want them to appreciate my parents’ wisdom. I want them to know my brothers and sisters well. And I constantly tell myself that though it will be harder and take much more effort, they can still be close to my family, develop strong bonds with each of them without living next door to them. This is something I vow to take very seriously, to foster these special relationships. So we FaceTime often, we talk on the phone. We visit whenever we can. And my baby daughter is surrounded by photos of them. I realize that many others live far from their families, as well. We all do the best we can.
But, I’m still missing them more than usual today. It’s a perfect day for a family get together. I call my mom who tells me that she and my father are staying in Southern Utah for the weekend. That means they are only a 6 hour drive away as compared to a 14 hour drive away. It’s already Saturday afternoon, the weekend is halfway over, but I’m overcome with a crazy idea.
“Evan!” I holler from the next room.
“Get packed. We’re going to see Grandma and Grandpa.”
(5 seconds of silence)
I pack for my toddler and myself. (My husband is out of town for a month for work.) We load up a cooler full of drinks and snacks. We hop in the car and call my excited parents, “We’ll see you in 6 hours!”
So as I write from my parents’ office in Southern Utah, I hear my baby daughter giggling with her grandma who is down on the floor with her, drawing. My son is helping my dad do some things in the garage. And we are all getting a healthy dose of family.
Though we can’t have them with us all the time. We’ll steal these moments whenever we can.
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