I was raised a military brat, so I never lived near any of my grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins. In fact, being that my dad was in the Navy (meaning we were always stationed in a coastal city), and my parents were both born and raised in the midwest, we were lucky when we got to see those relatives more than once a year. We usually did a summer trip out, and occasionally got to go during the winter holidays. Growing up, I desperately envied my friends who were close (geographically and emotionally) with their extended relatives, and that is always something I wanted for my kids.
So, in the end, we decided to move back to the Hoosier state for a few reasons:
- Superman's parents are retired. Mine still work full time
- Superman has a huge extended family (his dad is one of 9 and his mom is one of 8), with lots of cousins. And his two brothers, who both have kids around Thing 1 and Thing 2's age, also live here. My sister has two kids, but they are in their late teens (and she lives 600 miles from my parents anyway) and my brother doesn't have any kids (or is even married yet). And obviously I have no cousins or extended family there.
- Where he is from in the midwest is MUCH cheaper to live than where I'm from on the east coast. We were able to buy a 4 bedroom house with a full basement for what we would have gotten a two bedroom condo for where I grew up.
But, life isn't black and white, and our choice is still sometimes hard to deal with.
I miss my friends and their kids terribly. And they are all so close in age to my boys...they'd be perfect to grow up with. Their un-cousins. Superman only has one friend here that even has kids.
Their first year we made it home four times. But since then, we are finding ourselves only able to visit about twice a year, because of time, work, money, etc. My kids started referring to my parents as the "other grandma" and the "other grandpa".
This past Thanksgiving, after an 11 month absence, we were able to take a short visit back and see the other grandparents, my brother, my sister and her family, and most of my friends and their kids. But the visit, like always, felt so rushed. I felt like I had 100 people to visit in 72 hours. I felt pulled in so many different directions, and felt like I was disappointing everyone and wasn't spending quality time with anyone.
After being guilted by one of my good friends, who bless her heart just wanted some time with me, I turned to Superman in tears and told him that I hated the emotional blackmail part of the trip so much that it makes me never want to come back for visits. Since I know I'm invariable going to let someone (often multiple someones) down by not giving them the time they feel they deserve. I left that trip relieved to be heading home and seriously dreading going back.
But Thing 1 and Thing 2 don't know about all of that. They just knew that they loved being with their other grandma and grandpa, and taking their pack of dogs on long walks. They loved playing with their aunt and uncles and cousins. And loved playing with mommy's friends' kids. They loved going to the beach. Almost weekly since Thanksgiving, they have asked when we were going to "go far away again to Jinya Beach." They have stopped calling my parents the other grandma and grandpa. And I often overhear them playing with stuffed doggies, calling them my parents' dogs names.
On Sunday, I decided to surprise the boys by taking them to visit the dog shelter. When they asked where we were going and I said it was a surprise, they asked "Are we going far away to Jinya Beach?" When I said no, Thing 2 bursted into tears asking me why we couldn't go. And it reminded me of those times as a child when I would literally cry from missing my midwest grandparents so much. And it was almost as if I could feel all of those bitter and anxious feelings melting away from Thanksgiving, as I comforted my little boy and heard myself saying that maybe we can plan a trip to Jinya Beach for Spring Break.