When You Live Far Away from Family

by Abby on June 22, 2015

What a week. A health crisis hit our house, not life-threatening but life-altering while we’re in the midst of it. Also, school let out. And more than ever before, I felt the impact of not living near family. Our wonderful neighbors and friends rushed in to help, and my intrepid sisters-in-law and mother-in-law came to the rescue for a few days, but holy cow. It does take a village.

Because I’m too exhausted to write a new post, I’m sharing this guest post I wrote a while back for another blog. And I’m using the Babar graphic because that’s what came up in my image search for “family.” Also, I love Babar. Hopefully, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled programming soon.

Meanwhile, let’s all pray for Charleston. I had the pleasure of visiting that beautiful city last year, and the recent events are far too close to other events happening all too frequently.

When You Live Far Away from Family

When I was growing up in New England, my small family — mom, dad, two kids — did not live close to any extended family. One set of grandparents was in California, the other in Florida, with various cousins, aunts, and uncles scattered around the rest of the country. We saw them maybe once, twice a year, tops.

Babar's family treeMy mom says I always wished for a big, close-knit family like that of my best friend, Lisa, who had lots of relatives in town and always had a substantial cheering section in the audience at school plays and dance recitals.

When it came time to apply to college, my parents encouraged me to look at schools all over the country. Staying close to home was never a consideration. I chose a college a couple hours away, then moved 300 miles away after graduation.

As fate would have it, I met a guy who came from a large family and hailed from New England, too, a mere 90 minutes from where I grew up. We fell in love, got married, and enjoyed the ease of visiting two sets of parents in a single trip.

Then we had kids.

Suddenly, the parents who had said, “Sure, apply to college in California! Go off to France for semester! Bon voyage!” changed their tune. “When are you coming home again? Thanksgiving? Christmas? Why do you have to live so far away?!” And of course there was another set of eager grandparents to consider, too.

But as we added another child to our brood and they both started school, it got more difficult and expensive to travel. We’ve endured rescheduled flights, snowstorms, holiday traffic, ear infections on airplanes, sleepless nights in a portable crib. After one particularly grueling nine-hour drive home one Thanksgiving weekend, I swore: Never again. Relatives come visit us from time to time, but it’s not the same as living in the same town.

My husband and I have talked about “moving back home.” But the fact is, this is our home now. We’ve lived in our current city longer than we lived in our hometowns. Our work is here, our friends are here, our kids’ schools are here. We have built lives here, full of great friends and neighbors, trusted babysitters, people who feel like family. We like the city where we live, the place we chose to raise our family.

But even though I chose this life, I sometimes feel sorry for myself. I’ll see neighbors getting together with their families on a Sunday, cousins playing together at cookouts, friends dropping the kids off for a sleepover at Grandma’s. Whereas we have to hire a sitter for every date night, teacher meeting, doctor’s appointment, even to do projects around the house without kids underfoot. Once I even got a sitter on a Sunday afternoon just so my husband could watch football in peace and I could go shopping by myself. I have missed countless school events because I can’t be in two places at once.

In some ways, living closer to family would be easier. Easier on us, our marriage, our budget, our kids’ relationship with their grandparents. But, like most things in life, it’s not that easy. And of course as we all know, geographic proximity is not a guarantee of closeness.

Some part of me will always wonder what it would be like to live in the same city as my extended family. But I also know that I am blessed to have my own little family — mom, dad, two kids — and the life we’ve built for ourselves here, surrounded by friends and loved ones of our own choosing.

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So, I came home from my blog conference all fired up to get on a regular posting schedule again and put together an editorial calendar and refine my themes and messaging and do all this other stuff I learned about. But then life intervened the way it does.

Unexpected dramas and crises converged with birthday celebrations and end-of-school events to create the perfect storm of chaos and stress. And I happen to have a 6yo who does not handle chaos well. Which is like saying that North Korea is not the best place to honeymoon.

We call him Mr. Routine. And if his routine is disrupted, he makes Kim Jong Un look like Deepak Chopra. As I was telling my neighbor who was concerned about the “Terrible Threes,” we seem to be in the throes of the “Satanic Sixes.” Nobody warns you about that.

Needless to say, I was surprised and amused when Riley sat down one afternoon and penned a list of 7 ways to not get in trouble. Here they are, with my commentary and spelling corrections.

How to not get in trouble, by Riley, age 6

1) Clean the attic.

This one is puzzling because a) we don’t really have an attic, unless you count a crawl-space accessible only through a hole in the ceiling, and b) I certainly would never ask him to clean it. It was most recently occupied by a family of aggressive raccoons. We don’t go up there anymore.

2) Do what your parent says the first time.

If only. My kids’ motto seems to be, “Why respond to Mom the first time when you can wait till the 7th time and watch her lose her sh*t?”

3) Clean your room!

This one is good. As for “clean,” I would settle for no dirty underwear or Cheez-It crumbs on the floor. I like to set the bar low.

4) Treat your brother or sister nicely.

I would have put this at #1. Because the incessant bickering and whining has reached a fever pitch. One kid will take something he previously expressed zero interest in, just because the other one wants it. Wailing and hitting ensue. Today this happened over a SCRAP OF CARDBOARD, no lie. And copying everything your sibling says? A special form of torture for everyone in earshot.

5) Say nice words.

Like please and thank-you, he clarified. So, probably not screeching, “This is the worst family EVERRR!” as he’s been known to do.

6) Always be nice to your parents.

So easy to say, so hard to do.

7) Play with your guest.

Nice thought, but can we go back to the obedience and cleaning, please?

LINKS O’ THE WEEK: Good reads about summer.

Same Old Summer

Reasons My Kids Won’t Be Having a 70s Summer

30 Magical Photos of Children Playing Around the World

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