This is the email we received yesterday:
“Hello Families, Tomorrow we will be celebrating Grandparent's day. If your child has a grandparent living in the area, you are welcome to bring them to school tomorrow at 7:30 am for coffee and a pastry. If they are able to stay longer, we will be singing a few songs for them at 8 and they are welcome to come to class for about 15 minutes after the assembly. If they only have time for coffee and a pastry, that is fine too. See you tomorrow.”
That was just about enough to shatter my heart into a million pieces.
My kids’ grandparents live 970 miles away and 2,437 miles away.
We chose this life for our children. We chose to pursue opportunity in states far away from our own parents, their grandparents. We chose to live in a city where their extended family would visit only once or twice a year. We chose to alienate our children from their aunts, uncles, and cousins because we truly believe we can give them a better life outside of the small cities our families live in. We chose to walk away from the towns we (my husband and I) both grew up in because we know the world is bigger outside of them. We chose this.
But it doesn't make it easier. Every big decision like this comes with a consequence. Leaving our families to pursue opportunity means our kids won’t have those tight knit relationships with them. Living far away from family means our parents get to miss out on Grandparent’s Day, sports games, and other various events they would otherwise be able to attend if they were here…or if we were there. Choosing this life means we forfeit those moments and potential memories. And it sucks when it slaps you in the face like this.
Whether I like it or not, this was my decision. I chose to leave my small town 7 years ago and I never looked back. That decision never affected me…not really…until this very moment.
I grew up in the same city as all four of my grandparents. My father’s parents lived in a house on our same long driveway while my mother’s parents lived 5 minutes across town. If I was in school and we had a really cool event like this, all four would have been there right next to me.
We used to do a Thanksgiving dinner event in our Elementary school and all four of them came. We used to make gingerbread houses around Christmas time in class and all four of them came.
They all came to my sporting events, my ballet recitals, and my academic honors nights. They taught me how to fish, how to paint, and how to cook recipes. My grandparents were always there. Almost any memory I have from childhood, at least one of them is in it.
The new normal for me is not seeing my parents get the same opportunity. My father passed away 2 years ago of cancer, but my mom lives 8 states away. My husband’s parents live 2 states away. There would be no way I could have called them up yesterday morning and said, “Hey you guys, there’s this Grandparent’s Day event going on tomorrow morning so put it in your calendar and the kids and I will see you there!”
The “normal” my kids will always know is that their grandparents live far away and won’t attend every event like this one. They’ll grow up knowing that maybe their grandparents will be at their state championship game, but they won’t be at any of the 15 before it. They’ll grow up sending their grandparents pictures of their art displayed in their school’s art fairs because they won’t be able to stand in front of it themselves to "ooh and ahh" over.
It just seems impossible that I was given this great opportunity throughout my childhood that my kids don’t get to experience. It’s unfortunate that our small home-towns can’t supply the same opportunity like the one we currently have out-of-state. Maybe my kids’ visits with their grandparents will be more meaningful since they’ll only see them sparingly. Maybe they’ll still look back and smile on their experience because they won’t know any different. Maybe they’ll welcome the distance as a hurdle instead of a mountain.
I think the hardest pill for me to swallow is knowing there’s a different way my children could be experiencing their grandparents. Knowing there's a “better way”, and realizing I just have to accept it.
Thankfully I’m parenting in the technology era and things like Facetime exist so they can actually see each other. Social media gives me an outlet to share pictures and stories that they can see and enjoy daily. But it’s still not the same. It’s not the same as them being here.
The only saving grace I have in all of this is the fact that this event taking place tomorrow is happening before school even begins. Hopefully my kids will barely notice. They’re only 4 and 5, so I think we are in the clear for this year.
I just worry about the years to come and how they’ll view this aspect of their childhood. I hope they don’t have any resentment towards us for living this way and I hope they understand why we have chosen this for all of them.
I think once I’m older I will attend these sort of events and stand-in as a grandparent for those kids who are missing theirs.
I’m also going to start taking applications for adoptive grandparents in my area for my kids. If you can’t have the real thing, you might as well improvise!
For the record, I'm not upset that these kinds of events exist. Just because my kids don't get to always participate in them doesn't mean other kids shouldn't be able to. I think the sentiment behind it is really sweet and it keeps grandparents active in their little young lives. It gives me a slight look into how single moms feel about Father's Day and how single dads feel about Mother's Day.
To all of the parents out there raising their kids far away from family – man, I get it. I empathize so hard with you and my tears today include yours. I know this pain stings and I know how hollow your heart feels for your children. But let’s take comfort in knowing our kids still love their extended family. It’s just in a way that we might never have experienced before.